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What to Do if You Are Not Going to College this Fall

Always have a Plan B. Prepare to adapt, hold a positive mindset and keep moving forward.

Shawna Newman

July 14, 2021

Numbers show more students holding off on going to or returning to college because of the financial impacts of COVID-19. Discover four alternate paths if you’re not going to college this fall.
What to Do if You Are Not Going to College this Fall
You were planning to go to a college or university this fall, but your plans changed. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Many students may have been forced to adjust their college plans. According to Higher Ed DIVE, “Of some 2.6 million students that started college for the first time in the fall of 2019, only 73.9%” returned in 2020. The number of completed Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms often predicts the number of students planning to attend college in the fall. The FAFSA is the key to all federal money resources, or financial aid, for students. It provides access to student loans, grants, and work-study programs. For low-income, first-generation, and students of color, the FAFSA is critical to make college affordable and attainable.

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The COVID pandemic has made it harder for students and their families to afford a college education—at least for right now. CNBC adds, “As of June, the number of [2021-22 FAFSA] applications was down 5% from last year.” The dwindling number of college students returning to school, and the decrease in completed FAFSA forms for the 2020-21 academic year, reflect the pandemic influence on students. If you're wondering what to do, it's not being stuck at home in the living room playing video games in your free time. While your college admissions plans may need to be postponed, consider these four, positive alternatives to a bachelor's degree:

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  1. Enlist in the Military to help you pay for college.
  2. Joining the Armed Forces guarantees you a job, housing, and a steady income. You’ll also be trained for a specific job. Having a trade will benefit you after your enlistment is over, as you begin to look for jobs in the civilian workforce. If you’d like to go ahead and work toward your college degree, you can do that too. There are many military scholarships, grants, and even military academies that will help you pay for college.

  3. Get a Job.
  4. Find a job that’s the right fit for you by using Monster.com. From here, you can search by keywords and location. Search for jobs that you’re genuinely interested in.

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    When, and if you decide to go back to college, you’ll have field experience; this is something most college students do not have. If attending college is your end goal, consider finding a job at a company that will help you pay for a college education. Popular fast-food companies like McDonalds, Starbucks and more offer some form of tuition assistance. Big companies like Boeing, T-Mobile and Amazon have unique ways to help their employees pay for higher education.

  5. Learn a Trade.
  6. There are many jobs that require skilled laborers in the U.S. Consider enrolling in a vocational school in your area or joining a labor union to get your hands-on education. Most skilled labor industries need more employees. This includes trades and skills such as plumbing, carpentry and construction, healthcare, cosmetology, manufacturing and welding, mechanics, graphic arts, and more. The cost to attend a vocational-technical school is relatively low, and you can find scholarships that help you pay for your skilled labor training. You can graduate with trade experience and be work-ready, in some cases in less than a year. By joining a labor union, you can find an apprenticeship program that trains you.

  7. Enroll in an Online Learning Program.
  8. While you work, consider using your time in the evenings to train yourself in an area you’d like to grow. From learning a new language for free to online learning courses for computer and data science, there is no limit to e-learning! Also, many scholarships can be applied toward online learning courses. For instance, if you’re interested in coding but cannot afford to go to college, enroll in a coding bootcamp. Many of these programs you can complete in two to six months, according to Best Colleges. For some people, once their certification is earned, they can quickly shift their careers into higher-paying jobs. From edX to Code.org, you can compare online learning platforms and find the right online learning courses with the help of Fastweb’s Online Learning page.
There are options for students that may not make it to college this fall. The alternatives listed above do not mean that you cannot become a college student later. While people who go to college tend to make more money, remember, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg didn't get their college degree. What you do in the next few years is important. You could use your time to save for college in the future and avoid student loan debt. But whatever you choose, plan to move forward in a positive direction.

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