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5 Alternatives to Going to College

Updated on April 28, 2013


Not everyone can afford to go to college. I know I was one of them right out of high school. Some of us are lucky and have a college fund that has been saved for us, others have to work extremely hard to earn a scholarship, and some never really had the chance. I grew up in a small town where the only initial scholarship offered from my school was TOPS which honestly didn't pay for anything if I wanted to go to a reputable school. Community college, sure, but then what? Overall I had to a find another way, and I did. This is a list of good alternatives to going to college. They are not intended to sway people away from the idea of getting an education, it is very important. Their intentions are to broaden the point of view in which we view success. One can be successful without a formal education, it just depends on what you want to do and where you want to be.

1. Start a Business

Starting a business at times can be just as stressful as being a full time student, if not more. The great part about starting a business is that it gives you the opportunity to create a brand for yourself and learn about the business world from experience, not from a textbook or a lecture. Starting a business gives you the freedom to control your own workload, go in the direction you desire and bring your ideas to life, the way you imagined them. When starting a small business, it is recommended that you have either a part time job or a full time job while running your business. Especially when starting up, you have a huge risk that everything can go belly up and you might lose everything. Keep this in mind and don't take too big of a risk. Once you achieve your first success, that first big sale or client, you will know whether or not this is the path you. Never give up on your dreams though. Having a successful business can be one of the most rewarding things both financially, physically and mentally.

2. Learn a Trade

With the media and education gearing more and more towards formal education, college etc. Less and less people are actually learning the trades that make this world run the way it does. More people are striving for those boring desk jobs and less people are learning how to fix cars, plumbing, houses etc. The great thing about learning a trade is that it will get you into the work force faster, usually in about 2 years, compared to the 4 year education followed by no hands on experience. It actually ties up with 1. Starting a Business. Once you learn a trade, get an apprenticeship, gets hands on experience and eventually master your trade, you can go on to starting a business for that trade. I know plenty of people who have started their own electrician businesses or carpentry businesses based on the skills they learned in their trade. You may be able to do both of them simultaneously! All of this can be accomplished in 4 years of dedicated work after entering a trade. By the time your friend graduates college, you could have 4 years of experience and have a successful business.

3. Join the Military

This is the method that I chose. Joining the military will instantly get you into the work force with a decent paying job with good benefits and education benefits. You can serve 4 years of active duty and have 4 years of experience in that field, full tuition paid for through the Post 9/11 GI bill and then go reserve or guard and still stay in the service while starting a civilian career of your own. The military has additional benefits that are great for young families as well. As a service member you get something called BAH, or basic allowance for housing, which depending on the cost of living where you live will give you all the money you need, and some times more, to rent an apartment or buy a house. They also have BAS, or basic allowance for subsidies, which will help you pay for food and other necessities. Another great factor is dependent pay. If you are a married or have a child the military will help you provide for them with additional pay. At the end of it all, you have all the money you need, you get to gain valuable work experience, have a respectable job, and earn full tuition to school after 36 months of active duty. If that isn't a alternative to college, I don't know what else could be.

4. Teach English Abroad

Teaching English abroad is a career choice that isn't very big in the media. The basic idea behind this is that you go to another country, for example China or Thailand, and teach the nationals there how to speak English. A lot of countries do require you to have a degree, but a lot of others don't. What I really like about this alternative is that is gives you the ability to travel and earn USD while doing a job that is really going to make a difference. Most schools overseas provide you with basic accommodations like an apartment to stay in that is close to the school, travel reimbursement, and sometimes even insurance! The normal pay that I have seen is anywhere from 1000-1500 USD a month. If you think about it, since you don't have to pay for rent, transportation is reimbursed, and the cost of living in Thailand is about 500 USD a month (that includes rent), 1000-1500 USD a month is pretty much wealthy in that area. If you want to live luxurious, you can, if you want to live frugally, you can save money. A lot of money. Maybe even enough money to start going to school when ever you get done. I think this is a great opportunity for people who want to teach but can't afford the degree. The only thing required is a certification, sometimes provided by the school, to get started.

5. Become a Writer

Last but not least, you can become a writer. Whether you want to write for websites like HubPages, Infobarrel, Triond, Squidoo, or freelance write through websites like Writer Access is up to you. Personally I think the way to become successful as a writer is to do a bit of everything. I have seen reports of people making 2k or higher by freelance writing and writing for revenue share websites. Some people earn even higher! What is really great about becoming a writer is the ability to really control your own destiny and be location independent. Writing isn't a 9-5 job. Some days you can work longer than 8 hours, and other days you can chose to not work at all. A writer truly has freedom. As a writer, I would recommend having a day job while getting started. Build up some assets that will help earn you passive income and then use that experience to transition into freelance work. Write 100 Hubs on HubPages and edit and perfect them until you are earning at least the minimum pay out each month. Move on to other websites and do the same. Then start applying for freelance work and build a resume. Once you have the experience and the tools to quit your day job, do it! Live a life of freedom. Be your own boss. Write a book of your own!

Which Alternative to College is the Best?

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    • MountainManJake profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Seattle

      I am in the process of becoming a full time writer as well. It is a long and tough road.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I like that you included the writer option here! I had considered teaching abroad but now I write and love it :)

    • MountainManJake profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Seattle

      Thank you stars439! I think anyone can be successful if they are happy what they are doing. Nothing is more meaningful than loving what you do!

    • stars439 profile image


      5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      You're hub was enjoyable to read, and you have information that could help people. Thank you.


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