Celebrate High School typography
Considering Post-Graduation Possibilities:
Thinking Outside the Traditional College Box
by Cheryl A. Bastian
College is valuable, but it may not be the best path for every graduate. Mike and I have personally walked alongside our young adults as they processed their post-high school choices. The decisions were not easy. With each learner, Mike and I had to make the bold choice not to assume our ways were best. In addition, we have come alongside hundreds of homeschooling families, helping them process possibilities, that indeed are vast. Some graduates chose Ivy Leagues and military academies and excelled. Others flourished in community colleges. However, we have also:

  • Met with future Olympians
  • Imagined with young entrepreneurs
  • Engaged in conversations with young published authors
  • Marveled as juniors and seniors blazed trails
  • Set up retirement accounts
  • Earned CNA certificates

Every decision was a stepping stone to an astounding future, a path as unique as the learner was extraordinary.

Maybe you and your teen are pondering post-graduation plans, vacillating between next steps, some nothing like you imagined or hoped. The path might be scary. You are not alone. God is with you and fully aware of the circumstances. He knows your son or daughter and the current scenario and will provide for the details of your graduate’s future. With open hands, ask Him to help your family consider potential options.

The list below offers a variety of ideas. It is by no means exhaustive, and it is quite possible graduates could partake in several options simultaneously. For example, a gap year could be used to start a podcast while finishing a book in an area of expertise. If that expertise is sports-related—as in the case of a champion fencer—the teen could teach private lessons to generate revenue while building an online platform for his upcoming book.

Gap Year
Gap years give graduates a year to capitalize on an opportunity such as traveling or doing an internship—something individualized. Well-planned, goal-oriented gap years can be advantageous. On the other hand, gap years without specific plans invite laziness. Planning is key. If a student accepts college admission and then decides to take a year off, consult the school and inquire about deferred admission. For some teens, this will be the first step in planning a successful gap year.
Trade, Technical, or Vocational School
Industry certification or vocational training is often possible in two years or less. Teaching modalities include classroom or online courses, instruction supervised by a professional, or self-study and testing. In some cases, this training can begin in high school. For example, our mobile auto mechanic learned his trade from a certified mechanic after self-study that began at sixteen. He built his clientele and earned certifications. He has maintained our vehicles for over thirty years!
High School Student listening to music on a park bench
The high school years can provide a perfect springboard for foundational experience and knowledge, naturally leading to post-graduation opportunities.

Health care field careers are in demand, and not all require a college degree, though certification, clinical work, and state licensure exams are likely. High schoolers eager to work in a healthcare-related field may consider becoming a(n):

  • Phlebotomist
  • Optician
  • Home health care assistant
  • Hearing aid specialist

High school courses can prepare for or solidify a career choice. For example, first aid, biology, human anatomy, or medical terminology can provide helpful foundations for healthcare careers, while child development, psychology, or interpersonal communication classes may lay a foundation for a future nanny service or preschool teacher. High schoolers interested in these fields may find American Red Cross courses or volunteering with assisted living facilities, church senior care, Meals on Wheels, and Special Olympics helpful. We know a high schooler who is currently working alongside an optician as a tech. Real-life experience is invaluable and helps build a resume before the high school tassel is turned.

Other careers offer employment without a college degree, too. Again, certification, licensure, or other examinations are likely. Those fields include:

