5 Things to Do After You Graduate High School


There is a strong possibility that although you may be nervous, you also can’t wait to graduate high school! You’ve worked incredibly hard to get to where you are today and you’re excited to move on to the next chapter in your life. It’s a big deal. 

Just last year, NPR reported that the number of students who were about to graduate high school was at an all-time high. That’s great news, but it also means that just by throwing your cap in the air and shaking the principal’s hand, you’re not standing out.

You have to do more now than ever to stand out post graduation. It’s an exciting time to prepare for, but it’s also pretty scary.

If you’re having mixed feelings about post-graduation life, you’re not alone. In recent years, 50% of high school graduates report “gaps in preparation for life after high school.” 

You have many people in your life giving you advice and deciding that they know what’s best for your future — your family, your friends, and your teachers.

We know that you don’t want to let anyone down, but the person who you should focus on not letting down first and foremost is yourself. However, that doesn’t mean that you like the advice that everyone is giving to you.

It also doesn’t mean that any of them know better than you do what to do with your life. It’s your job to choose the best path to keep calm, carry on, and prosper as an adult. 

You have to decide what’s best for your future and you have options. In fact, you have so many options that you’re probably feeling pretty overwhelmed.

You have choices to make, but you should keep in mind that these are the first of many choices that you’ll have to make in your adult life, so they don’t have to be perfect. 

So, what are the options for someone who is destined for greatness? Here are 5 things to do after you graduate high school: 

1. Go To College As Soon As You Graduate High School

If you’re certain that the path of pursuing higher education is the one you want to take, going to college the summer or fall after you graduate high school may be the best path for you. By choosing this path, you may be putting yourself at a long-term earning potential advantage, to the tune of $800,000 more over your lifetime!

Some colleges even offer early classes for those who are eager to keep moving. Considering that obtaining a bachelor’s degree generally takes at least four years to complete, it may be worth it to get started early.

If you’re determined to get your master’s degree, JD, or Ph.D., the best choice may be to get started early. You have a long road ahead and the longer you put off getting started, the less likely you are to get started at all. Taking a break for the sake of taking a break is not always the best option. 

Not sure what your plan is long term? That’s ok! In the beginning of any college program, chances are you’ll be taking core classes so you don’t have to choose your major or concentration of study right away. 

2. Get An Apprenticeship

If you like to work, but you want to work toward something, getting an apprenticeship can be a solid path to success after you graduate high school. It gives you the opportunity to “earn while you learn.”

More and more US employers are participating in pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs because for every $1 they spend on apprenticeship programs, they get $1.47 back in terms of productivity.

Here are some types of industries that lend themselves well to apprenticeships:

  • Construction
  • Health Technology
  • Installation and Maintenance 
  • Electricians
  • Fire Medics

If you’re interested in any of the above professions, finding an apprenticeship can be a great alternative to attending college or diving into the workforce. Check out the United States Department of Labor Website to find out more. 

Generally, apprenticeships can take anywhere from 1-4 years to complete so it’s a shorter path than getting your bachelor’s degree and it may be even shorter than getting an associate’s degree. 

Because you’re getting paid to learn, getting an apprenticeship can be a very financially and educationally sound decision. No student loans to pay back! 

3. Volunteer

Programs like AmeriCorps provide opportunities for students who graduate high school to make a difference by donating their time to helping their communities. It’s a great way to meet peers who share your values and feel great about what you’re doing.

Networking is also a big plus when you’re getting involving in helping your community through an organized program.

Volunteer programs like AmeriCorps may also offer stipends and tuition assistance for when you do want to take classes at a state or local college. Many participants go on to working in careers at non-profit organizations as well.

Not only can donating your time make you feel great about what you’re doing, but it can also open a lot of doors for future employment. It’s a great path for those who graduate high school.

Here’s another reason that volunteering is an amazing life hack for those who graduate high school — it prevents gaps in employment. If you do have a tough time getting into college, the military, or getting a paying gig, you should still be doing something with your life that matters! 

You have many programs to choose from. Here are some of the best:

  • WorldTeach
  • City Year
  • The Student Conservation Association
  • The Catholic Volunteer Network
  • Match Corps
  • EarthCorps
  • Teach For America
  • Teacher Fellows Program

4. Join The Military

Whether or not you plan to utilize the GI Bill to continue your education, joining the military right after you graduate from high school can be a great choice. Many people even make a career out of the military. 

“Even if they [veterans] don’t earn more education, they certainly earn more money” — Jay Teachman, a sociology professor at Western Washington University.

Why not start out fresh out of high school and see where the adventure leads? Joining the military opens many doors for those who graduate high school and enlist. 

To start you get a regular paycheck with benefits and opportunities to climb the ranks and earn more. You’ll start out with $18,800 annually plus housing and medical benefits in the Army if you start fresh after you graduate high school. 

You’ll have to earn it, but joining the military gives you a lot of opportunities.

If you do want to go to college long term, the tuition benefits of serving in the military are terrific. The financial aid you receive will not have to be paid back like taking out federal loans will. 

5. Enter The Workforce

Your first job after you graduate high school is unlikely to be your last job so it can make sense to dive into the workforce and get some experience. Especially if you’re not sure what you want to do as a career, getting a solid job with a paycheck will not hurt in the meantime.

It may even lead to you discovering your passion. As long as you learn something in the process, that’s what matters! 

Here are some jobs you can do without having a college degree that is pretty promising from a financial standpoint:

Don’t be afraid to take a job that starts out with a bit of a more modest salary if it’s something you love to do and can gain valuable experience from if you can afford it of course. Think long term above all else and keep an open mind. 

You have plenty of years ahead of you when you have to be focused on the bottom line and just take care of the bills. Don’t rush it. Invest some time in yourself for long term success. 

Advice For After You Graduate High School

Everyone and their mother is telling you what you should and should not be doing with your life. Listen to them, but don’t let them make your decisions for you.

Whatever you do, don’t think that the first choices you make as a high school graduate will determine the rest of your life. Sure, everything you do has an impact long term, but you don’t want to psych yourself out of taking a few chances.

There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind a million times and going with your gut. You’re young and you have to let yourself make some mistakes or else you’ll stay stagnant.

You don’t want to look back and regret that you didn’t follow your dreams but you definitely want to be practical. Stay active and find a mentor or two to bounce ideas off of.

Whatever you do, don’t procrastinate when you’re taking steps to follow your dreams. Be bold and know that there are so many people rooting for your success.

Enjoy your accomplishment and move forward with confidence. 



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