These 50 ideas can all be altered and or used to inspire new ideas to suit your own life. The point in creating this list is to show you that you can do a thousand other things to benefit your life outside of getting a degree, don’t limit yourself. The source for education and success does not come from academia, it comes from what is between your left and right ear.
50 Alternatives to College
1) Go to the top people in the field you want to work in and offer 1 year of internship. Let them know you will do whatever they say, in exchange for their experience and knowledge. Add value to their lives. Come prepared, by offering up free labor. Tell them you’ll brief them on books, video research, whatever it is, whatever they need to be more efficient. You will become their personal assistant, and all you want is the experience – not a single dollar!
Mentors and apprenticeship is a forgotten trade, but it is a very effective one that has been used throughout human history to become a master.
2) Start your own business. The most I’ve ever spent to start a business was $1,200, and within 13 months, it generated $1.1 million with almost no overhead.
Ask yourself… what do you enjoy doing? If you had to go into a bookstore and read an entire section, what section would that be? Find what you love, and then monetize it by delivering value.
At the core of any successful business, you need to focus on delivering value to your customer. Most business fail because they are only focused on the money. Forget about the money. Deliver value to other people and the money will come. The math is simple: the more people you deliver value to, the more money you will make.
3) Do nothing. Not forever, but after graduating high school, go to a book store, read online reports, travel, and be poor. Take a moment in your long life to discover what you are passionate about, and learn as much as you can without the interruption of a state-organized education curriculum.
4) Fast-track your skills by going to Udemy.com. Why spend 4 years to learn outdated information, when you can dedicate a month to learning a real applicable skill right now? Or spend a year, for that matter, only instead of having college debt and old textbooks, you’ll spend a few hundred dollars and be current with others in the field you want to pursue.
Udemy.com takes the best courses that are created to fast-track your education. These courses are also developed by private businesses, so in order for these companies to survive and make money, they have to deliver results. Giving you a worthless piece of paper to frame isn’t an option for them.
Also, check out Learnable.com for a second option.
5) Offer up your best ideas in a paid newsletter on the topic you are most passionate about. Create an enormous amount of value for your readers and then charge a minuscule fee relative to your services.
6) Take Up Art: Whether it’s learning how to write, play instruments, draw using acrylic paints, or take photographs, art can be both an outlet and a financial helper. And because art is about the story behind it, it allows for creativity and relaxation.
7) Join Charities: There are many charities that can be joined, helping others and learning in the process. Some of them can even bring direct benefits, through things like free food or lodging, and possibly even traveling to places most people will never get the chance to go! This can be a temporary (week or two) deal or a more long-term (years) one that leads to a greater understanding of the world around us.
8) Play Sports: Sports can offer health benefits, making you fit, and they help build relationships with those around you. These relationships can often turn into long-time friendships, as well as invaluable connections when it comes to the job world and beyond.
9) Volunteer in a Hospital: Whether you just want to help others or think you might want to be a doctor or nurse, this is the perfect method to do so. Before committing to things like medical school (with high costs and stressful hours), volunteering at a hospital ensures you know what you’re getting into and that you enjoy it… before you actually go through all that work! There’s a lot more to it than most people realize from the outside.
10) Work as a Paralegal: Much like working in the hospital, being a paralegal allows you to see what happens in the attorney world. Stressful hours and various duties are seen here, and it can be what helps determine whether or not pursuing a legal career is really what you want to do. Offer up free work in return for seeing what really happens – the experience itself is where the value comes from.
11) Take Online Classes at MIT OpenCourseWare: MIT OpenCourseWare has opened the doors to a lot of free online courses, and they’re the same ones that appear in MIT itself. In fact, a lot of the lectures are recorded from the physical classes, and come with the same homework, tests and reading assignments the in-class students utilized. A premium education with no cost, and it’s self-paced!
12) Get a Job Today: Get a job. Anywhere you want. Maybe at a restaurant because you like their food and they offer it free (or reduced) for employees. Or GameStop because you’re a gamer and want discounts. Whatever the case, having a job – even if it’s not one you want forever – gives financial strength and helps learn about dealing with other people and learn how to cope with various situations. Furthermore, this can lead to learning about a business you can improve on, later becoming the boss! Or you can rise up in the current business, and turn a non-career job into one.
13) Become an Actor: Whether it’s for a play, skits, or local commercials, learning how to act is a great benefit with a lot of real-world applications. It teaches how to think outside the box, how to be versatile and conquer different challenges, and gives the opportunity to break out of your shell and just do something different. If you’re really successful, it could even lead to television or movie parts!
14) Sell Real Estate: Real estate agents deal with marketing and sales on a regular basis, with some of the toughest clients there are: home buyers. Buying a home is the biggest purchase decision most families make, and learning how to sell to them is something that gives a lot of experience that is useful for other jobs (such as business-to-business sales). Not to mention, you can use this experience and knowledge to make a more informed decision if you ever decide to get a new home for yourself!
