Home Education & Learning Does the Idea of Traditional College Stress You Out? Alternatives to Consider

Does the Idea of Traditional College Stress You Out? Alternatives to Consider

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When you imagine going to college, large social gatherings, packed lecture halls, sporting events, and big parties probably come to mind. Some people spend their high school years looking forward to those traditional college experiences. For others, the thought of big parties, constant socialisation, and fraternity groups cause major anxiety. 

Mental health crises are becoming more common in college students, and those who already have baseline anxiety or depression are at an increased risk of facing mental health challenges as they enter college life. In addition, traditional college life does not always work well for nontraditional students like those who are working full-time or are taking care of children at home. 

Besides the social pressure of college, cost is another thing to consider. As the price of college tuition continues to outpace inflation, students have to find unconventional ways to get an education. 

Nobody should give up on their goals of achieving higher education because they don’t want to be in a traditional college environment. If the idea of college life makes you uncomfortable, there are plenty of other options to choose from.

Here are some alternatives to traditional college to consider: 

Online college

Online college is not only a good option for people who want to avoid crowds and college-town environments. In addition, online courses are generally less expensive than in-person classes. If your dream job requires a degree, but the thought of attending live college courses is too overwhelming, see if you can find an online option.  

Thanks to advances in technology like video lectures, interactive learning activities, and online exam proctoring, almost any type of college class can be completed online. Online programs are available for everything from general education to doctorate degrees. Even degrees that require a lot of hands-on learning like nursing or dental hygiene can be completed mostly online. 

If you do choose to pursue a degree online, you will have to stay organised and be disciplined. Without the pressure of a strict schedule and in-person lectures, it is easy to fall behind. Make sure you communicate frequently with your instructors to get the most out of your online college education.

Trade schools

Trade schools are a fantastic option for people who want to begin a specialized career without spending time and money on general education courses. In addition, trade schools tend to cater to non-traditional type students, offering weekend and evening schedules. Some trade schools offer online learning, but most require at least some in-person attendance.

Trade schools are also far less expensive than traditional colleges and universities. Students can learn a trade for as little as $5,000, and trade school graduates can earn as much money or more than university program graduates. For example, an ultrasonographer can earn as much as $141,126 per year, which is much more than the average college graduate.

Common trade school programmes include dental assisting, massage therapy, cosmetology, plumbing, HVAC technician, and veterinary technician. 

Bootcamps

Bootcamps are typically online programmes focused on specific training that is completed over a few weeks or months. The most common boot camp programs are coding, programming, cybersecurity, and design. Bootcamps can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000, depending on the length, class size, and course structure. 

While boot camps do not result in a degree, boot camp graduates will receive a certificate of completion that can be given to an employer. 

Online certificate programmes

Online certificate programs are great for people who want to get started in their careers right away. Potential certifications include medical assisting, dental assisting, phlebotomy, pharmacy technician, paralegal, and marketing. 

Generally, certificate programmes can be completed in less than 6 months and many cost less than $5,000. For example, this online pharmacy tech program can be completed in 4 months, and tuition is only $1,999.

Many online certificate programmes also include an externship, where students can practice hands-on skills with supervision before entering the workforce.  

Apprenticeships

If you can find one that you enjoy, an apprenticeship is an excellent training option. 

Apprenticeships allow you to work alongside a skilled mentor while earning a salary. Not only are apprentices paid to learn, but the average starting salary of someone who has completed an apprenticeship is $80,000 per year.  

Apprenticeship opportunities are available in construction, manufacturing, agriculture, information technology, cybersecurity, and more. 

Generally, an apprentice is matched with a mentor, who will train them and delegate tasks to them during the day. As the apprentice gains a better understanding of the job and improves their skills, they are given more and more independence. 

Many apprenticeships require an exam before you will be allowed to work independently. For example, electrical apprentices are required to work alongside a journeyman for several years before they can take a licensing exam to become independent employees.


Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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