Do IT on Your Own Time: Life Now, College Later

There's no right time to get a college education. While many high school graduates head straight on to college, that's definitely not the only path to a degree. If you're not sure the traditional route is right for you, read on to learn some tips for living for a college-free life after high school.

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By Sarah Wright

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It'll Be There When You're Ready

Some people are sure they want to go to college. Others are sure that they don't. But some people think they might, but either don't want to or can't attend right after high school. If you're someone who wants to go to college eventually, there are some ways to make the most out of your life between high school and college. There's no shame in waiting. Institutions of higher education have been around since before you were born, and they'll still be there when you want them.

Make Sure You Get Your High School Diploma

If you're nearing the end of your high school career and you find yourself feeling stuffed to the gills with education, you might be wondering if it's worth it to stick it out until graduation, never mind going through yet more school in college. Whatever you decide to do after graduation, take the time now to earn your high school diploma. Most employers require a diploma or equivalent as a first step in the hiring process. And it's definitely necessary to get into any higher education program. You'll find it ultimately makes your life easier to get your diploma, even if you aren't going to use that as a leg up into secondary education.

Be Prepared to Work Your Way Up

One good thing about a college education is that it often serves as a qualification that helps people get jobs with better pay and more authority. You will still be able to get a great job if you decide not to go to college right away, but you might need to start at the bottom and work your way up. If you want to enter a skilled trade, for example, you might need to go through a training period before you can take on jobs with a lot of responsibility.

Make the Most Out Of Your Job

Current high school students who aren't planning to go to college right away, if at all, can do a few things to get on the right track even before graduating. If you have a job, think about whether it's something you're interested in turning into a career. If it isn't, see if you can get into a line of work that is better suited to your long-term goals. It might seem difficult, but a lot of employers are willing to give internships or apprenticeships to high school students, and these experiences often translate to jobs. Your high school may even offer course credit in exchange for work experience, meaning that you can hang on to your better-paying, but less interesting job.

Take Standardized Tests Now

Taking the SAT or ACT is an important step in applying to most colleges. These tests are designed to test knowledge that you gain in high school. Even if you're on the fence about going to college, you should take these tests now while the information is still fresh in your head. Plus, as a high school student, you probably have better access to school-sponsored test prep materials now than you would as an adult.

Attend a Few Classes

If you have the time, consider taking a few classes at a local university or community college after graduating high school. This can be an affordable way to try your hand at a few different school subjects without fully committing to a degree program. Doing things this way can allow you to keep your job and stay focused on your ultimate goal of earning a secondary degree. Plus, being in the habit of doing assignments and attending classes helps maintain the study and work skills that are so important to doing a good job in school, paving the way to an easy re-entry to school life.

If you can't stomach the thought of more school, don't worry. College isn't for everyone.

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