15) Become a Networker: Get to know people and host events to help people network together. Parties, seminars, etc. are all perfect for this, and the best part is that as the center of the group, you are essentially the star. Find a niche you enjoy (like entrepreneurship, inventing, or politics) and start finding others that are interested in the same area. In no time, you’ll be building up a networking list.
16) Learn to Master a Game: Whether it’s a board game, card game, or video game, mastering one teaches valuable skills. It teaches how to overcome challenges, face opponents (in a positive light), and learn from mistakes. And once you’ve learned how to master one, it’s much easier to master others, and this skill can even be transferred into the job world and relationships.
17) Write a Movie or Television Script: Writing scripts for shows and movies helps teach critical and analytical thinking. It also stresses creativity, and visualizing situations that haven’t actually occurred. This is a huge strength when it comes to formulating plans and coming up with roads to success.
18) Learn Yoga: And do it daily! This helps clear the mind, assists with getting physically in shape (and much more limber), and is known to enhance the ability to think, boost effectiveness in other areas of life, and overall make you feel better. The trick with this is to keep at it and stick with it.
19) Take Up Local Odd-Jobs: Things like gardening, physical labor, and mowing are always in demand. Go to your neighbors and see who needs things done around them. This is a simple way to get a job freelancing (bringing in revenue) on your own time, as well as gain a lot of different skills for the future, and learn through doing.
20) Be a Party Planner: Companies and individuals are always looking for a new event or party. Be the one that hosts them. Birthday parties, corporate events, and social events are huge, and you can connect with the community while doing it. Not to mention taking part in the events you set up!
21) Learn a Foreign Language: Learning a foreign language helps open your mind, keep the brain juice flowing, and allows for conversing with people that otherwise might not be possible. Knowing more than one language also offers benefits in a lot of jobs, since you can talk to customers or other business representatives in their own native language. Or even learn to teach it yourself!
22) Make Videos: YouTube is a great place for posting your own videos, and you can gain a following (Internet fame), and possibly take it further. It’s also a way to fast-track an acting career, singing, or just show off creative flow. And YouTube content creators are eligible to earn money from videos!
23) Learn to Fix Cell Phones: Everyone knows someone that needs cell phone repair. They drop, their batteries die, etc. And the good thing about fixing them is that all the information (and detailed guides) are easily found through a quick search on Google or Bing! Use this to help others fix their cell phones, and you can knock out quick gigs that pay decently.
24) Learn to Program: There are many sites that have programming tutorials, and programming is basically just using creative methods to get something done. Once you’ve mastered one programming language, it’s easy to use others, and the knowledge gained from this helps with learning other new skills. Not to mention developers are among some of the higher paid professions!
25) Train Dogs: Training dogs is a test of patience and understanding. It helps learn how to deal with another being (or in this case dogs), which is essential as a social skill. This is something that can help strengthen relationships, friendships, etc., as the patience itself is something most of us need on a daily basis.
26) Volunteer at a Zoo: Zoos contain a great wealth of information, and they’re an awesome place to volunteer. You get to meet other animal lovers, learn how animals are cared for (like bears and lions), and possibly even get to take part in their care yourself. It’s something very few people get to do!
27) Write Songs: Lyrically, songs take a bit of work. You’re working with both a beat and verbal flow, which requires a strong grasp of the English language (or another, if you take that path) and fitting things together. This makes it a strong creative outlet, and could even lead to a job writing lyrics for others.
28) Learn to Drive Race Cars: Most of us have had that desire to get behind the wheel of a race car and take it around the track. Or even just go on a drag strip. Learning how to drive a car in these extreme conditions requires great hand-eye coordination, and fast reflexes. But if you master it, you could actually get sponsored to drive cars!
29) Write Guest Blog Posts: If you want to get your message out to others (and gain a following in the process), hit up your favorite sites and ask if they accept guest posts. You’d be surprised at how many will, and that opens you up to a huge readership. And in some cases, site owners may even offer payments in return for the articles.
30) Join a Volunteer Fire Department: A lot of kids want to be a firefighter when they grow up, and there are usually opportunities to volunteer at fire departments. This not only helps learn real-world safety skills (and how to protect your own home), but gives the chance to help save other lives and network with the community.
31) Make an Invention: We all know of something we wish was improved or something we want created that would make our lives easier. There’s no better person to make this happen than yourself. And in the process of inventing your life-changing item or enhancement, you can also create the next big thing (meaning money and fame)!
32) Become an Internet Marketer: Internet marketing is something that benefits businesses both online and offline, and it’s easy to get started. Simply utilize your existing networks to help a business get exposure, and work on building bigger networks through friends and family. Over time, you can get big enough to be called on by large companies to assist with their marketing needs, and then you’re just leveraging the system you’ve already built.
33) Pitch a Television Show: Television shows are always being added and removed from your favorite channels, and some of them are originally created by individuals just like you. Come up with a solid idea, shoot a pilot episode to help show off your idea of what would make a great show, and pitch it to the networks it would best fit with.
34) Become a Movie Extra: Recruiters are always looking for more movie extras. These opportunities may be found on producer websites or places like Craigslist, and they offer the chance to actually be in a movie (and be paid for it). This is also a good way to meet others within the movie scene, if you’re interested in possibly having a bigger part in the future.
