23 Things To Do After High School [Jobs + Adventure Guide]
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Graduating from high school gives you a level of freedom you’ve never experienced before — whatever you do from this point on is completely your decision. This can be an amazing, yet terrifying feeling, especially if you don’t know what you want to do yet.
Students who don’t have a career plan for after graduation can sometimes be called “late bloomers.” But that’s not really the case. If anything, the people who do have plans are “early bloomers,” who have found what they want to do more quickly than the average person.
For everyone else still considering their options, we’ve put together this curated list of 23 things people can do after graduating high school. From higher education to work experience or traveling the world, there’s sure to be something that will catch your eye.
23 Things To Do After High School
Here are 23 things to consider doing after you’ve graduated from high school.
Education and Learning
Continuing your studies after high school is one of the most common options, but college is just one kind of education you can choose from.
Four-Year College Degree
Four-year college degrees cover just about every field of specialized knowledge you can think of, and there are plenty of career-specific courses too. When considering college, the most important thing to do is research—research the courses, research the schools, research options overseas, and research scholarships.
Community colleges fill multiple roles, offering high school grads a cheaper option for their first two years of a full degree and also offering career training programs.
They tend to have a more laid-back atmosphere than private colleges and teach students in much smaller groups. This can help some students transition more smoothly into fully independent study and research.
Another traditional college alternative is trade schools—also called career colleges, technical colleges, or vocational schools—where people of all ages can go to gain practical and focused skills that will help them enter a certain trade. These courses tend to be shorter and less expensive than community colleges or four-year colleges, and they don’t turn people away based on their school diplomas.
Certificate programs can be offered by colleges, universities, and even companies like Google. They’re designed to train students in a specialized field or skill over a short amount of time and can be delivered in a classroom, during an internship, or online.
Similar to certificates, bootcamps teach trade and career skills to students over a much shorter period than traditional colleges. Bootcamps are provided by private companies and organizations, sometimes in collaboration with colleges.
You can enroll in bootcamps both in-person and online, and many focus on technical skills such as software engineering, data science, UI/UX design, data analysis, and tech sales. If you’re interested in the fields available, bootcamps can be a practical, affordable, and time-saving college alternative.
There are also many skills you can teach yourself with help from online courses, internet resources, and textbooks. Technical skills, languages, and creative skills are common examples of skills you don’t need to be a school student to learn.
It’s also possible to enter the workforce straight after high school and train while you work. If you’re interested in a career where this is possible, skipping the higher education step can save you from student loans.
Internship or Traineeship
Internships allow you to train for a role on-site and receive compensation at the same time. Internship programs are available across a range of industries, but some are aimed at college students and require you to be enrolled in a relevant course.
Non-college internships are more commonly available in vocational areas such as plumbing, construction, or carpentry.
Explore Jobs and Industries That Don’t Require a University Degree
Not all jobs require a full four-year degree. There are plenty of career opportunities for candidates who can back up their skills with experience rather than qualifications. Here are some of the most common:
If you’re a chatty person and willing to learn the tricks of the trade, getting a junior role in sales is an achievable goal. You’ll be taught the sales models and tactics used to scout out leads and earn their attention, and once you’ve built up some experience, you can apply for more senior roles.
Hospitality is another sector that you can join with no experience and quickly become qualified for more senior roles. It’s suited to those with a passion for customer service and a knack for organization.
If you’re an expert in social media, digital marketing might be a great option that doesn’t really require schooling. You can use your own social accounts as portfolios to showcase what you do and how well you know the industry, and you can also pick up some traditional marketing certifications to help bolster your qualifications.
While there are many childcare-related courses available at colleges and schools, you don’t have to hold these qualifications to get into the industry. By starting in a junior position, you can learn the skills of the trade and even do part-time schooling later on if you decide to move into a more specialized role.
It’s possible to start a trade job without training first, and without it being an internship. You’ll still begin with training, but you’ll be paid a full salary and have lots of other work alongside your studies.
Employers often look for experience over qualifications when it comes to administrative work because tried and tested organization and time management skills are more valued than Microsoft Office credentials.
After starting in a junior role, you can gain experience, find work in larger companies, and be trusted with more responsibility.
Design is a skills-based job that anyone can learn on their own time or have latent skills in. Degrees can be useful in this sector, but an impressive portfolio can showcase your skills and prove your competence without the need for qualifications.
