Upon graduating from high school, Clarkson was offered full scholarships to University of Texas at Austin, University of North Texas, and Berklee College of Music, but later declined them, explaining: "I've already written so much music and wanted to try a career on my own" adding, "you're never too old to go to college." After graduation, Clarkson worked several jobs to finance a demo, recording material and trying to market it to record labels, but received little response.
Clarkson turned down two recording contracts from Jive Records and Interscope Records, stating "They would have completely pigeonholed me as a bubblegum act.
Clarkson's debut single, "A Moment Like This", topped the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and became the country's best-selling single of 2002.
It was followed by the release of her debut studio album, Thankful (2003), which debuted atop the US Billboard 200.
Despite receiving a "golden ticket," a pass to the Hollywood rounds, in the series premiere, Clarkson made her first appearance during the second episode. They did one season of Pop Idol in the UK but America is a very different market. Immediately after winning American Idol, Clarkson was signed to a record deal with RCA Records, 19 Recordings, and S Records by talent manager Simon Fuller, who created American Idol; and music mogul Clive Davis, who was slated to executive-produce her debut album.