You’re at a crossroads, trying to decide the path life’s great journey will take from here on.
Maybe high school is coming to an end for you. Maybe you’ve just dropped out of college. Or maybe you’ve recently been furloughed.
Do you go to college? Get a job? Take some time off? Reinvent yourself?
The odds are, you’re probably leaning towards option one – go to college.
That’s okay. From a young age, we’re conditioned to work hard through school and then continue education at the college level. A lot of us meekly follow this path, believing it’s the best option for our future success.
We don’t stop to consider that there might be another way, a way that doesn’t saddle us with a mountain of debt and leave us half-jokingly telling our friends that we didn’t really learn anything all that useful for the thousands of dollars we spent.
When smart people make an investment in something – be it time or money, or both – they carefully consider all their options and the possible outcomes before taking the plunge. Why should education be any different?
While nothing is certain, having a decent grasp of all the options before you make a decision definitely helps.
In this guide, we’ll help you to decide whether college is really worth it and show you some of the available alternatives to college.
Is College Really the Best Option for You?
There are, of course, valid reasons that people choose to go to college. And granted, some do graduate within four years and go straight into the job of their dreams – or at least, what they think their dream is at the time.
But, for a lot of people, the transition from higher education into full-time work isn’t quite that straightforward.
Many find themselves coming out the other end with a very expensive piece of paper but no idea what they want to do, or without any practical workplace skills. So they fall into the first jobs they can find. And all too often, the jobs they find could have been had without a degree.
Case in point, recent figures by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that 39 percent of recent college graduates – and 32.7 percent of all college graduates – are working in jobs that don’t require a college degree. Recent data analysis of job postings and resumes conducted by Burning Glass puts that number even higher, estimating that 43% of all college grads are underemployed in their first jobs out of college.
It’s clear there’s a major disconnect between what’s being taught in colleges and what the job market requires.
Apple CEO Tim Cook recently pointed out that there’s a “mismatch between the skills that are coming out of colleges and what the skills are that we believe we need in the future,” and about half of the company doesn’t hold four-year degrees. Apple is just one example of a prestigious company that doesn’t require a college diploma for certain jobs.
What’s more, the costs of obtaining degrees of dubious usefulness continue to rise.
Over the last ten years, the costs of attending both public and private colleges have increased by more than 25%. Not to mention, the total US student debt has climbed nearly 120% in the same period, topping over $1.6 trillion earlier this year.
But what about the mythical “college experience” – building social skills, networking, and having a good time Asher Roth-style? By all accounts, college certainly has its moments. But those can be had without spending fortunes for the privilege.
At any rate, with many schools now operating remotely or semi-remotely in response to COVID-19, you’re unlikely to experience this aspect of campus life any time soon.
Ultimately, it’s your choice to make. If you are seriously considering college, you owe it to yourself to think about what you want from your experience and consider the cost. If you’re still convinced it’s the right path, then at least you can go forward with the confidence you made a calculated decision.
However, if you’re still on the fence, and you’re just going because you think it’s what’s required of you, take a deep breath and think about why that is.
Are you using college as a stop-gap while you figure out what you really want? Are you hoping you’ll find yourself in a campus coffee shop? It’s an expensive experiment, and frankly, there are better ways to find out what you like and what you’re good at.
So buckle up. Because we’re about to take a whirlwind tour of some of the top college alternatives available to you in 2020.
College Alternatives – What Are Your Options?
The truth is, there are a lot of different entry points into the world of work and ways of gaining the skills required to get to where you want to be. If you’re not so sure about that last part, that’s okay too. Some options will help you decide what you want to do as you go along. Others even give you the option to pay only once you’ve landed a job.
Here’s our list of the best alternatives to college for 2020.
Do an Apprenticeship
An apprenticeship is a period of on-the-job training, so you’re actually paid to learn (although keep in mind that apprentice wages generally aren’t as high). Employers offer apprenticeships because they let them nurture the skills they need to meet the needs of their organization.
Traditionally, apprenticeships are associated with trades such as construction, manufacturing, plumbing, woodworking, and sorcery (we regret that the latter is fictional). However, this is changing as companies across all sectors seek young career builders who are hungry for knowledge and experience.
Even well-known companies now offer formal apprenticeships, including Google, IBM, Toyota, and Bosch, although keep in mind, these tend to be highly competitive.
Go to Community College
Community college, or “two-year college,” is a shorter, lower-cost alternative to regular college. Although you still pay, the fees are much lower, with tuition fees around $3,000–$4,000 per year on average. They typically offer a mix of associate degrees and ready-to-work technical qualifications.
Community college can be a good choice if you’re unsure about what to study at college, as you can always switch to a four-year institution later on (although it’s worth noting that there are sometimes difficulties transferring).
While community college is a cheaper option, they still suffer from similar problems to regular colleges. You’re still unlikely to be truly prepared for the real world upon graduating.
Enroll in a Coding Bootcamp
Software development, data science, and associated skills such as UX design skills are in high demand worldwide. As a result, a number of privately-run bootcamps have sprung up to help with supply.
Many of these, such as the Lambda School, can be attended remotely and give the option to only pay once you land a job paying over a certain salary threshold.
However, not everyone is cut out for a career in coding, and the fees can be on par with those of college tuition.
Take Online Courses
If there’s a specific skill you want to learn or improve, online courses can be a great way to do so. There’s a huge number of courses and resources available online, ranging from introductory to advanced levels.
Of course, these courses vary wildly in terms of quality and price, with some charging fees bordering on those of college courses while others are completely free.
