There are many alternatives to college. First of all, there are many trade schools and programs. You do not have to spend a lot of money for these. You can become an apprentice to a carpenter, for example. Carpenters make quite a bit of money. You can also become a plumber or a mechanic. These are good paying jobs where there are other paths to certification than expensive programs.
The first thing you should do is talk to adults you know. You can consider family members who have careers you are interested in, especially ones that do not require degrees. You would be surprised at which jobs do not require degrees. Many jobs do require on-the-job training, but you can get paid while you work.
If you have a hobby, an interest, or a family business, this is a good place to start. Even if it is not what you want to do with your life, it is a good place to begin. Also, sometimes you can just start applying for jobs. Often you have no idea that you are interested in something until you see it. Some jobs train you and only require a high school diploma.
Most communities have job fairs. They will also provide information on trade schools, community colleges, and other secondary education options. Every community is different and it depends on where your interests lie and how much money is available to you. You can also contact local trade unions about their apprenticeship programs, such as the carpenters’ union, plumbers’ union or electricians’ union.
Community colleges often have more than just Associate of Arts degrees offered. They usually have certificate programs of various kinds available. For example, you could learn computer programming, video game design, project management for construction, or earn some other kind of certification there.