Alternatives to College: What Are Your Options?

Contrary to popular belief, not all graduating high school students enroll in four-year colleges and universities.

College enrollment has been on a gradual decline since 2012. However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, college enrollment in the US dramatically dropped in the spring of 2021.

At Options Schools, our student population is diverse when it comes to post-high school graduation plans. Some of our graduating seniors pursue their Bachelor’s degrees at Indiana state colleges or private universities, while others opt for alternatives to college, including trade school or military service.

What are your options after high school? Read on to learn more ‒ or reach out to us if you’d like assistance in navigating your path after high school!

Trade School

Do you enjoy working with your hands, or does a particular trade interest you? Trade schools are post-secondary institutions that prepare students for a specific occupation and skill set.

There are a few different programs you could pursue in a private trade school or a community college. In some trade schools, you may receive a diploma or certificate for a particular area, which usually requires less time and money than earning an Associate or Bachelor’s degree.

Options students are eligible to enroll in dual-credit trade programs where they can attend classes at J. Everett Light Career Center, and get involved with programs through ABC Construction or Gaylor Electric.

If you decide to pursue a trade program through a community college, chances are you will work towards earning a two-year Associate degree.

There are also trade schools that offer non-credit programs. A non-credit program provides you with the foundation for a specific occupation and skill set. Even though you don’t receive formal credit, having the program on your resume can suffice for employment in certain jobs.


Are you interested in a trade-oriented career and want to get paid to learn skills and gain real-life experience in the field? As an apprentice, you work full-time alongside professionals and receive on-site, hands-on training, making yourself eligible for higher pay as your skillset develops.

In some apprenticeship programs, you have the opportunity to work closely with a mentor, someone who has years of experience in the field and can guide you on your journey of work experience.

Through job-based learning and developing your craft, you’re more likely to secure employment opportunities with the sponsoring company. If you decide to seek employment with a different company, having an apprenticeship on your resume, along with references, will elevate your employability and help you stand out from other applicants.

In fact, some occupations, such as electricians, carpenters, masonry workers, and construction workers, usually require apprenticeships for application consideration.


For generations, thousands of young American adults have enlisted in the US military after graduating high school. The military not only teaches discipline, responsibility, and focus but prepares members for a wide range of post-duty career paths.

Whether you’re interested in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, or Marine Corps, you can pursue professional and technical training in specific areas and choose from many types of certification, licensing, and skill-building opportunities.

Active duty members receive a monthly payment and are eligible for special pay and incentives depending on their skill set or assignment duties. Active duty members and veterans also receive home financing, free health care, and financial aid in higher education.

Community College

Not sure what you want to study and major in, but ready to start building up college credit anyway? Are you looking to join the workforce soon after high school graduation?

Enrolling in community college is an economical way to earn credits towards a Bachelor’s degree, work part-time, save money, live at home, and carefully decide on a career path.

Depending on the community college you enroll in, you may be able to pursue professional training in a particular field and secure a job soon after. Options students also have the opportunity to earn college credits at Ivy Tech Community College, while they are completing their high school diploma.

There is also a 2 + 2 Program available through Ivy Tech Community College. Students who have earned an Associate’s degree from Ivy Tech and fulfill the requirements can transfer their credits to various public and private universities in Indiana.

Go Abroad

Traveling and seeing more of the world is an excellent way to broaden your horizons and think about what you want to pursue as a career and in life.

Saving up money to travel on your own and take a gap year is an adventurous alternative to college ‒ but there are other opportunities to go abroad AND earn money, build skills, and gain valuable, resume-worthy experiences for college or future jobs.

Here are some options:

  • Join a TEFL program & train to teach English in foreign countries.
  • Become an au pair & live with a host family.
  • Volunteer abroad through a private, non-profit, or government-sponsored program.

There are also gap year programs that allow you the opportunity to live independently, work, attend seminars, or study in a country of your choice.

Let’s Explore Your Options!

Navigating your path after high school can be challenging – but at Options Charter School, we’re committed to helping every student pave the way forward for a lifetime of success.

We welcome students and families throughout Indiana to get in touch with us today and learn more about our campuses and online learning opportunities. If you are currently enrolled at Options and would like to explore alternatives to college, contact us today!