Skip to content

What to Do After High School? Get a Plan!

Updated: June 19, 2024 | Published: June 12, 2017

Updated: June 19, 2024

Published: June 12, 2017

Things I Wish I Knew When I Graduated High School copy

If you’re reading this, then congratulations! You’ve either just earned your high school diploma or you are well on your way to doing so and already taking the steps to plan what comes next. When thinking about what to do after high school, you have a lot of options.

Instead of getting stuck in the mindset of, “I graduated high school, now what?” let’s explore some after-high school plans so you can have some ideas of what to do after graduating high school.

Source: Unsplash

What to Do After Graduating High School

Since there are many high school graduates who may find themselves thinking of a list of “things I wish I knew before high school,” we want to stop you in your tracks from following in that path further down the line.

As a result, take some time to read over the following ideas of what to do after high school. Keep in mind that everyone’s trajectory looks different, so take the time to listen to your gut to determine the options that work best for you.

Go to college

It’s common for many high school graduates to jump out of secondary school and right into an undergraduate degree program by attending a traditional college. The idea of the college experience is typically engrained from a young age, as are the benefits of obtaining your degree. If you choose to go to a traditional four-year college, then it’s useful to know what you want to study. That being said, even if you are unsure of your career plans, you can enter college as an undecided major, take some general education courses, and spend time discovering what you want to major in once you’re already enrolled.

Earn a degree online

Similar to degree seekers who attend traditional colleges, you can earn your degree online with added flexibility and benefits. Online institutions, like the University of the People, aim to make education accessible. At the University of the People, students can choose to earn a degree or take part in certificate programs that are all tuition-free. Along with saving money on earning your degree, you’ll benefit from being able to learn at your own pace and alongside students from all over the globe.

Start working

It could be the case that you need to or want to start working right away. For whatever reasons you have, it’s doable. When choosing this route, keep in mind that if you earn your degree (now or later), you will also inherently increase your salary potential and lifetime earning potential. This is yet another reason why many students who need to work right away choose to enroll in an online university because the scheduling flexibility makes it easier to accomplish both goals at the same time.

Study abroad

After graduating high school, the travel bug might bite you hard. If you’re someone who wants to see the world but does not wish to sacrifice proceeding with your educational endeavors, then a study abroad program could be the optimal solution. Study abroad programs allow students to go learn from their chosen curriculum while being situated in a new country. By doing so, you can learn a new language, expand your career opportunities, make new friends, and create lifelong memories.

Join the military

Turning 18 in the United States affords you the option to join the military. By doing so, you can gain experience and even enter the workforce thereafter with useful skills. Before applying for your service, keep in mind the commitment level. You’ll have to serve a minimum of five to eight years, and the specific amount of time will depend on the branch that you choose. As an extra bonus, should you decide to pursue college afterward, you will receive tuition assistance and be eligible for a variety of military scholarships. 

Pick a trade school

There are some professions that don’t require a college degree but do call upon skills and specific knowledge. For these types of positions, trade school could be the answer you’re searching for. For example, you can become a plumber, paralegal, florist, automotive technician, hairstylist, aircraft mechanic, computer technician, and pharmacy technician, to name a few, by attending trade school.

Take a gap year

If you’re really struggling to decide what to do after high school, then the best idea might be to respect the time and space you desire. You can do this by taking a gap year. A gap year is when students take a break from school for experiential learning. A gap year doesn’t technically have to be a year. It could be a quarter, semester, or whatever period of time you choose. During a gap year, students operate with the intention that they’ll eventually go to college, but in the meantime may take up activities like an internship, volunteering, pursuing mentorship, working, taking a break, among other ideas. 

Start a business

While many successful businesses (like Facebook. Google, and Snapchat) were started by students in college, some people may graduate high school with the will and way to start a business right away. If you have a feasible idea, the necessary funding to get started, and the perseverance to get it done, then you might want to give it a go. Alternatively, even if you decide to go to college first, you can get started on the business during any downtime that you have so you can establish your proof of concept. 

Source: Unsplash

You’ve Got Options, Now Make the Choice!

As you can see, the possibilities are endless when you are deciding what to do after high school. It’s worthwhile to assess both your short-term and long-term needs and goals when you choose your after-high school plans.

While it can be an overwhelming exercise to think about, you can take comfort in knowing that you can always change course or adjust your choice if need be.

At UoPeople, our blog writers are thinkers, researchers, and experts dedicated to curating articles relevant to our mission: making higher education accessible to everyone.