College isn’t for everyone and there’s no reason it should be. Traditional higher education offers one way of learning about and experiencing the world but it’s by no means the only answer out there. It’s unfortunate that our society stigmatizes individuals who don’t excel at and/or aren’t interested in this one particular style of learning. Intelligence is as diverse as humanity itself and it’s of enormous importance that we honor that diversity by nurturing young people to grow and learn in a multitude of ways instead of funneling us all into the same mold. On top of this social and cultural imperative to diversify the way we to learn is the massive financial burden placed on young people to invest in an education that might not serve them. One solution is to summon the courage to step outside the box and claim your life as your own. There are a number of excellent alternatives to traditional college; here are some suggestions…
1. Online Education
Massive Open Online Courses have come a long way over the past several years. Gifted professors who are employed by some of the country’s top schools teach many courses. Students can choose courses in a broad array of subjects, often for free.
2. UnCollege Etc.
“UnCollege,” created by a former college student who found traditional school wasn’t the right fit for him, “is a social movement designed to help you hack your education. [The UnCollege] manifesto will show you how to gain the passion, hustle, and contrarianism requisite for success — all without setting foot inside a classroom.” UnCollege is one of a few venues that exist to help people learn to experience their education in a different way and at much less cost than traditional college.
3. Attend A Professional School or Trade School
It can be difficult for college students to figure out what exactly they’re in school for. Which is plain silly, isn’t it? As humans we need, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and financially, to have an objective; to be working towards something, rather than just ‘going through school’. Attending a professional school or a trade school will teach you the skills you need for the job you want; it’s a much more active training process than the theoretical abstraction that imbues traditional higher education. You’ll also spend less time in school for less cost.
4. Get Certification
There are many certification programs online, at community colleges and through government sponsored programs that are available at much less cost than a four-year degree. If there’s a career you wish to pursue, explore your options for training and certification through these valuable alternatives.
5. Get Work, Intern or Volunteer Experience
By doing a little exploring out in the world, you can use your experiences to figure out what you really want in life. What are your strengths; what are you drawn to; and what do you really enjoy doing? Do you like working with people? Do you want to travel; work with your hands; inside or outside? These questions can be tough to answer in the theoretical world of the classroom, so before you commit your time and money, you might want to get to know yourself better.
Sometimes all that figuring out can lead directly to a traditional college setting, but at least then you’ll know you belong there and why. If a traditional higher education is for you then don’t let cost be a deterrent: there are student loan experts who can help you manage your debt.