So Your Child Doesn’t Want to Go to College

Here are some useful tips for parenting a child that doesn't want to go to college.

The End or a Beginning

You just spent the last 12 years, (give or take), arguing about homework, what time to get up, going to PTA meetings, changing your work schedule for parent/teacher meetings and baking cupcakes in quantities of 25 plus. All of this and more in preparation of, and hopes of your child going to college. Now it’s time for your kiddo to start applying to colleges, but, he/she declared that college isn’t in their future plans. You’re not sure how you feel about that, but you know that you suddenly have a knot in your stomach.

Don’t Panic

Sometimes giving your child that time away from the educational environment is just what they need to make some decisions about their long term future. Working in fast food or retail can be a real eye-opener for a young person that has pretty much-done things at their pace for most of their lives. Let them use their spare time to figure out their interests and to realize whether their current employment is going to provide for them in the years to come.

You certainly don’t want them to feel pressured into going to college with no idea of what they want to major in and no desire to succeed. This can lead to them using their time and newly discovered freedom to party and use college as nothing more than a social arena. You’ve now wasted valuable family funds, they’ve wasted their time and everyone is frustrated. It’s a losing scenario all the way around.

A Different Path

There’s also the possibility that your child has a passion for something that is totally non-college related. Maybe your daughter has a talent for woodworking and would like to make her future in carpentry. Maybe your son has wanted to be a diesel mechanic since he was old enough to talk. This would mean that a technical school would be more suited to their educational needs. Both, well-respected careers that don’t necessarily require a degree from a 4-year college, or the debt that goes along with it.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has evidence that says there’s a direct connection between a degree and higher income, but will this bring your child happiness in the years to come? Also, there is an increasing amount of doubt of the true value of a college degree. The cost of college has risen far more quickly than wages have. At the time of this writing, it costs a family better than 11% of their income to put one child through college. Having them take that education seriously, is a must, at that price.

Outside Forces

Unfortunately, even though you don’t pressure your child to go to college immediately, other people probably will. There’s teachers, classmates, grandparents, and sweet “Aunt Martha”, (we all have one), who will all eagerly ask what college your child has been accepted to. The pressure that outsiders can put on you and your child can be taxing on the nerves. They may even make your child feel as if they’re a failure for not immediately going on to a higher learning institution.

Stand behind your child, reassure them that you support their decision. Explain to the “well-meaning “ adults in their life that your child is simply taking some time to make these major life decisions. Sometimes a little time is all that’s needed for your child to take college more seriously and to gain an appreciation for what they can obtain from it.  

At the Moment

For now, have them take their ACTs or SATs as soon as it’s available to them while everything is fresh in their brain. SAT scores are supposed to be valid forever, however, some colleges prefer to look at more recent scores. Have them apply to possible colleges, if they get accepted it will be far less hassle for them to get into that particular college at a later date.

Talk to them about various options for school, like getting an online degree. An online university is a great option for school without so much pressure.. Arizona State University is one university that offers a Global Freshman Academy where you can enroll in basic online classes for freshman without having to apply to the school or without being a current student at ASU. If this is something that is going to forward their future plans, they can then pay for that credit and apply it to either an online course or an on-campus program. It’s the perfect way to get the experience of college classes while keeping your finger in the pot, without all the commitment that comes along with traditional college classes.

Right or Wrong

Is a college education going to pay off for your child? Here’ a few facts:

  1. 40% of grads from the nation’s top 100 colleges couldn’t find jobs in their chosen fields. In addition, one-third of college graduates don’t feel properly prepared for their first job. So if college isn’t going to prepare your child for doing work they want to do it may not be the best path for them.
  2. Everyone has their own learning style. Some people do well in a structured classroom, others do better in a day to day life. This could be a good indicator as to whether or not a degree is a path that will lead them to a career that they will enjoy doing. Has your child been one of those kids that always enjoyed school? Have they always enjoyed reading, doing class projects or participating in extra credit work? If your answer is no, then they probably won’t enjoy the college environment, or for that matter the possible jobs that can result from that degree.
  3. There is an assumption that once a student receives their degree, that the student loans will easily be paid because of the income that’s being earned. There is some data to support this claim. However, the average college student graduates with over $27,000 of student loan debt. Unfortunately, the student debt is there during the time frame when those same students are making the least amount of money as an adult. It’s possible that after 45 years or so, they could potentially come out on top. If college is going to monopolize your child’s income in a way that dictates their lifestyle for 20 or more years, it’s wise to be certain it’s worth it.

Take a look at your child’s personality, what are their strengths and weaknesses? Listen to what THEY want.

College is certainly a great choice for many people, but only those who are ready for it. It also doesn’t guarantee that your child will be financially secure or more importantly, happy in their career.