What Should I Do After High School If All I Want to Do Is Write?

My Junior year of high school was terrifying and stressful. I watched as all my friends took their ACT's and started applying to a bunch of big colleges all over the country while I sat on the sidelines trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to write, but I didn't know how to approach that as a career. Did I need an Associate's? Bachelor's? Master's? Did I even need a degree? Even by my Senior year, I was stuck. I couldn't pick a college, or a major, or anything. Everything was expensive and just didn't feel right.
Maybe you're in a similar boat. To all you high schoolers out there who have no idea what you want to do with your life other than write, believe me--I totally understand. And that's why I want to give you what no one gave me when I needed it, and what I wish I had known when I graduated high school: some realistic options.

Regular College: By regular, I mean your average four-year university with in-person, on-campus style of learning. This is what most people think of when they hear the words "college," and it's also something that works for a lot of people. You could live on-campus, commute and live at home, or (for some universities) study completely online. But we'll talk about that later.
Community College: Community colleges are a great way to get started if you're just figuring things out. I chose to go to a community college simply because I had no clue where to go to school. Now I realize what a great choice I made!
Online College: Online schooling is becoming very popular and is now something that a lot of students are opting for. You could get an online Associate's, Bachelor's or even Master's, and there are tons of majors for you to choose from. There are lots of online schools available as well, whether they be strictly online universities or universities that offer both online and on-campus degrees.

But wait, what if you have no idea what to study? Do you need to get a degree in creative writing, or should you major in something else? What should you do? Again, let's look at some options!

Creative writing: A creative writing degree would allow you to take a bunch of classes in writing, and would really help sharpen your skills. However, it is not necessary in order to publish a book. While some agents may like that you took the time to get a degree, keep in mind that the main thing agents focus on is your writing itself. In other words, having a creative writing degree will not guarantee publication.
Editing: Yes, you could become an editor! This generally falls under a creative writing degree, and (believe it or not) it's something I considered going into. And you all know how much I hate editing.
Agenting/Publishing: Again, something I considered going into for a while. How cool would it be to become a literary agent? Some colleges even have specific branches of their writing programs for those who want to follow the literary agent track and can then potentially get an internship with a literary agency. It's pretty cool.
Business: What? Business? What does that have to do with writing? Well, have you ever considered opening your own publishing company? What about self-publishing or selling your books on your own? That's a business, and a degree of some sort under this category could be very helpful!
Journalism: Some writers (those lucky ducks) are gifted with a talent in both fiction and non-fiction writing. Others of us are gifted with one or the other. Either way, journalism could definitely be something worth looking into! You could write for magazines, newspapers, websites, etc. It could be super fun!

Okay... but what if you don't plan on going to college? Can you still be a writer? Um, yeah! There are plenty of options for you, like...

Traditional publishing: Like I said before, you don't need a degree to publish a book. The main focus of a literary agent is your writing itself, not your credentials.
Self-publishing: If traditional publishing isn't the route you want to go down, you could always self-publish! Many writers have built up a strong career based on self-published works. You could too!
Free writing courses: You may not have known this, but a lot of colleges and schools offer writing courses online or in person. For free! Search around the internet and see if anything interests you.
Writing conferences: Writing conferences are always full of opportunities to meet other writers, pitch to agents, meet authors, and learn about writing and publishing.
Traveling: Obviously this isn't an option for everyone, but maybe it is for you. After all, traveling brings a lot of inspiration!
Working: A lot of people are choosing work over college because they're comfortable where they are and are already moving up in their careers. So this is definitely an option!

For the longest time, I felt like I was going to disappoint everyone around me because I didn't have plans to get a Bachelor's degree. I felt like getting published was just a far-off dream, and that  I was never going to get anywhere with my life. I felt that people were going to think less of me for going to a community college. And I was wrong! Here I am now in my fourth semester of college, shocked by how much I've learned and how much my writing has improved since I graduated.
The thing about figuring out what you want to do with your life is that you need to understand one thing: it's your life. Not your parents', or your friends', or anyone else's! It's yours. You have to make your own decisions. If you want to go to college, go! If you don't, don't! If you can't decide, don't panic! You have so many options available to you. And if you're still panicked and dying from stress, then open your laptop or notebook, start writing, and lose yourself in your awesome fictional world. That always makes me feel better :)

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you, and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.'" - Jeremiah 29:11