I’m not ready for college —what do I do?

Whether you are hesitant or don’t want to pursue post-secondary education, you have options

While many students will go to college straight out of high school, others students are not interested in going to college, aren’t sure yet what they want to do for a career, or just aren’t ready for the commitment.

Heidi Wyman, transition consultant at the Strafford Learning Center in Somersworth, said getting real-life experience the year after high school can be valuable.

“Many students are so focused on completing high school then going to college, and they are not quite sure why they are going to college,” she said.

Last fall, 69.7 percent of those who graduated high school in 2016 were enrolled in colleges or universities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That path is not for everyone though. Some high school graduates would prefer alternatives such as military service, volunteer work, or taking a gap year to work or travel.

Military service

If students are interested in the military, Wyman said they need to ask themselves about their willingness to take orders and whether they crave structure.

If the military seems like a good match, “you can get some amazing education and training,” Thompson said. “You have to be able to physically pull your weight and it’s a lot of hard work.”

There is a test to get into the military called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which Wyman said is the equivalent to the SATs, but for the military.

Bill Hughen, Counseling Director at Alvirne High School, said Alvirne has a former Marine on their staff who explains more about what being in the military entails. Hughen often finds students have a romanticized idea of what it is like. They try to give students a better understanding of the roles of leadership, character-building and citizenship that are involved.

Work and apprenticeships

Hughen likes to focus on students being productive members of society after high school, no matter what path they take

There are many options other than college, including certification and training programs like bartending or massage therapy, or trade apprenticeships, Hughen said. Others have experience gained in high school that enables them to enter the workforce right away — such as culinary art skills, licensed nurse assistant certification or technical skills.


Instead of working, Hughen said, others may go on a mission with their church or volunteer for an organization like Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit housing organization. This enables students to travel and have new experiences while helping others.

AmeriCorps offers another opportunity for people 18 years and older to travel to other communities and help others. Volunteering can be done across the country or closer to home.

Many volunteer opportunities in the state can be found through Volunteer New Hampshire, an organization that works with AmeriCorps. Organizations throughout the Granite State need volunteers to help children, seniors, animals, the environment and more.

Many people volunteer, while working at the same time to save money for college.

Take a gap year

A gap year — the year-long break taken between high school and college — can be used to gain experience through volunteering, working, traveling or through an established gap year program.

Some gap year programs enable young adults to take a few classes or experience another culture and are fully customized for the student’s needs. Hughen gave an example of a gap year program that offered a cultural experience in Spain and cost about $24,000.

Maureen O’Dea, Director of Counseling in the Londonderry School District, said there are many ways to fill a gap year. Hiking the Appalachian Trail, for example, would teach someone a lot about themselves and nature.

“I think those experiences are just as valuable as the experiences people pay for,” she said.

She has seen students fill gap years with passions they may not have time for after college, like water skiing or junior hockey. Of Londonderry’s 2016 graduating class, 90.3 percent of students were accepted to college, said O’Dea. Of the remaining 9.7 percent, some went to work, entered career programs like barber school, became apprentices, joined the military, or took time off before college.

“My goal would be to have every student come out with a success story,” she said.

But even if high school students leave and are still questioning in which direction they want to head, they can always come back to the school for help, she said.

Andrea Bushee is a freelance writer and mom to three kids in Pembroke.

Categories: Finding the right fit