College can be pretty daunting. There is of course, the study to get acceptable grades to even be considered for college, then there's the balancing extracurricular in order to have a well rounded profile, studying for big tests like the SATs, and then there's the exorbirant costs of actually paying fees.
But it's all worth it isn't it? After all, if you don't finish school, you're done right? You'll get a poor paying job at McDonalds and won't be able to feed yourself right? The debt you go into while powering your way through school is necessary, right? Sometimes you just can't get a scholarship.
Actually, if you're looking for a genuine alternative that pays pretty well, you might want to pick up the trades.
Trades include stuff like welding, whose workmen can make a pretty sizable salary with the right union.They're in pretty high demand right now. There's supposed to be 300,000 more openings just for new welders leading up to 2020. The total trade job market is even bigger.
This isn't "low brow work", though your definition of low brow may be different depending on whether you're elitist or not. Trades like welding are high valued and deeply needed in places like factories. Sometimes companies will pay for the training in order to get a welder on staff, and with such a necessary position, benefits can be pretty sweet.
If you're an academic at heart, or truly set on a track that can only be achieved through college, go for it! But if you need to provide for yourself and think college is the only way, try learning a trade, unionizing and memorize OSHA's phone number!