Congratulations! You have achieved all the milestones set for you by your parents, teachers and administrators up to this point in your life. You have graduated high school and now you get to choose what to do next. It is time to think about your short- and long-term goals. Here is a list of seven options for your near future.
1. Take a Gap Year
You worked hard in school and you deserve a break from the books. A gap year can help you learn things about yourself and the world that you have not had time to learn before. Spend the year traveling, helping others, developing your personal talents and discovering your passions. Ask yourself, “why take a gap year?” and think about the most valuable way you could spend that time before you start college.
2. Go to College
Perhaps you have it all figured out and are ready to get your life started as soon as possible. You know what you want out of life and how you are going to achieve those goals. In that case, you are ready for college. Consult admissions counselors at your top school choices, and ask about application requirements. Talk to your parents about funding plans, and learn about financial aid options available to you. Figure out whether you will leave home or commute to a local campus. All of these are very exciting and challenging steps toward your future, but you’ve got this!
3. Learn a Trade
Gone are the days when the only way to succeed was to have a four-year degree from a university. Trade and vocational schools are booming with programs that will teach you the skills to get you hired. Did you know the starting salary for welders is $45,000 a year, and that the average age is 55? This means there will be a greater need for qualified and experienced welders within the next few years. Doing this kind of research can help you decide which trade is right for you. Start by checking out the programs offered at your local community college. If school is not an option, you can find a craftsman and ask to become an apprentice, or put in an application with a local labor union.
4. Enter the Workforce
Maybe you want to pursue higher education, but you are not quite sure yet what to study and you do not want to waste valuable tuition funds trying to figure that out. It’s okay! You have time and options. Consider getting an entry-level job in a field that interests you. Jobs like waiting tables or stocking store shelves will build valuable skills for your resume while you work out the details of your future. Perhaps you discover a knack for business or communication and decide to pursue careers that center around those skills.
5. Find Your Passion
Do you have an interest or creative talent that has been on the backburner forever because you have been focused on your education? Maybe you enjoy painting, taking photographs or writing stories. Maybe you like building robots or designing web pages. Use this new chapter of your life to focus on self-development, spend some time concentrating on the thing that inspires you. Acquire some additional skill sets that can carry over into your professional life, or see if you have what it takes to turn your talent into your career.
6. Start a Business
Many people think you need a college degree to own a successful business, but that is simply not true. If you have an idea and an entrepreneurial spirit, you can actualize your goals and take one of many avenues to start your own company. Start by looking for a gap in the market that you could fill. Is there an affordable lawn service in your area? What tasks are you able to complete easily, with which others may need help? If you are willing to work hard and make sacrifices, you can build your own company from the ground up.
7. Do Charity Work
Many projects exist where recent graduates can travel either domestically or internationally to learn and work through internship-style programs. Through this effort, you can learn skills that you can add to a resume and build on going forward. You can volunteer to teach English, and learn valuable classroom techniques. You can build homes for the poor and learn technical skills like blueprint reading and specific tool usage. Help yourself while you help others, build your confidence in your abilities and discover your passion in the process.
Life is not a series of boxes to cross off a checklist. You have completed what was required, and now you get to follow your own path or trail blaze one for yourself. It is okay to be a little lost right now, but do not overlook opportunities for personal growth out of fear.