You can get a junior role in retail even during high school, and once you have some experience, you’ll quickly be able to rise into managerial roles. If you have passion and knowledge for what you’re selling, such as clothes or jewelry, you can also find positions in high-end shops that deal in expensive products and high-class shopping experiences.
Gig Work (Uber, DoorDash, Amazon Flex, etc.)
Taking some time out after high school is as viable an option as any, and while you’re figuring things out or crossing some items off your bucket list, you can also use gig work to get some work experience.
Customer service work often involves communicating with customers over the phone or over online chat. In some cases, the work can be done from home and you can find jobs with flexible hours. It can also be good work for people who can speak multiple languages.
Online articles are a big industry right now, and it’s not as hard to get into as you might think. Simple, friendly, and casual writing is in demand because it’s easy for people all across the world to engage with, so you don’t need to have a specialized education in writing to start working.
Enlist in the Military
Once you’re over the age of 18, you can enlist in the military. If this is something that interests you, it’s important to research the various options and be aware of how long you’d be committing yourself to serve.
Teach English Abroad
While many Asian countries like China, Korea, and Japan require the majority of their English teachers to have a bachelor’s degree for visa purposes, there are plenty of other countries around the world that will allow you to teach English without a degree.
By applying to dispatch teaching companies, you can get a visa, a placement, and even accommodation through your company. All you have to do is buy a plane ticket and start teaching.
Traveling is a big part of some people’s lives, but no one wants to leave their house unattended for a long period of time. Because of this, housesitting is actually quite a large industry.
By working with a house-sitting agency, you can travel around looking after people’s houses. Since you’re getting paid just to be somewhere, it also leaves you plenty of time to do other remote work like software engineering, writing, and more.
Launch a Business (Entrepreneurship)
Some people dream of starting their own business, and although success is never a guarantee, it’s now easier than ever to make this dream a reality. If you have an idea or a concept you want to bring into the world, you don’t necessarily have to complete any higher education before starting your business.
Become a Freelancer
Freelancers exist in most industries, including writing, art, construction, event planning, tutoring, and even software engineering. As long as you can provide a service worth compensation, you can do anything as a freelancer, even if no one else is doing it already.
Work on a Cruise Ship
If you’re interested in traveling for work, you don’t necessarily have to become a fancy high-paid business professional with important meetings to attend. Working on a cruise ship lets you travel while working a range of accessible jobs, from hospitality and janitorial, to entertainment and catering.
Adventure and Experiences
After you graduate high school, the mandatory routine you’ve been following for the majority of your life comes to an end. When this happens, the most important thing isn’t making money or gaining work experience as quickly as possible, but finding something that keeps you motivated and excited about your future. Here are some of the most popular adventures and experiences you can take on:
Gap years are popular amongst high school graduates and can be beneficial both for people with plans and people who are still figuring things out. Many people also work part-time during their last couple of years at school to save up for their gap year. It’s essentially a year of complete freedom, and any of the following ideas would help you gain valuable life experience.
Travel, both domestic and international, is a great experience for a high school graduate. Depending on your situation, you may have spent your entire life so far in the same state, so seeing new places can really help you broaden your horizons and think bigger about what you want to do with your life.
Road trips are a special type of travel where the journey is as much the focus as the destination. They’re a chance to see how you fare out in the world by yourself, managing expenses and taking charge of your own transportation.
It’s not for everyone, but investing is an interest that can become a considerable stream of income for some people. If you build up knowledge while you’re still young, your understanding of the industry could become a valuable skill later on.
Learn to Cook
Many people will move away from their family home for the first time after graduating high school, so if you haven’t already, it’s a great time to learn to cook. There are many ways to feed yourself nowadays, but nothing is healthier and cheaper than cooking for yourself. It really is an invaluable skill that can save you a lot of money throughout your life.
Learn an Instrument
If there was something you always thought you’d like to try during high school but you never found the time, it’s not too late to do it now. Learning an instrument, studying a language, getting into a sport, or a new hobby—any of these things can help you experience new things, find new passions, and meet new people. You never know where and how opportunities will present themselves.
Volunteer work can be great for personal development and always looks good on a resume too. Whether you’re helping out at a local soup kitchen once a week or traveling across the world to help build houses, you can meet a lot of amazing people through volunteer work.
