5 Alternatives to Consider if Going to a 4-Year College Isn’t for You

5 Alternatives to Consider if Going to a 4-Year College Isn’t for You


For many students, attending a four-year college is the expectation. But for some people, a standard university just isn’t in the cards. Maybe you don’t have it in you to continue going to school for another four-plus years after high school, or maybe you have other responsibilities – like family or a job – that requires more attention. Maybe you can’t afford to attend a four-year school. Maybe you’re not sure what you want to do yet.

Whatever the reason, going to a four-year college or university isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay! There are other options you may not have considered yet.

1. Community College

Enrolling at a community college gives you the opportunity to earn a certificate, diploma, or a two-year associate degree. Depending on what you want to study, you can obtain the education you need to start a great career in a shorter period of time. These are quick and concise programs and are a great option if you don't want to, or simply aren’t ready to commit to going to school for four or more years.

Another great thing about community college is that your credits are often transferrable to a four-year university, if you change your mind in the future. And the best part is, community colleges are typically much cheaper than four-year schools. On average, a year at community college will cost $3,440, compared to $9,410/year at a public, in-state four-year school. And that’s nothing compared to out-of-state or private four-year schools. They definitely are a more affordable way to gain higher education. It’s worth noting that many professions, like some areas of nursing, dental assisting, certified paralegals, and pharmacy technicians are often certificate or two-year programs.

Related: 6 Reasons I'm Glad I Chose Community College First

2. Online College

For some, attending college is not about the lack of money, but it’s just plain inconvenient. Maybe you have a full time job or a family to care for. Going to class on campus may be out of the question. Fortunately, with recent advancements in technology, you may be able to obtain a degree online from the comfort of your home. There are many programs that you can take strictly online, while never setting foot on campus.

One thing to remember about online courses, though, is that you have to be extremely dedicated and focused. You are responsible for completing your assignments and staying up to date with what you have to do, and when you have to complete it by. Your success - or failure - is truly in your hands, because there is no one standing over to keep you on track (and let’s get real for a second…if you’re going to school solely online, you’re probably juggling a lot). But if the flexibility and convenience of learning remotely is what you’re after, going for your degree online may just be what you were looking for.

3. On-the-Job Training

On-the-job training consists of learning how to do something from someone who has years of experience doing that job. That person takes you on as an apprentice and teaches you how to perform that job independently. A positive to this is that you are learning as you go, from someone who has a lot of experience, and you don't have to worry about paying for this type of training at a school. With this form of training, a company may even be willing to pay for you to continue on in your informal education and obtain formal training through a school or educational program offered within the company. This is an option that most people don't consider, but is still a form of training being used today.

4. Take a Leap of Faith

Higher education, no matter the type of school, may just not be for you. Don't get discouraged. Do some digging and see if you have a niche. Maybe there’s something you’re good at that you can turn into a career. Many people turn their passions into a lucrative business and find their work enjoyable and fulfilling.

The only person who has to believe in your dream is you. If you really believe that your professional passion can serve a purpose, others will feed off of your determination and positivity, and give it a chance. Don't sell yourself short.

5. Join the Military

Just like college, joining the military isn’t for everyone. But if you’re looking for a stable job, good benefits, new opportunities, and the chance to serve your country, it’s a good gig. It’ll give you the chance to find a career you’re well-suited for and pay you while you’re being trained in your field of expertise. Military positions for enlisted soldiers range from infantry to aircraft mechanics, surgical technicians, linguists, and more. You’ll travel, and can even go to college for free. Even if you don’t plan on retiring with the military, serving a few years can give you the skills you need to succeed, both career-wise and in life.


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