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At some point, most high school teenagers wonder what they are going to do after high school. This goes for both graduates as well as non-graduates. While many teenagers are guided by their parents to go to college, get a job, or join the military, some of them still aren’t confident there path is right for them and many others just aren’t sure what to do. In this article, you’ll learn what your options are and how to begin to decide what is best for you after high school.
We’ll start with your options. Then we’ll look at some strategies to help you decide what is best for you.
There are actually five general options, or pathways, for you after high school that lead to eventual independence. It’s important to note that these are not listed in any particular order as they all have their pros and cons. Regardless of the initial path that you choose, you can achieve a successful adult life. A little planning and research now, however, can get you started off well and streamline your path to success in the best way for you.
These are the five options to consider after high school:
1. Post-Secondary Education
a. 4-year Colleges and Universities
b. 2-year Colleges and Community Colleges
c. Technical and Professional schools and colleges
2. Military – Although this option is one way to become independent and gain some skills as well as serve your country, realize that potentially huge sacrifices can be required. Some of the potential sacrifices are: Long erratic work hours, strenuous situations, lengthy tours away from home, periods of boredom, dangerous situations, and possible loss of life or limbs. Don’t take a military commitment lightly if you are considering this option. It can be a rewarding experience, but it is not a good fit for everyone.
c. Air Force
d. Marine Corps
e. Coast Guard
Note: There is also a hybrid option where you enlist in the reserves of any branch (e.g. National Guard or Navy Reserves), which is part-time, and pursue one of the other paths simultaneously. If you are interested in one of the Post-Secondary Education options but cannot afford it, check with your local recruiters about special programs that might provide tuition assistance.
a. Full-time permanent jobs
b. Combination of two or more part-time jobs
c. Contract services on short-term basis (temporary work)
4. Apprenticeships and Internships
a. These consist of carefully monitored work experiences with intentional learning goals. Note that these can be either paid or unpaid. Either way, this is a good option for getting your “foot in the door” and obtaining relevant work experience and references.
b. Volunteer work such as Missionary work or joining the Peace Corps can also fall into this category as you can learn and grow a lot from these experiences.
5. Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship
a. Start a business
b. Buy a business
c. Take on a franchise
d. Consult or freelance
Now that you’re aware of your options, keep in mind that you can create a hybrid, or combination, of two or more of these options at any given time. You might need to combine options in order to meet your financial needs while pursuing your goals.
Here are a few strategies to help you decide which is best for you.
• Start by envisioning the kind of future you want for yourself. Gather your thoughts from many different resources. Observe others who could provide ideas for how you want to live. Take note of what they did to get where they are. Be careful about pursuing unrealistic, or highly risky, endeavors. Weigh your risks vs. rewards carefully.
• Start identifying your interests and possible career options. Think about interests and the environment that you would enjoy spending your time in for the better part of your life. Research career possibilities associated with your interests and which could lead to the future that you envisioned. Research can take a lot of time and effort, but it will broaden your options and could help you identify the best path for you. Seek assistance from your School Counselor or Librarian if you need help.
• With a vision of your future and possible careers, begin to research the requirements to get there by working backwards to layout the path you will follow. Consider the five different paths that you can take to begin your journey. Your research should reveal which path, or paths, will lead you to the future you want for yourself in the most efficient manner. Consider devising a Life Plan that will guide you through all the key areas of life. There is more to life than just your career.
Lastly, realize that there is also a sixth choice. This path doesn’t lead to independence and is the most risky choice of them all because you will not be in control of your own life, you will not become independent, and you won’t reach any level of success. Every year many young adults choose this option simply because they fail to consciously choose one of the other five (and someone allows this as a choice, even if unintentional).
The sixth option is that you take advantage of someone else’s (parent, other relative, friend, government, etc.) generosity (or their inability to require you to become an independent adult) and live off of that someone else. You will be dependent on them for your standard of living, your personal growth will be limited, and you will contribute little or nothing to your community. Whenever your benefactor decides, or becomes unable to continue, your life will be severely impacted. I strongly recommend against this choice.
In conclusion, I congratulate you on taking the initiative to read this article! You are now armed with the possible choices after high school as well as some strategies for determining the actions that you should take to establish yourself as an independent adult. Your future is in your hands. Enjoy the next stage of your life as you enter into adulthood.