The ONE Thing All High Schoolers Should Do During COVID-19

This virus has ruined a lot of things already this year, but it’s also given you a lot of time. Here’s what you should be doing with it.

by Andrew RanzingerLast updated: 08/04/2020

If you’re in high school, you’ve probably missed prom, graduation, and spring sports. Depending on what your parents do for work, this could also be causing real economic hardship and uncertainty for your family.

You may have even had someone you know get sick.

But the one positive thing coronavirus has given most of us is more time—time at home, time we aren’t working or in school or doing the things that normally fill our days. 

Here’s the single most important thing you should be doing with that time right now.

Plan what to do after high school graduation

You’re probably assuming that means going to college. But unless your parents will be paying for it, or you can cover most of the cost with scholarships, it may not be worth it

Right now, universities don’t even know if they’ll be open for fall semester 2020. Until there is a vaccine, in-person education could continue to be severely limited by the government. 

This uncertainty comes on top of some already real concerns about going to college—including getting deep in debt and getting a degree that doesn’t prepare you for the job market. 

Regardless of what you were thinking before this, use the extra downtime you have right now to explore the possibilities that are out there. Don’t just drift into your future.  

Here are some college alternatives worth considering: 

1. Go to trade school

If you like working with your hands, don’t want to go into a lot of debt, and still want to make great money, there are a lot of different trades that only require a two-year certificate program.

Air traffic controller, electrician, landscaper, painter, plumber, dental assistant, and paramedic are just a few examples. Here’s a more complete list.

2. Take a gap year and travel

A gap year is a year between high school and college that you take to have some unique experiences and learn more about the world before you move on to the next phase of your life. 

International travel is likely to be uncertain for the foreseeable future—but even traveling domestically can provide many of the same opportunities.

Whether you decide to go to a different country or just explore another corner of yours, a gap year is a great way to get clarity about what you want to do with your life.

You will see things, do things, and meet people that will help shape your future. 

There are hundreds of organizations that specialize in organizing these programs. Just google “gap year programs” or “gap year study abroad programs” and do a little research.

Some people want to study—learn a new language or some other subject they are passionate about in a new place.

Others want to focus their year on a cause they care about. Still others get internships at companies in an industry they are interested in. 

Want to learn Spanish while living in Spain? You can. Learn sustainable landscaping and farming in Costa Rica? You can. Help rehabilitate wild animals in Florida? You can.

Regardless of what you choose, a gap year can be much more beneficial long term—and cheaper—than a year of college. 

3. Volunteer

Volunteering for a non-profit organization is a great way to meet people, learn new skills, and build your resume.

Because many volunteer organizations struggle to find good talent, you’ll often get a lot more responsibility for your age and experience level than you would at a paid job. 

This added responsibility can help you build the skills and confidence for bigger things later—which is why both colleges and employers like to see it.  

Find a local organization working in an area that interests you, and ask if they are looking for volunteers.

4. Work

Especially if you don’t really know what you want to do, working for a year can be a great option.

The service and food industry, retail, and childcare/education all have lots of different opportunities for young people without a college degree.

You’ll save money, gain some maturity and real-world experience, and hopefully get some more clarity on what you want to do. It’s certainly better than racking up debt while you try and figure out what to major in.

5. Go to a coding bootcamp

If you have any interest in tech or computers, consider doing a coding bootcamp. Coding bootcamps are intense, two-to-six-month courses that offer a crash course in a particular programming language. 

You’ll quickly develop your skills while building a portfolio of projects you can show to future employers. 

It’s an intense program with a heavy workload, but if you can handle it the payoff can be huge. Many coders with no previous experience are able to get well-paying, sometimes six-figure jobs after completing a bootcamp.

Even if you eventually decide to do something other than computer programming, the skills you’ll gain will make you more valuable anywhere. Here are 11 careers a coding bootcamp can open the door to

College isn’t the only option

The one thing coronavirus has given most of us is more time. The best thing you can do with that time right now is to use it to figure out your next move after high school. 

Maybe that’s college—but maybe there’s a different path that’s better suited for you.

Don’t know what you want to be when you grow up yet? This article will help you figure it out.