It may seem like everyone has either gotten their bachelor’s degree or is about to start it, but in reality, the university just isn’t for everyone. You don’t need a degree to live a fulfilling life and find a career that you love. Instead, consider some of these alternatives to help you jump-start the next phase of your life.
Trade School and Apprenticeships
If you like to work with your hands, a trade school may be the next step for you. Many trade schools offer affordable, two-year programs in skills-based jobs like carpentry, welding, culinary and medical assisting, among other options. After completing a trade school program, you’ll be equipped to begin working the career of your choice so that money starts coming in faster than it does when you go the four-year route. Good schools prepare you to take any certification or licensing exams necessary to get a job you love.
In some cases, you may be able to skip even that route and work as an apprentice instead. This on-the-job training gets you out in the field right away, making it an ideal choice for those who would rather get out of the classroom for good.
Unions sometimes offer apprenticeships and free classes for those who agree to join the union after they are in the field. So that’s a route worth checking out. Otherwise, you can look into it by asking those in the field for their recommendations. If you know someone, ask them, if you don’t, just start visiting their offices. (It’s harder to say no to someone in front of you than it is over the phone, so get out and make it happen.)
The DIY MFA or MBA
A Master’s in Fine Arts provides an in-depth education in music, painting, writing and other creative fields, while a Master’s in Business Administration teaches business principles and strategies. However, each one takes four years of undergrad and another two (or three) of graduate school to attain, not to mention quite a bit of money.
But if you’re drawn to the arts or business, you can create your own program of study. There are websites that can help, too.
Subscribe to magazines relevant to your field to keep up with current events and best practices, and dive into blogs to find industry resources. You can often find syllabi and required reading lists from prominent university programs online, so use those as a guide to creating your curriculum.
If you’re interested in some more structured education, you can find online classes from schools around the world on sites like edX and Coursera. These classes are free, with a fee ranging from $50 to several hundred for an official certificate of completion, if you’d like one. MIT even made some classes available online, free, through their open courseware.
Travel the World
Sometimes travel is the best education. If you can afford it, take some time off to see the sights. You can stick around your own area and take road trips to nearby destinations, or pack your passport for a globetrotting adventure — as long as the goal is to learn and grow, then you’re probably doing it right, not skipping out.
Travel allows you to immerse yourself in different ways of living, giving you a broader understanding of the challenges facing our world and the many perspectives it contains. By pairing your travel with some remote work, such as freelance writing, consulting or data entry, you may be able to fund your trips indefinitely and start building a portfolio ahead of college-bound peers.
No matter what you choose, know that attending college isn’t the only way to be happy. While it can be a wonderful experience for some, embarking on your own path can be equally rewarding. Take some time to think about your goals, make a plan, and make it happen. Your adventure is waiting.