Learn Some Life Hacks
Adulting is something that comes more naturally to some than it does to others. Gas bills, medical insurance, rent, food, time, and money management—these are all things that can make your life a whole lot easier and less stressful when dealt with efficiently.
Whether you’re staying at home or moving out, it’s a good idea to get involved with the necessary evils of adult life and start picking up the skills that will help you thrive later on.
Move to a New City or Country
Moving away from your hometown is a truly useful experience for a new high school graduate, and you don’t need to have a specific reason to do it. It’s impossible to say whether the experience will lead to your future career or inspire any new goals, but it will give you real-world experience and help you feel comfortable with moving around.
When you know you’re capable and open to moving across the country, you’ll be able to find and consider a lot more opportunities.
Essential Skills To Develop After High School
There are a lot of different areas to focus on after your high school graduation. The good news is, as long as you’re doing something, you will be developing skills in at least one of these three areas:
Technical skills are career-specific skills like coding, writing, building, drawing, or anything else you might use to exceed at a specific task.
Soft skills are expected in just about any job and include interpersonal and communication skills, public speaking, problem-solving, teamwork, leadership, time management, and organizational skills.
Anything that helps you live life smoothly is a life skill. From finding the best deals on food and everyday products to keeping your living space clean and your body healthy, life skills are numerous and challenging.
How Can I Figure Out What To Do After High School?
While we’ve listed a good amount of options so far, choosing is easier said than done. If an answer doesn’t come naturally to you, you’ll need to put some effort into finding one. Consider the following:
Identify Your Interests and Passions
Think about what makes you happy and how you like to spend your time. Almost any interest or passion can become a career nowadays, and there’s no reason not to pursue what you love.
At the same time, your life’s passion might not be something you’ve found yet. If you have any unpursued interests or ideas, looking into them now could become the start of something huge.
See a Career Counsellor
It’s a school counselor’s job to be well-informed on all things career-related. From information on school options to resources on real-world careers, they can help you develop your ideas into full-blown career paths.
Consider Whether College Is Right For You
While the college route isn’t for everyone, it’s always worth considering. One of the biggest barriers for many is college tuition, and that amount of debt is undoubtedly a difficult thing to commit to. If tuition is your biggest concern, you could begin by looking into scholarship and grant options, and the possibility of studying overseas somewhere cheaper.
Otherwise, it can be useful to do some research into courses and campus life to see what you think of it. Going to career fairs and asking people you know who have already been to college can help too.
Everything you do in college is done of your own volition—no one will force you to turn up to class or do your assignments. Rather than picking a college that’s known as a “good school,” it’s more important to choose based on the courses, the campus, and the atmosphere.
If you just want to try college out and see what it’s like, consider doing your first two years at a community college where the tuition is affordable and it’s easier to change your mind about what you’re doing.
Make a Bucket List of Experiences You Want To Have
The things that are important to you now might not stay that way forever, but it can be a good idea to consider what some of your ambitions are. The things you come up with could become a gap year itinerary, a summer holiday, or something in between.
Research Your Choices and the Cost Involved
The most important thing about choosing what to do after high school is making sure you research all of the options you consider.
Researching can help you turn an okay idea into an amazing idea, help you find out the downsides of something before you commit to it, or help you find something completely new. No matter what you think you know about something, there’s always going to be more to the story.
Of course, money is also important, and almost anything you choose will require some kind of budget. Consulting your family and the school counselor is the best way to start thinking about money problems.
FAQs About Things To Do After High School
To finish up, here are some frequently asked questions about what to do after high school.
How Do I Choose a Career After High School?
Choosing a career can be quite difficult, and the truth is, you don’t have to make a decision right after high school. Instead of committing to something you’re unsure about, you can take some time to think while gaining experience in another way.
How Do I Know if College Is Right for Me?
It requires motivation and passion to go to college, do the work, and earn a degree, so it’s something you should be excited about doing. If college doesn’t sound exciting to you, that could be a sign that it’s not right for you—at least, not right now.
Looking into the alternatives could help you find something else to be excited about, or change your opinions on college, so it’s helpful to consider all of your options.
Should I Take Out a Loan To Fund My Education After High School?
Taking a loan to fund higher education is something many people have to do all over the world, but it’s not always the only option. Before you commit to a loan, you can research scholarships, grants, non-profit organizations, affordable colleges, overseas schools, and more.