Ci LifeStudents

Ways to do College…Unconventionally!

Hey Ci Community! Not all students may know this, but when it comes to college, there are many options beyond just a traditional four year college experience. Not all students need to take the same path from high school to college graduation. Here are some of the more unconventional college experiences that are perfect for students looking for a unique path.


Not all students are ready to attend college right after graduating high school. Gap years are designed to give students a year of time before they enter college. This year can satisfy a lot of students’ needs. Some students may want to take the extra year to mature before they are ready to be living on their own, which is a huge step for anyone. Maybe they want to take a year to keep playing sports before entering a top sports school. Many athletes take a gap year or a post-graduate (PG) year at a boarding school where they can keep working on perfecting their skills. Gap years also allow students some time to make money before entering college. College is a very expensive endeavor, and by working for a year, students can get a head start in paying for college, not to mention learn valuable lessons about working. Lastly, gap years also allow students to do something that they weren’t able to do in high school and may not be able to do in college. This includes traveling the world, volunteering, and taking time to focus on their passions. Today, more and more students from all over are looking at gap years as an extremely viable option.


Skipping the first semester of college is an option for some students. For students who either excel in high school, are looking to save some money, or get offered spring admittance, skipping the first semester of your freshman year is a realistic option. If you have taken enough AP courses in high school, and have gotten a 4 or above (in some cases a 3 or above) on the AP exams, then these credits may transfer to your college. If you have taken enough AP exams, and the credits transfer, you may have enough credits to skip an entire semester of college. This is extremely cost-saving because you will not have to pay for tuition or room and board for that semester. You can also take the semester to travel, work, and enjoy yourself. Believe it or not, this option is more common than you think. Whether you take enough AP courses to skip your first semester, or your institution offers you spring admission, many freshman elect to begin college second semester.


Attending a two year college may be the realistic option for you. It can be a cost-efficient way to have a college experience that gets you out into the working world more quickly. For students looking to go directly into a vocational job, going to a two year college is a cheap way to do so. Two year colleges are usually designed for students to commute to-and-from, so students save a lot because they likely won’t have room and board costs – not to mention they are only paying for two years. As a result, many two-year college students graduate with little or no debt. In addition, most students take on internships and apprenticeships while going to school, earning them valuable skills and connections for when they are looking for a job. Two year colleges are also a good option for students who want to work their way into a four-year institution. If a student is unable to get into the college of their choice, they can attend a two-year college until they can attempt to transfer. Two-year colleges can therefore be a good stepping stone, either to a four-year college or directly into vocational careers.


Studying abroad is a great option for students who want to attend college but also travel before starting their career. Students who want to spend time learning out of the country can study abroad. Students often study abroad their junior (or third) year of college, but depending on their institution, and major, can elect to study abroad their sophomore or senior year as well. Schools often have programs where they send students abroad, either to an affiliate college located in another country, or to another college located overseas. You can study there for a semester or a year and enjoy the rich benefits of travel and learning through experience while still getting enough credits to graduate in four years.


Today, millions of college students across the country are taking online classes as an alternative to or in addition to traditional college courses. Online classes are a good way to cut costs. Not only do online schools often have lower tuition prices, but they eliminate many related costs, such as the cost of commute and often of textbooks. By working from home (or anywhere with wifi), online classes also offer the flexibility and convenience that many students need. Students are then able to find out for themselves what works best for them; maybe they are best at taking tests in the morning, when they are the most energized, or maybe they need some time to wake up and are a better test taker in the afternoon. This is a great option for students who are looking for a low-cost alternative to traditional college courses and who like a flexible schedule that allows them to work, or do anything else they need to do, while receiving a college education.


Another option is to get your education through a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. In ROTC programs, students are trained to become officers in the US Military. By completing training, which is offered for various branches of the Military (including Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force) students pledge to serve in the Military, starting off at the officer rank. In return, students get a free college tuition. The ROTC curriculum is offered in addition to required college classes, and is offered at hundreds of colleges across the country, so students can get a free education while training to enter the US Military.


It’s important to remember that even if you commit to attending a college, there is always the option to switch colleges. Even once you start attending college, if you are not happy, you are not chained to that college forever. While it is important to give your college a chance and try to make things work, you do not have to stay in a place that is making you unhappy. Instead of staying in a bad situation, you can transfer colleges. Most likely, you can apply to transfer to another college without losing any credits, time, or money. Ideally after a semester or a year, you can can apply to transfer and pick up where you left off at another school. It is important to keep this in mind if you are unhappy with your school; college should be a great and life-changing experience and you should not have to miss out on this because you’re stuck at the wrong school.

We hope you found these options helpful! You don’t have to stick to mainstream way of doing things. Everyone is different and you should adjust your college path to suit you!

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