What If I Don't Want to Go to College: A Guide for Gap Year

St. Agnes Academy
What if I don’t want to go to college? High school students have choices following graduation. Learn what students can do to maximize the value of a pre-college gap year.
For many high school students, attending college is at the top of their priority list for the years immediately following high school graduation. However, some students may not wish to attend college right away and may choose to take a gap year before entering higher learning.

There are many things students can do to maximize the value of their gap year and ensure they are well-prepared for the next steps in their academic and professional journeys. 

While the College Counseling team at St. Agnes Academy focuses primarily on helping students navigate the college admissions process, we also offer support to students who are weighing alternative options for the year immediately following graduation.

Let’s discuss some of the key points to keep in mind when considering taking a gap year before college. If you are wondering, “What if I don't want to go to college?” let’s explore some of the ways students can productively spend their time after high school and before college.

What If I Don’t Want to Go to College Right Away?

College isn’t the endgame for all students, though attending college certainly has its benefits. On average, college graduates see 57% more job opportunities than students without college degrees, which makes having a college education a major contributing factor to ongoing professional success.

However, a college degree may not be necessary for every field, and students may instead be able to receive specialized training from vocational schools to hone their skills in an area of interest. 

Students who ultimately plan to attend college but want to create a buffer period between high school and university may choose to take a gap year immediately following high school graduation.

Students who take gap years can maximize the value of this time in several different ways. If you plan your time appropriately, the gap year may actually prove to be an incredibly impactful experience for young people of all backgrounds. 

What Can I Do During a Gap Year?

A gap year shouldn’t be considered a break or period of nothingness. In some cases, students may wish to use their gap year to finalize a decision about their desired school, especially if they are deciding between two colleges.

Similarly, if a student needs additional time to build up their college admissions package, a gap year can provide much-needed time and flexibility to add new experiences to a resume. Let’s explore some of the possible ways students can spend their gap year between high school and college.


Some students who possess a heart for service may wish to dedicate themselves to a period of volunteerism before enrolling at a college or university. A gap year gives students the flexibility they may need to pursue more targeted community service efforts, such as long-term mission trips in the U.S. or abroad.

This period of service may prove particularly valuable to students who are interested in pursuing careers in ministry, public service, or humanitarianism. Building up service experience can help students become more well-rounded members of their educational communities in the future.

Students may also benefit from gaining valuable life experience and perspective that will continue to serve them for years to come. 

Working and Interning

A high school graduate may prefer to enter the workforce following graduation rather than diving directly into higher education for many reasons. For example, some students and their families may not immediately have the financial resources necessary to enroll in a college program immediately after high school.

Students facing a financial barrier to higher education may want to consider taking a gap year to earn and save additional money through a full-time or part-time job. The income can be put toward future tuition or student loan payments. 

Students may also decide to take a professional internship after high school to gain work experience that will be relevant to their future courses of study. Then, you will be equipped with the tools you need to pursue a four-year degree at your chosen college or university.


Just because a student takes a gap year does not mean that their academic pursuits must come to a halt. Thanks to resources like online courses and community college classes, students can continue their studies during their gap year and even earn transferable credits along the way. 

Students who choose to complete some of their general education requirements at affordable, local colleges may ultimately save themselves a substantial amount of money when they enroll in a full-time program down the line.

High school graduates can pursue many professional certifications both in person and online. For example, a student may wish to pursue a professional certification in a field like interior design, computer coding, or event planning that can be leveraged into job offers or internship opportunities in the future.

These certifications can help boost a student’s college admissions odds at the conclusion of their gap year and provide them with a strong foundation for their future professional endeavors.

St. Agnes Academy is Here to Support You

Regardless of whether you plan to immediately enroll in college or take a gap year following high school graduation, the College Counseling department at St. Agnes can help you find and follow the right path for your future goals.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to higher education. So, it’s important to carefully consider all possible options and how these different choices may impact your future success when you decide it’s time to pursue an associate's or bachelor’s degree.

If you are thinking about questions like, “What if I don't want to go to college?” or “What else can I do after graduating from high school?” we are here to help. Reach out today to speak to a member of our team. We are ready to help you work toward your highest potential.