Alternatives to College…. Exploring your Options
Have you ever thought that starting college right after high school migh not be the best option for you? Maybe you are a little stressed or confused about what career path you would like to follow or what college is the best fit for you. Not every student wants to enter college in the fall immediately following his or her graduation. You may need to make money to reinforce some skills, to mature, or you may just want a different experience. Discovering other opportunities allows you to expand your perspective and make your future formal education a more meaningful and purpose-driven endeavor. Since this is a big decision, a plan should be devised in order to receive the most out of this experience.
Research, research, research!! There are many different programs that offer employment, traveling, military, or volunteer placements and it is important that you receive all the information possible. Speaking to individuals who have actually been through the program is a great idea!
Decide how much time you have in between your formal education and high school. You might have 15 months or 3 months. Instead of committing to one program, time might allo you to explore a few different ones.
Next, figure out who will be financing your time off. Will you be working? Does the program have a fee? Are there stipends or scholarships offered? Will your parents be helping?
Finally, be aware of where you would like to spend your time and in what conditions you want to live in. Do you want to be close to home? Do you want to travel to a foreign country or to a different part of the USA? The living situations differ greatly between programs. Some programs are adventure based and spend weeks “roughing it” and others place you with a host family.
Tips for parents
Remember that college immediately after high school does not guarantee success. The worst reason for your student to go directly to college is because it is expected. As it stands, fewer than 6 in 10 students entering 4-year colleges graduate within six years. Heading off to school without knowing why is not going to improve the odds.
Be open to and support your student’s ideas for alternatives to college. In fact, going to college with the maturity gained from doing something else first can be beneficial for some students.
Stress the importance of planning ahead. Depending on the interest, a gap-year program may also require an application.
It’s important that your student work hard throughout senior year, not letting grades drop at the end since the transcript the college receives for the deferred applicant will be for the complete year. They will want to consistent effort.
If your student decides to study or volunteer abroad in a developing country, make sure they fully understand the living situation. Cuture shock can be very difficult and to get the best experience out of their year off, they should feel safe, healthy and secure.
These websites are designed to give you information regarding summer programs, interim programs, volunteer opportunities, non-profit jobs, internships and other unique programs.
The Center for Interim Programs, LLC.: Connect to many different programs through this website.
LEAPNOW, Transforming Education: Guides students to interesting and challenging activities and experiences.
Where are you headed? : A Datatbase that contains connections to thousands of different GAP year opportunities.
Taking off: Taking off is a personalized program that will help students develop a plan for their time off.
The Year Out Group: Informative website which allows students to understand the year off and search for many different programs.
Serve your world: An online database of volunteer organizations.
Student Conversation Association: Provides housing, food, and other expenses for volunteers who work from 3-12 months on rural and urban restoration projects.
Americorps: A federally operated program combining a service project, with a stipend that may be used for college.
Dynamy: A year that combines an internship, independent living, individual advising and an Outward Bound experience into an exploration of your skills, ambitions and the world around you.
City Year: Gives a student the opportunity to serve as a tutor or mentor in schools, running after school programs and developing youth leadership programs. Stipends and other benefits are provided.
Eaupair: Helps Americans like up as au pairs in countries all over the world.
Global Crossroad: Volunteer, intership, and job opportunities, in India, Nepal, China, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Mongolia, Ghana, Costa Rica, Equador, Kenya, and Tibet.
Global Service Corp: Provides international volunteers worldwide to live and work abroad on projects in developing countries.
Habitat for Humanity: A volunteer organization that builds decent, affordable housing for poor families.
I-to-I Volunteer Abroad: Arranges volunteer work, and teach abroad programs for students.
Summer Spanish Immersion: A summer only program, but still worth mentioning!
The Samaritans: A telephone Befriending Service which hires volunteers that desire an interim experience.
United Nations Volunteers: UN Organization that supports human development globally by promoting volunteerism and by mobilizing volunteers.
Volunteer Abroad: Lists job, eco/adventure, volunteer, internships, and other GAP year opportunities.
Where There Be Dragons: Learning opportunitites through off-the-beaten path expeditions to China, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Tibet, India, Mongolia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru. Trips can be rugged wilderness explorations.
Up With People: This program is a combination of leadership/study abroad/service program that includes entertaining opportunities in music.
Global Quest: Offers academic expeditions in developing countries.
Council on International Education Exchange: Offers a wide variety of programs for pre-university students.
InterExchange: Matches students with interships, jobs, and study abroad programs. Adventure/Outdoor Progams
Earthwatch: Volunteering your time to a scientific field research or conservation project in many different countries.
National Outdoor Leadership School: NOLS teaches outdoor and leadership skills in 10 day to semester long expeditions in different wilderness regions.
Outward Bound: Conducts adventure based programs in a number of places around the USA and abroad.
Sea Education Association: SEA is an Educational experience that challenges students intellectually and physically by combining a sailing adventure of a lifetime with the study of the deep ocean.
Go Abbey Road:
Cogita Education: A highly experienced staff, all educators from Harvard, offers an interdisciplinary program to the Galapagos Islands.
Slide Ranch: This ranch offers the opportunity to teach agriculture and environmental education.
Environmental Careers Organization: The Environmental Careers Organization has developed professionals for the environmental field through paid environmental internships at governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, and companies across the United States.
Arena Stage: Theater related internships, includes everything from costume design to casting.
The Kennedy Center: Interships offered to those interested in art education and the performing arts.
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Offers internship positions to students interested in careers in art.
Library of Congress: Different programs, workshops, and interships available to high school graduates.
For more information see your guidance counselor!