35) Take Classes On edX.org: edX is an online source for college courses that span many different universities (and countries/continents). Courses cover pretty much any topic you can think of, and there are certificates given to those that complete a course with a certain grade (such as 70%), much like a college. The best part is that it’s absolutely free, and the courses are designed specifically to be taken online!
36) Help With Research: If you love to interact with others and want to learn how people think in the process, helping with research is one of the best ways to do this. Usually it will entail going through a sample set of individuals and asking questions and recording their answers, which gives a lot of social interaction and learns likes, dislikes and thought processes. It also helps open your eyes to how different (and in some ways similar) people are!
37) Become a Model: This idea that models are only the most slender people with flawless skin is completely false. There are models of all shapes and sizes, and there’s no reason why you can’t be one, regardless of your age, height, or anything else. Find companies that often show models that are similar to yourself, and just reach out and see how you can become one!
38) Take Part in Motivational Seminars: These seminars are designed to help you be more successful in life. They teach dos and don’ts for thinking and actions, and are invaluable when you put them into action. You can do anything you put your mind to… all it requires is being willing to keep pushing, regardless of how tough things get.
39) Spend Time in the Wilderness: Explore nature, hike, and bike. Go to the wilderness and just live for a while off the land. Learn about the world around us that we often take for granted, and get a new outlook on it. Camping out is one thing. Actually going out into the wilderness to fend for yourself for a week or two is completely different.
40) Learn to Fly a Plane: Most small airports have lessons on how to fly airplanes. You usually pick the plane you want to fly in, and you will be given a cost and an instructor. Once you’ve gone through all of the instruction courses, you get to fly it on your own. And once you’ve logged enough flight hours, you are able to get a license to fly by yourself. Then you can take others, do tours, etc.!
41) Volunteer at a Library: Libraries are almost always looking for help. Whether it’s helping patrons check out their books, dealing with returns, or putting them back on the shelves, there is usually something that can be done. And being in the library makes it easy to see the latest and greatest books that are added to the collection, as well as makes it easy to read to your heart’s content.
42) Backpack Across the Country: Or even backpack across another content, like Europe. Just take off, follow the trail (or off the trail), and see what’s out there. Trade knowledge and skills for things like a room for the night or dinner, and keep going from one location to another, learning about the locals, their customs, food, etc. This is a great way to get a real cross-cultural experience, and it doesn’t even come at a great cost!
43) Become a Mentor: Work with troubled youths or those that just need someone to help mentor them through life. Most places have “big brother” and “big sister” programs, where you can temporarily adopt a child and be a role model for them. This is a good way to help others, while at the same time offering a different outlook on life. And these programs are often life changers for the children that are involved.
44) Run for Office: Every city has various positions in their government, as well as states and the country itself. Run for a position in your local, state or national government. A lot of times, there are also positions that come without any contesters, and sometimes those that are already in the position would love to get out of it (and just can’t find anyone that wants to replace them). Even if you run and don’t make it, you gain networking skills in the process and help make yourself much more known in your community. And you can always try again the next time!
45) Write Movie Reviews: Most people want to read about movies before they go and spend the money to watch it in the theatre. With tickets running as much as $13-14 in some places, it can get expensive to see one that simply isn’t worth it. By watching movies and giving your personal opinions, you help give people much more informed decisions on whether they want to watch them or not. And if you get picked up by a magazine or other news source, you can make a living doing it!
46) Do a Fundraiser: There are programs all over the place that could use more funds. Non-profits are almost always starving for money, and you can help by running a fundraiser. Places like Kickstarter are good methods, but you can run them in personal as well, selling things like chocolate bars. This lets you give to a good cause, while helping out your community in areas where it’s needed.
47) Become a Tutor: There’s a saying that says the best way to learn is by teaching. If you can teach someone else to do something you can, you’ve truly mastered the material. Whether it’s a school subject (like math, science, etc.) or something like sewing, you’re able to help yourself while helping someone else. And you can even charge for lessons, especially in academia and music, leading to income at the same time.
48) Help Direct Plays: Schools and other places host different plays throughout the year. You can help with directing these plays, gaining experience of working with others and helping them see what you see (visualize the play the same way you do). This is a skill very few have refined, and it’s invaluable for leadership positions in the future.
49) Write for the Newspaper: There are newspapers all around us, and they’re all looking for the next big story. Individuals like you can pitch a story idea to the editor (their information is found in the newspaper itself or on their website, if they have one), and if it’s picked up, you can get a payment and have it seen by all of the paper’s readers. This can lead to a job as a journalist, or even move up the ranks as you learn and refine your skills.
50) Enjoy Life: There’s a saying that if you enjoy what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. This can’t be stressed enough, and you can make a living doing pretty much anything. All you have to do is find a way to monetize it or find customers that are willing to pay. Lock down on the things you like the most, and evaluate them for income potential. You might be amazed at how many things you like doing that can easily be turned into a job!