If you are a high school student, you may want to think about the option of delaying college unless you’re clear about your career path. A lot of young adults haven’t yet figured out the combination of interests, skills, values, and goals that will determine their role and satisfaction in the world of work.
As an option to college right away, you might want to get some real-world experience: move to a new place, work with people you wouldn’t normally associate with, learn about other socio-economic classes, about other cultures. Get a waitressing job in a Greek restaurant. Learn about landscaping in the suburbs. Be a bartender on the waterfront if the law allows. After all of those tests, essays, MCAS and SAT’s, let your brain absorb information through your pores instead of a textbook. Be part of a crew on a fishing boat, work with the disabled and less fortunate. Stretch, lean, jump, dance; become a martial artist of life. Don’t expend your energy on too much alcohol—live healthily. Cook and eat nourishing foods. Share rent with friends. Find an apartment and repaint it. With every new thing you choose to do, you are learning and becoming more self-sufficient. Those experiences shape you as you learn a lot about what you don’t want or like, and finally what you do.
If you can afford it, travel, or get a job, save some money and plan a trip. There is no better classroom, especially if you learn a language along with it. For example, there is an organization called WWOOF, Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms where you work for room and board. Or, be an entrepreneur — Start your own business and you won’t have to go to college, but you will have to learn everything there is about running a successful business. You can volunteer or intern to learn new skills for business or any other field. Choosing a gap year or two may save you time and money in the long run when it comes to your education. Not everyone is ready or suited for college right after high school, or college at all, but everyone will need some form of training and preparation to do skilled work.