Alternatives to a 4-Year College

There seems to be quite a bit of pressure on teens today to go to college. But what if a four-year college doesn’t interest you, or you don’t know what path you want to take? In the times we're currently in, teens are more confused about their futures now than ever before. It’s important to know that a four-year college isn’t the only course of action after high school, nor is it the best option for everyone. Here are some of the many alternatives to a four-year college.

Community college

Community college, also known as a junior or 2-year college, generally offers the same set of entry-level courses as a 4-year college for the first two years. Should you later choose to enroll in a 4-year college or university, these credits are transferable. Community colleges also allow for exploring possible areas of interest at a cheaper price. From here, you can earn an associate degree or a certification in two years (as the name states.)

Trade school

Trade, technical, career, and vocational schools are all the same. Typically private and often for-profit, these schools combine academic and technical education in their training to prepare you for a skilled career. Most take one to two years to complete, and you can earn a certificate. Something to keep in mind, however, is that they’re often more expensive than a 4-year college. Trade school also focuses on more specialized education, so this may limit the range of possible career paths when compared to the education of a 4-year college. But if you have a specific trade job in mind, this would be an excellent choice to consider.

Gap year

The words “gap year” aren’t always warmly received, but it can be a useful and rewarding period after high school. Despite the name, a gap year isn’t always that and generally spans anywhere from a few months to a year. It can be used as time to take a break from school, figure out what you want to do, explore your passions, volunteer, travel, meet new people, learn about different cultures, work, and much more!


Enlisting in the military is another option that provides many benefits. College tuition is paid through the GI Bill and provides access to various online learning services. In addition to that, soldiers are given a salary, room, and board, and are often trained for a career after their years of service. After 20 years, retirement is offered with benefits.

Online college

Also known as distance learning and massive open online courses (MOOCs), these classes allow for learning at your own pace and on your schedule. The types of classes offered vary depending on the college: some are entirely online while others are hybrid. From here, you can earn a certificate or an associate's, bachelor's, or even a master’s degree. The time to do so depends on your chosen career.

Start a business

All you need to start a business is the willingness and commitment to work hard, a clear vision for your business, and the ability to use social media to market your service or product. A college degree isn’t necessary, and many others have successfully started their own businesses without one. Among these are Steve Jobs, Rachael Ray, Bill Gates, and many others. It’ll take long hours of dedication and labor, but various resources exist to aid you in entrepreneurship, many of which can be found through a Google search.

Don’t feel pressured into attending a 4-year college or think as if college is your only option after high school! There are many other options to explore if a 4-year college isn’t for you. We want you to know that it's okay to be a little unsure of what path to take. So many people have gone through this same struggle, so don't feel alone in that. Take the time you need to decide what you truly want for your future. Whatever it is you decide, make sure to follow through with hard work, dedication, and a passion like no other.

Go out there and leave your mark because we can't wait to see just how far you'll go.



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Written by: Ashley Sosa

Edited by: Meklit Tilahun