Preparing Non-College Bound Teens for Life After Graduation

Our friend, colleague and Cousin, Stacey Lane Clendaniel, shares her experiences preparing non-college bound teens for life after graduation.

Preparing Non-College Bound Teens for Life After Graduation

How do you prepare non-college bound teens for graduation on Friday and work on Monday?

Do you take a gap year? Maybe you spend their senior year preparing for the weekend transition? Or you give them the summer after graduation to come up with a plan?

The great new is there is NOT one right way to prepare your non-college bound teen for life after graduation! 

Honestly, there is not much difference on preparing teens who choose to start work vs attending college. They both need life skills for adulthood and they both need certain academic achievements to graduate.

As parents, we are just tweaking and tailoring their high school experience to reflect their needs, we all want to do our best to help our non-college bound teens succeed!  (Yes, we all want all our teens to succeed in adulthood)

If this is your first teen not planning on attending college, I suggest listening to Homeschool Highschool Podcast Episode: When College is NOT an Option. I know some of us are still battling the stigma of college careers are the best options.

We 7Sisters understand the homeschooling stress of… we must do all the things to prepare them for a great successful college career! Often times, we need to just pause and acknowledge that our homeschooler might not be college material. Keeping this in mind helps me to focus on realistic goals for my homeschooled high schooler.

We have even created a Timeline for Non-College Bound Teens to help plan their high school years.

Career Exploration for Non-College Bound Teens

My first word of advice is:

DO NOT ask your teen what they want to do with the rest of their life after school.

Instead ask them what their interests are or what would they would like to try doing after graduation. (The great thing about adulthood is making necessary changes and trying new things as they continue adding to life experiences.)

If your teen is drawing a blank, I suggest beginning an introduction to Career Exploration. I found it helpful to do career exploration twice in high school.

  • At the end of their freshman year, I like to complete an overview of career exploration.
    • Take time to assess their strengths and expose them to many careers that do not require college degree. 
    • Even after taking a survey of career exploration sometimes my teens still did not know what careers might be good for them.
      • So, we began a list possible career ideas and a list of definite “no” career ideas. Then I began the process of exposing them to real life career ideas to gather more data and pray that we would find a “yes” career idea.
  • Then I like to revisit Career Exploration at the end of their junior year to see if any of their interests have changed.
    • Then we can go more in-depth on what they actually plan on doing after graduation.
    • This also helps to determine how their senior year will be completed.

Personal Look at My Career-Bound Teens

Once we have some ideas on possible careers choices, I begin incorporating those into their electives and themes for their required classes.

For example, my daughter wanted to become a pastry chef.

For history, she completed a history of food course. Then for English, she read biographies of famous cooks. She took cooking classes and she baked dozen of cupcakes that she sold to raise funds for missions trips that all counted toward electives. These experiences helped her discover that being a fancy pastry chef was not her gift. Instead, she loves cooking “read food” and today she prepares breakfast, lunch and snacks for 120 kids in a daycare setting.

My youngest son wanted to join the Navy.

He attended a naval summer camp in Annapolis. His study of wars surrounded the role that ships played in history for his history credits. I even placed him in military high school so that he could experience the military life. While it was a great experience for him, at the end he graduated and decided that God was instead calling him to ministry. He enrolled in a bible college to pursue becoming a youth pastor.

My other son who is autistic, needed a more hands on approach.

He needed to base his decisions on real life experiences. This is where volunteering really helps.

  • Are you interested in a food service job? (We volunteered at a soup kitchen.)
  • Maybe you want to help the janitor at church for a day and see if that has any interest.
  • How about you help your Pop Pop do carpentry for the weekend?
  • Or do you like playing with kids? Then, you get your babysitters training certificate.

While our list of “no” for careers ideas was longer than the one “yes”, my son with autism settled on working with children. He earned his certificate for teaching in a daycare, where he teaches the school-age kids. He found that his years of homeschooling gave him an understanding of teaching a wide range of ages.

We did look into trade school for the kids.

However, none of them showed an interest in hands-on jobs like plumbing or mechanics. They did complete some small apprenticeships that were used for time toward their elective credits.

Important advice for moms:

Through all of this I kept reminding myself to be a willow tree…bend, flex and go with the changes…if you stay an oak you will break under the stress and miss the blessings of what your children decide to pursue after high school.

to be a willow tree...bend, flex and go with the changes

Points to Consider for Academics

Since the paths for non-college bound teens varies greatly with job ideas, I used this simple formula for elective credits. Once we identified a possible interest I would research ways to for my teens learn more about their interest.

  • Could I find books on the topic or even videos?
  • Did I know someone with the same passion that would share their experiences.
  • I would then discuss with my teen how they wanted to show their knowledge.
    • Would they create a project or maybe give a speech?
    • Then I would create a syllabus using the resources found that described how my teen would show what they learned.
    • They logged hours to earn their credits.

Life Skills for Non-College Bound Teens

Whether your teens are going to college or your teens are entering the workforce, they all need life skills for adulting. The big difference is that your career-bound teens will begin using their life skills immediately after graduation.

For my teens I wanted them to have a good working knowledge of financial literacy.

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They needed to understand how their career choices would affect their ability to pay bills. I never wanted to squash my teens’ dreams. If they wanted to be a famous songwriter, well, what are they going to do to pay your grocery bill while you work on becoming famous? (Because, yes, one of my sons earned a credit in songwriting, while we wait for his big debut.

You can even create a life-skills credit for your teens! Make a list of important skills you want your teen to know before they graduate and then make it happen.

If you have a few minutes, I suggest listening to the podcast on Incorporating Adulting Skills into High School Planning.

Another great life skill needed for all teens is how to handle themselves in their first job interview. Even after graduation I have coached my kids on job interview skills.

Be encouraged! Your career-bound teens will be able graduate and have successful lives.

If you need to connect with other homeschooling parents who are preparing their teens for life after graduation, join the 7Sisters Facebook group. We love for you to share your homeschool stories with us.


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Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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