Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Wondering what to do after high school? With so many possibilities available, deciding what’s right for you can feel overwhelming. The pressure to choose a career is intense but remember this isn't a permanent decision! This blog is your guide to exploring all the exciting possibilities, from college campuses to gap year adventures. Let us help you explore the options and discover a pathway that truly appeals to you.


If you don’t know where to start, Fanshawe’s Pathfinder tool is a great resource! The tool asks you questions and gathers information to give you an idea of the types of programs and careers that might interest you. Also check out our blog post about how to pick a career.

Start Pathfinder Career Pathway Quiz


Post-Secondary Studies

Okay, so you’re sure you want to go to post-secondary school after high school but haven’t yet decided what to study. Or perhaps you have a career in mind but you aren’t sure how to get there. We’ll breakdown post-secondary options to help you determine where you can start your college or university journey.

students sit in school hallway together

Preparatory Programs

Let’s start out broad. Prep programs are ideal for someone who wants to learn more about a wider subject. Haven’t narrowed down your career interests yet? These programs offer a focused exploration of a broader subject area, preparing you for a more specific field of study later. They’re also great for students who need additional schooling to meet admission requirements or those aiming for a competitive program. These eight-month programs allow you to examine your career passions before committing to a longer program, all while earning an Ontario College Certificate. 


Interested in an engaging, in-demand career with high earning potential? The skilled trades might be just what you’re looking for. Apprenticeships are a rewarding pathway because you’ll learn alongside industry professionals while working and earning money. If you’re not sure how to get started looking for an apprentice position, Fanshawe College can help. Our apprenticeship programs include in-class learning experiences you’ll need to prepare you for the hands-on (and paid!) training you’ll receive during your apprenticeship. Plus, we can help you secure an apprenticeship with one of our established industry partners.

Learn more about apprenticeships

Two welders wearing masks work together

Types of credentials to pursue after high school

With so many options available, how do you choose the right certificate, diploma or degree to kickstart your dream career? Choose your program based on your goals. If you already know what career you’re pursuing, choose a program that will get you there. If you know what subject you want to study but aren’t sure about a career yet, choose a broader program that focuses on several different aspects of that subject. And if you’re not exactly sure, that’s okay. Prep programs and other foundational programs exist for this reason! Whether you’ve picked a program or you need guidance on how to choose a program that will help you meet your goals, it’s always a good idea to talk with recruitment or attend an event like Open House where you can talk to students and professors. 

Ontario College Certificate

A certificate typically takes one year of study and provides you with a specific skill set to prepare you for your desired career. 

Ontario College Diploma

A diploma typically takes two years of study to complete and provides you with a wider range of knowledge in a specific field of study to prepare you for your career. 

Ontario College Advanced Diploma

An advanced diploma typically takes three years to complete and provides a broad foundation as well as specific expertise for your chosen career. Often, there are pathways from a diploma to an advanced diploma. 


A degree program typically takes four years to complete. You can take a degree at either a college or a university. College degrees offer both the hands-on and practical experience colleges are known for as well as the advanced theoretical learning of a degree. Learn more in our blog about college degrees vs. university degrees. There are often pathways into degree programs from diploma programs. Generally, a degree will provide a comprehensive understanding of a broader subject to prepare you for a career field.

students sit together in dynamic study space at Fanshawe College

Furthering Your  Education

Don’t feel boxed in by the credential you’ve taken. You can choose to start in one program and then specialize or upgrade with another program. Additionally, you can always choose to go back to school later to advance your career or even retrain for a new career.
Many programs offer pathways into other learning options to help you fine-tune your skills in a particular career. You may want to start with a broad program, like a preparatory program, then pursue a specific diploma or degree. Next, you could even continue into an advanced diploma or take a graduate certificate. Graduate certificates are typically programs that allow you to specialize in a specific career. 

Gap year

If you’re stuck wondering what to do after high school but aren’t ready to pursue further education, there are other options! Plenty of students choose to take some time off from school with a gap year while intending to go back to school afterward. If you choose to take a gap year, you may want to have a plan for what you’ll be doing in that time or an idea of goals you want to accomplish during the gap year. 

Taking a year off gives you time to plan, explore your interests and decide what you might be most interested in when it comes to studies or a future career. 


If you’ve got some money saved up, a gap year is an opportunity to travel or do other fun things before committing to going back to school or getting into the workforce.

Get Work Experience

Alternatively, a gap year could be the perfect opportunity to build your savings and gain some work experience. You can look for a temporary placement while you prepare for the next phase of your life or find something you can continue to do when you go back to school.


Volunteering during your gap year is a rewarding way to give back to the community while getting work experience. Volunteer with a charity you’re passionate about or find a volunteer position that will build your resume for your future career.

Join the Workforce

Not interested in pursuing post-secondary education right after high school? Not a problem! There are fantastic job opportunities out there that don’t require additional education. Industries like customer service, restaurants, transportation or security often don’t require further education. Some of these roles may require a particular license like SmartServe or a special driving license for large vehicles

two construction workers observe a construction site

As your career progresses, if you enjoy your work and want to advance, you can pursue further training. Referred to as upskilling, this practice is common even for those who completed a post-secondary education after high school. Fanshawe offers lots of options including micro-credentials (inexpensive, bite-sized learning opportunities that help you master one specific aspect of a subject), certificates, diplomas and more. These can be completed through flexible learning like part-time studies and online learning.


Skilled Trades & Apprenticeships

Interested in the trades? As mentioned earlier, trades allow you to earn while you learn by pursuing an apprenticeship in job sectors like construction, industrial, motive power or service. There is currently a shortage of skilled trades workers which means there will be lots of opportunities and once you become established, you can earn a high salary.

Learn how Fanshawe can help with your apprenticeship

There are many options to choose from once you graduate high school. Only you can choose the path that feels best for you. Whether that leads to further education, joining the workforce, an apprenticeship or some time off, remember that lifestyles and careers change and there will always be opportunities to retrain or reskill later in life.

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