College is not for everyone – great alternatives to a four year university degree



BY KAREN COOPER

What do these people have in common?

  • Mary Kay Ash – Cosmetics & Pink Cadillacs
  • Michael Dell – Dell Computers
  • Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook
  • Steve Jobs – Apple
  • Bill Gates – Microsoft
  • Coco Chanel – Chanel
  • Ted Turner – CNN Broadcasting

They are all successful millionaires or billionaires who didn’t graduate from college!  Granted, they are the exception to the rule. Most people will not end up being this wildly successful no matter what kind of education they have. However, one thing in their scenario is true.  You do not necessarily need a college degree to find your place in the world.

In fact, according to 2020 data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the unemployment rate for young college graduates exceeds the rate of the rest of the population and about 41% of recent college graduates (and 34% of all college graduates) are underemployed, meaning that they are working in jobs that don’t require a college degree!

What does this mean? Well, it doesn’t mean that college is the wrong choice for everyone. Going to college is a wonderful opportunity for many people. A memorable four years!  It is a valuable next step after high school, a great way to begin adult life within the confines of a certain level of structure, and as everyone knows, it’s good to have on your resume. However, there are several other, equally valuable ways to tackle life after high school that will also allow you to live your best life.

So what are some alternatives?  

  • Start a business: There are approximately 582 million entrepreneurs in the world. Of these, 252 million are female entrepreneurs! New entrepreneurs in the US have a very high success rate… around 78% stay in business past the first year. If you have something of quality that you can market to interested buyers and are driven to succeed, you have the right combination to find success as an entrepreneur. All you need to begin is a computer and Wi-Fi connection. You can get to work right in the comfort of your own home. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
  • Attend community college: Attending community college can have huge financial advantages. The average college credit…just one credit…can cost nearly $600, while a community college credit costs an average of $142. Spending time at community college can also make the transition to a four year college easier.  It gives you time to clarify your interests and decide what field of study you really want to pursue.
  • Attend trade or vocational school: Trade schools are generally private, for profit schools that prepare students for a particular career. Many community colleges may have similar programs and be more affordable, so look closely at both! Trade schools offer programs in areas such as welding, auto mechanics, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC).
  • Apply for an apprenticeship: An apprenticeship is a career path in which individuals can obtain paid work experience, classroom instruction, and an industry and nationally recognized credential. For an employer, an apprenticeship program is a way to train, develop, and prepare their workforce. Jobs gained through apprenticeships can pay very well with highly skilled jobs paying into the six-figure range after some experience is gained. Occupations with apprenticeships include:
  • Boilermakers
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Elevator installers and repairers
  • Glaziers
  • Insulation workers, mechanical
  • Create an audience for yourself:If you can generate a large following online, you may be able to earn money from it. Whether it is social media accounts, blogging, podcasts, or informational websites, if you can gain followers and continually generate high quality content, you just might be able to turn that into a career.
  • Military: It’s not for everyone, but military service can be a highly regarded alternative to college. In this career, you will experience travel, learn valuable life skills, and have your education ultimately paid for. It’s by no means an easy alternative and would require a lot of soul searching, but it can be just the right fit for some.
  • Apply for entry-level positions:Are you ready to get to work? Find a field you are interested in and start sending resumes.  Starting in an entry-level position can pay off big down the road. Many employers value loyalty and experience which they view as being equivalent to higher education.  Getting an entry-level position will give you the experience you need and if you are smart, hardworking, have leadership skills and new ideas to offer, you will be able to move up the ladder.  If one job doesn’t suit you, you can always try something else.
  • Become a Realtor: Selling real estate can be a very lucrative field and it requires no college. All that’s needed is a real estate pre-licensing course, passing the licensing exam, activating your license and you are ready to join a career in which top producers can make millions!

Consider Your Alternatives

What path an individual takes depends on many different factors, and what works well for one person may be completely wrong for another. There are finances to consider as well as personalities and even lifelong dreams. There are exceptional talents to take into account and also limitations.

College is one path to a successful future, but not the only path.  If you take a look around and see what other options are available, you might be able to imagine possibilities that hadn’t even occurred to you. Considering the many alternatives can make all the difference.


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