  • Bank teller specialist
  • Cosmetologist
  • Fire School/ EMT
  • Law enforcement
  • Commercial or private pilot
  • Pest control applicator
  • Realtor
Internships and Apprenticeships
Internships and apprenticeships offer on-the-job learning with oversight by a professional. These may be paid experiences—often hourly pay with increase for advanced skills—or may lead to full-time employment. Be sure any certifications earned are accredited by nationally recognized entities. Internships and apprenticeships are ideal for hands-on, experiential learners, particularly in construction trades, health care, manufacturing, and telecommunications.
High School student recording a video of himself
Volunteer Work
When I hear volunteer service, my mind naturally moves toward service hours required for scholarships or special awards. However, organizations like AmeriCorps, the Catholic Volunteer Network, Conservation Corps, and the Peace Corps seek young adults over eighteen years of age to serve individually or on small teams on projects such as disaster recovery, environmental projects, and eradication of poverty. These humanitarian efforts may be just the niche for a teen interested in non-profit work, global crises, or social justice.
For many high school grads, the military presents varied options with potential benefits of competitive salaries, room and board, healthcare, paid college tuition, and retirement after twenty years of service. In addition, the military will often train young adults for a career that will lead to entering the workforce with experience. Local recruiters can be helpful in navigating military possibilities.
Turn strength into income. An entrepreneurial interest can be nurtured in high school by reading business-related biographies, subscribing to online magazines or studying entrepreneurial blogs, listening to podcasts, and using the information gleaned to start a business—which can in turn become a profitable post-graduation endeavor. Popular areas of entrepreneurship include cake decorating, freelance writing, lawn maintenance, online marketplaces, and photography.
“Every learner’s path is rife with possibilities and potential as distinctive as each divinely fashioned individual.”
Out-of-the-Box Niche Areas
  • Sound, Lighting, and Technology. One young man we met for evaluations discovered his gift while serving with the tech team at his church. His mentor noticed his strengths and began teaching the student advanced sound board technology, lighting, videography, and editing skills. Within a year, volunteer service turned into high school employment and eventually a post-graduation career. Event DJs would fall in under this category as well.
  • Publications and Online Content. Polishing a manuscript for creative writing credit while in high school can lead to future publication, freelance writing, blogging, podcasting, or creating YouTube content. Membership in a writer’s critique group, a personal writing mentor/coach, or writer’s conferences may be helpful.
  • Coach or Referee. This versatile option could be a primary income—being employed as a coach or instructor—or as a part-time job while working in another area, perhaps while pursuing a sports-related degree or certification. It is the way we’ve watched young people receive monetary compensation—sometimes $50-$75 an hour—for pitching or batting lessons, while passing on their love and expertise to younger athletes.
  • Online Courses and Tutorials. The internet can be a powerful tool to gain skills needed for a career while in high school. For example, a young adult with a vision to be a game warden or ranger may decide an online wilderness survival course or SCUBA or lifeguard certifications might be the right next step to fulfilling the goal. With access to the internet, graduates have the ability to continue to build skills in any area from repairing motorcycles to cake decorating.
Community College
Time is a gift. Post-secondary education does not have to be traditional. It can be broken down into attainable steps or changed to meet a need: fewer classes a semester, fewer general education requirements, daytime employment and night school, or online courses to fit travel or health needs. Community colleges may provide just the right out-of-the-box twist to be a solution.
High School student working at home from her desk
Community colleges generally provide low-cost career training or preparation for transfer to a larger university. Programs at the college may also include technical certificates and two-year degrees—associate of applied science—referred to as terminal degrees with the sole purpose to equip graduates for successful employment in a specific field.

Three of our grads have incorporated state college into their post-secondary plans. Each personalized path opened doors for daytime employment in the field—building connections with professionals—while completing online work in the evening. Inroads to post-graduation employment were paved, and incremental steps up the education ladder provided a less intimidating path to an advanced degree.

Maybe you are thinking, “My graduate will not go to college.” I’ve been there and walked the road, several times. And, guess what? Every learner decided to attend college, each successful in his or her own way. One even holds a graduate degree. If you doubt your teen will attend college due to a learning challenge, please know accommodations may be available. With that in mind, celebrate the goodness that abounds in your learner and enjoy the journey. College, which once seemed unobtainable, may suddenly become a viable option.

Every learner’s path is rife with possibilities and potential as distinctive as each divinely fashioned individual. The same is true of post-graduation plans. When we listen boldly and open our hearts and minds to options—perhaps unlike anything we might be presently considering—we begin to anticipate and appreciate the possibilities better suited to the giftings and callings of our young adults.

Cheryl Bastian headshot

heryl Bastian has been married to Mike for twenty-eight years and began homeschooling in 1993. A mother of eight children—toddler through adult—Cheryl knows the trials and triumphs of embracing each season of life and is passionate about equipping and inspiring parents who want to nurture a desire for life-long learning in their children. You can find more from Cheryl at cherylbastian.com.