Have you recently graduated from high school and are not sure what to do next? Does your family expect you to go to college even though you don’t want to? Do you think you must attend college to advance professionally?
College is a big commitment with a big price tag, and many people are unsure if this is the best path for them. Attending college right out of high school also places students on a career path when they are roughly 20 years old and still developing as people. There is plenty of room for error.
While the Huffington Post reports that people who have college degrees have lower rates of unemployment than those who did not graduate from college, statistics do not always tell the full story. You may know someone who has a degree and is working in a completely unrelated field. You may also know people who have very successful careers, but did not receive a formal college education.
People are different and earning a college degree does not guarantee a successful career. The 2014 U.S. Census indicates that at least 62% of all Americans have not completed a college degree. Many of these people have used other methods to gain important job skills and grow professionally.
If you are not interested in attending college, you can still pursue education in an area of interest. To help you with career training and education, we developed a list of alternate educational options.
If you search “Free Classes” on the internet, you will find dozens of sites offering free online courses in various disciplines. While we refrain from recommending any one website or organization, we encourage you to find the classes that appeal to you and give it a shot.
Podcasts are also great ways to educate yourself on any subject. Many are free or require a small registration fee.
Your community is a good resource. Check out your state’s Employment Development Program, which can be a great resource for free job training opportunities and one-on-one career counseling. Take advantage of community education resources. Contact your city’s website and look for local education and/or training opportunities. Also, 2-year colleges and some 4-year colleges offer adult learning classes at a reduced price. Consider contacting faith-based organizations, help centers, and community job agencies for job-related courses.
Search for a mentor who has achieved success in your field of interest. Mentors can provide networking opportunities and offer practical instruction not available via traditional routes. Consider shadowing your mentor; spend a day watching exactly what your mentor does. Be gracious if you receive a “no” when asking someone to be your mentor; it can be a significant time commitment and a mentoring partnership has to be a good fit for both parties.
Make time to volunteer, which can help you and the people you are serving. Volunteering can provide valuable education and job experience and give you a glimpse into the inner workings of an organization. Volunteering in your field of interest can give you “on the job” training, which is comparable to taking courses. Volunteering for a company you may actually want to work for gives you first-hand knowledge of the job and may serve as an unofficial probationary period.
This is not a joke! If you really want to learn, educate yourself by reading books in your subject(s) of interest. If you do not like to read or do not have the time, try audio books. Seek out books taught in various classes, scholarly journals and materials published by recognized experts. Do not rely on regurgitated information. Dig deeper than the popular online encyclopedia-type websites. Another low-cost reading opportunity is the newspaper or any reputable online news service. While immersing yourself in local news may feel like you are stuck in a loop of negative information, most news services provide credible articles on politics, technology, economics, and health and fitness. Keeping up on the latest information in your field of interest can provide useful educational information.
Last but not least, a military career can provide access to higher learning. After completing boot camp, a recruit in the U.S. Army is in position for Advanced Individual Training (AIT). AIT prepares a recruit in many different areas. GoArmy.Com provides details about the training programs available.
Educational opportunities are everywhere. Some are right before your eyes, such as gathering information during a vacation, having long conversations with an elder neighbor or family member, or conducting experiments to satisfy your curiosity. Do not worry about what you do not know. Have fun, go on your own journey and learn, learn, learn!