For example, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online courses open to anyone and cover a broad range of topics from architecture to computer science to Mandarin. EdX is a popular resource, featuring courses designed in partnership with top organizations like Harvard and Microsoft. If software development is your thing then CodeAcademy has taught millions to code.
While readily accessible education at any level is a beautiful thing, you need to have serious drive and self-discipline to teach yourself something from scratch and take it to a professional level. MOOCs, in particular, require a lot of time investment as users need to personally curate information and assess the quality and relevance of individual modules.
Start a Business
A lot of successful people dropped out of college to start their businesses. While starting a business from scratch may seem intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing, all it takes is a good idea, a lot of guts, and a plan.
If you’re considering skipping college, you’ve got the first two in spades. As for the plan? There are plenty of resources available to help you find your feet, whether you need help creating a general business plan or creating a pitch deck to convince investors to fund your idea.
Join an Accelerator
If you have a great idea for a startup but need some cash and mentorship to get it off the ground, you could apply for a fellowship, incubator, or accelerator like Y Combinator, the Thiel Fellowship, or Echoing Green.
Accelerators are fixed-term programs that nurture and mentor startups and provide all sorts of resources, financing, education, and networking opportunities to help them succeed.
Participating in accelerators is an intense, immersive, competitive process that typically culminates in pitching your startup to venture capitalists (investors).
Get a Job
Of course, if you’re not ready to start a business, you could gain some experience (and money) first working for someone else, even if it’s a temporary stepping stone while you save up some money and figure out what you want to do.
It also doesn’t have to be a stepping stone. You may think that getting a job straight out of school is impossible, or that the only jobs available are in fast food or retail, but that’s far from the truth.
Here’s a little secret. You can work your way into a career you love by doing something that feels counterintuitive: working for free.
Think about it. If you’d gone to college, you’d have been paying an institution for your time. Now you might be giving it away for free, but you’ll receive something much more valuable in return – buckets of real, on-the-job experience, new skills, professional contacts, and a paying job if you play your cards right.
Monetize Your Hobby
Thanks to the internet, it’s entirely possible to make money from your hobby or passion these days. If you enjoy writing, photography, making music, dancing, filming videos of yourself playing video games, or any number of other hobbies, you can probably make more money online than you think possible, whether it’s as a side-gig or a full-time job.
With the help of a YouTube video or two, you can quickly learn how to make yourself a basic website (even if you don’t know the first thing about coding, promise). Once you know how to build your own website, your imagination is the limit.
Move Away from Your Hometown
Starting over in a new place and reinventing yourself without the social pressures and expectations of your family and childhood friends is probably one of the most appealing things about college. But the truth is, you don’t need college for any of that.
Moving away and trying things on your own can be a doorway to all kinds of new adventures.
Get out into the world, explore and figure out who you are when the people who know you aren’t around.
Getting out of your comfort zone is the fastest way to gain some perspective, get to know yourself, and figure out what you want from life. The best part is you can combine this with any of the other college alternatives on this list. You could even move to a college town, get a job, attend a few classes, and go to parties – and enjoy all the benefits of college without any of the downsides.
Praxis: The Ultimate College Alternative
Most traditional business schools focus on teaching a specific, often narrow curriculum that places a lot of emphasis on theory and doesn’t leave much room for experimentation and discovery.
Business schools might seem like they’ll leave you more equipped for your dream job, but four years of theory simply won’t prepare you for the real world. They can also be costly – and for many programs, degrees or a high GPA are a barrier to entry.
The good news is there are non-college alternatives that focus on helping you identify your personal strengths and developing them in a practical business context, providing real-world experience to help you land a job that’s financially and mentally rewarding.
At Praxis, for example, you’ll undergo hands-on remote training followed by real, paid work experience chosen based on your natural abilities and interests. Praxis helps you figure out what you’re good at and hone the skills you’ll need to enter the workplace and kick ass.
Choosing a College Alternative
In reality, the option that’s best for you depends on where you’re at in life and where you want to be. Unfortunately, there are no silver bullets or guarantees. But if you’re hungry, willing to work hard, and a little bit clever about it, you can soon be much closer to where you want to be.
Why Choose Praxis
We designed Praxis as a practical alternative to college. We wanted to give individuals who aren’t afraid of choosing their own path a way to enhance their skills and set themselves up for the world of work.
Praxis is an intensive 12-month program for those who want more than college. It’s for entrepreneurial young professionals who want real-world skills and a self-directed education experience all in one (faster and without debt). Plus, if you complete the bootcamp successfully, Praxis guarantees you land a full-time job offer at a growing startup.
Praxis focuses on non-technical business roles. In other words, you don’t need to know how to code to succeed. Through the program, participants land roles in sales, marketing, customer success, and operations at growing companies. The awesome thing about starting your career at a growing business is that many of them tend to take a pretty flexible, non-linear approach to roles and promotions, so starting out in one position can lead to all kinds of interesting career opportunities you probably can’t even imagine right now.
You’ll be busy, but the time commitment is 10-15 hours per week, so it’s entirely possible to do the Bootcamp part of Praxis while holding down a job.
Praxis tuition costs $12,000, and 93% of Praxis participants graduate with a full-time job offer – with an average first-year income of $50K. Even better? You can expect to earn more than the cost of tuition within your first six months on the job. Plus, you also have the option to defer payment until after you land your job. And as a guarantee, if you’re not hired within six months of completing the bootcamp, you don’t pay a cent.
Ready to build your future? Hit the Apply button below to get started, or if you’d like to know more, read our Program Guide.