College is just one among many options open to high school graduates. Here are a few paths you could choose.

Oh, the Places You'll Go! 7 Potential Paths for the High School Graduate

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! 7 Potential Paths for the High School Graduate

If you’re a senior in high school, you’ve probably been working hard on earning stellar grades, getting knee-deep in extracurricular activities, and possibly even fighting off a case of senioritis. The big question mark is what the future holds when you graduate. And as you venture out into a world filled with vast possibilities, don’t focus just on one option – consider a few of them.

1. Large, Public Four-Year Universities

Attending a four-year university is a popular choice, but you’ll want to factor in the costs.Click To Tweet

According to the College Board, the national average for one year of tuition and fees at an in-state public university is $9,410. The cost for out-of-state students? A whopping $23,890.

“Cost needs to be a huge consideration when weighing the pros and cons of higher education because it determines your return on investment for your education,” says Robert Farrington, founder of The College Investor. You’ll need to spend some time with your parents figuring out what all the costs are (including room, food, books, and supplies), how you’ll pay for it, and weighing the pros and cons of attending college to determine if it’s ultimately worth it.

2. Small, Private Four-Year Universities

If you want smaller classes, an emphasis on teaching over research, and an easier time getting to know fellow students, then look toward attending a small, private university. Small colleges also tend to specialize in the liberal arts. However, you may forgo the name recognition and athletics department that many larger universities boast.

Are you someone who likes to get lost in a big crowd? Or would you get more from a close-knit environment?Click To Tweet

On average, small, private colleges come with a heftier price tag: $32,410 per year.

3. Two-Year Community Colleges

Looking for a less costly alternative? Consider going to a two-year community college before transferring to a four-year university. The average cost for one year of tuition at an in-state, public two-year college is $3,400, according to the College Board. Plus, there’s a good chance you can attend community college while living with mom and dad, which could save you money on room and board. If you’re not sure what you’ll be majoring in, it’s a great way to get your general education courses out of the way before delving deep into courses that pertain to your major.

4. Trade or Vocational Schools

Traditional colleges might not be the right path for every high school graduate.

If you want to skip academia and learn a specific job, trade schools are a great way to graduate with skills that let you pay the bills.Click To Tweet

You can learn anything from electrical and automotive to architecture and vet tech skills. For those with a creative bent, you can learn visual effects or music engineering.

While the average cost for all four years of a more traditional college is $127,000, the total cost of attending a trade school is $33,000. And even aside from the lower cost, it takes on average anywhere from four to 18 months to complete a trade school program, so you’ll be entering the workforce sooner.

One of the drawbacks to attending a trade school, though, is that you’re limited in the kinds of jobs that you can do. And of course, you won’t be able to attend professional or graduate school without a college degree.

5. Military

The perks of joining the military include getting to see the world and learning skills that you can take with you down the road, not to mention generous retirement benefits, healthcare, and tuition reimbursement.

There’s also the U.S. Army Reserve, which you can enlist in while attending college. You can also join the military after you graduate with a college degree, which will broaden your options as to which posts you can occupy.

6.Online Classes

There are plenty of opportunities to further your education after high school with online courses. From massive open online courses (MOOCs) to sites like Udemy, Coursera, and Skillshare to university extension courses, you can learn anything from photoshop to financial planning to blogging for money.

The best thing about online courses is that some of them are 100 percent free.Click To Tweet

While you may not earn a degree, you can earn a certificate of completion. Plus, online classes are a great way to bulk up your marketable skills.

7. Straight to Work

Of course, you can decide to go straight to work. This may be a good idea if you want to gain some real-life experience right after college. Maybe there’s a family business you can work at. Or maybe you can learn sustainable living skills at organic farms in different countries through programs like Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF).

Farrington strongly recommends that those who don’t know what they want to do after high school get out there and work for a few years. “Explore different jobs and careers,” says Farrington. “Travel if you can afford it. The thing is, you can always go back if you need to get an education in something. But don’t waste your money if you don’t have any clue why you’re doing it.”

For more from author Jackie Lam, click here