College has become a foregone conclusion for many high school students after they graduate and members of the workforce when seeking ways to increase their success in the workplace. However, it’s not the only option; there are plenty of alternatives to learning and growing personally and professionally. It’s important to ask yourself: Is college really part of my equation for success? It may be, it may not be, or it may not be right now, which is why it’s SO important to give this question serious and honest consideration.

According to an article published early 2018 by The Hill, slightly over a third (33.4%) of American adults over the age of 25 have completed a four-year college degree, which is the highest level ever measured by the U. S. Census Bureau.  Consider the 1940 statistic of just 4.6% and it’s clear that a lot has changed in the educational arena.

Higher education levels are strongly correlated with higher average earnings. Consider the various levels of education below and the average yearly income as noted in an article by SmartAsset.com earlier this year:

  • Without a High School Diploma ($25,636)
  • High School Diploma ($35,256)
  • Some college/No Degree ($38,376)
  • Associate’s Degree ($41, 496)
  • Bachelor’s Degree ($59,124)
  • Master’s Degree ($69,732)
  • Professional Degree ($89,960)
  • Doctorate Degree ($84,396)

Visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for more additional info on earnings by educational attainment.

When we consider the above, clearly a college degree can be a ladder to more income and more expansive opportunities. However, college is not for everyone. And, it doesn’t have to be, as there are lots of alternatives to consider in lieu of a college education. College should only be part of the equation when it’s actually part of YOUR equation!

If college IS part of your equation for success, you need a strategy. You can’t simply concentrate on getting accepted into and paying for your college of choice and push cruise control. Without a solid plan, a map, a GPS, it will be easy to veer off course and into a number of quicksand-like situations where you find yourself overwhelmed and expending more than the necessary amount of energy, effort, time and money.

What if you conclude that college IS NOT part of your equation for success? Know that there are a variety of alternatives to not only expand your education, but to secure your work of choice and design the worklife you desire. 

First, consider whether you want to work for someone else or are you interested in working for yourself, starting your own business. There a variety of other key questions to consider before diving into creating the worklife you desire without a college degree.

What if you conclude that college IS part of your equation for success, but NOT RIGHT NOW? Again, there are a variety of alternatives to consider. There is nothing wrong with you or your situation if you don’t know right now. It actually bugs me a little bit that collectively we expect teenagers, even adults who haven’t taken some quality time to engage in some serious self-discovery and work exploration to know who they are and what they want.

Regardless of where you fall in the three categories noted above, before you start looking at your options, you’ve got to know who you are and what you want. You can try to avoid this part of the equation, but trust me (I know), you’ll just circle back around and around to this point. Why? Because there’s no vision, no map, no clues to guide you along your journey.


Create a vision for the life you really want and then work relentlessly towards making it a reality. –  Roy T. Bennett


​Let’s consider some alternatives that may facilitate your exploration and experimentation process:

  • Consider taking a gap year – visit gapyear.com and the American Gap Association for more info about accredited programs like Outward Bound, Pacific Discovery and more with amazing short to longterm opportunities to travel, challenge yourself, build your self-confidence, deepen your empathy and compassion and more.
  • Visit uncollege.org for opportunities to help you explore for a semester or a year as an Uncollege Fellow.
  • Depending on your interests, perhaps volunteering or working for AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps is a viable option.
  • How about taking some FREE or very affordable online courses from a variety of reputable organizations and well-respected universities and colleges:

​The truth is: there’s no limit to where your curiosity can take you, to exploring and to experimenting to uncover how you really want to show up in the world, what lights you up and what you want to contribute. It just takes personal commitment on your part and the initiative and grit to roll up your sleeves and get busy.

So many students get stuck along different points of their college journey because they have no vision, no direction, they’re wandering aimlessly, often afraid,  too proud or not quite sure how to ask for assistance.

You’ve got to have a vision of where you’re ultimately headed and know what you value so you can make solid choices aligned with who you are, how you want to show up and what you want to contribute. If you don’t do this work upfront, you may as well blindfold yourself, grab a handful of darts and start throwing. ​​

For another cool resource, check out James Altucher’s “40 Alternatives to College.”

Visit RobbiCrawford.com where you’ll find an info hub and services for students and families eager to play the college game smarter.

Sign up for a College Prep Consultation; available for students and parents. Let’s discuss your biggest challenge right now and some next steps to get you moving in your desired direction.

​Share your comments below. Subscribe to iTunes and post a review. We love feedback!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *