Everyone wants their child to be successful. Even in the delivery room, you probably had thoughts in the back of your mind of your child attending an elite university and attaining some prestigious degree that will lead to a high paying job. But the reality is, despite your best hopes and dreams, there is a very real chance that your kid won’t want to attend college. As school gets more difficult in junior high and high school both academically and socially, your teen might start thinking that traditional higher education isn’t what they want to do after high school.
While many shudder at the thought of their kid not attending college, it is extremely important that you don’t pressure your kids to go to college. Encouraging your teen to go is one thing, but making it a requirement is another. Going to university shouldn’t be viewed as a no-alternative next step. It needs to be viewed as a serious commitment with career direction. Students who continue on to college just because they have to, not because they want to, often don’t take their education seriously. They spend the better part of their first two years as undeclared, taking classes that may not count towards their eventual degree requirements, and most likely skipping them anyway. Many even use their newfound freedom to party rather than making an effort in their studies. This is especially easy for those whose parents are paying for their time in college; free party time on their parents’ dime. For those not so lucky to have tuition taken care of, they take out student loans. Some students consolidate student loans and find their payments manageable, others tend to find themselves drowning in debt whether they finish college or not.
Of course, not pressuring your teen to go to school doesn’t mean giving up on them completely. While you encourage them to go, if they express hesitation, educate them on possible alternatives. Have a discussion with your teen and ask important questions, like why they don’t want to attend, what they plan on doing instead, and what their interests are. It may be that they just need some real world experience and a break from formal education to decide that college might be in their future. A person who chooses to go to college in their own time is likely to be more successful at it than someone who is forced to.
If your teen decides not to attend university, you should encourage them to take some steps in case they later change their mind.
Have them to take their SATs or ACTs. The results for these tests never expire, but typically colleges accept them for up to 5 years after high school. If they decide in a few years that they would like to go to college, they will have already taken the tests when the information was still fresh in their mind.
Make them get a job. Sitting at home doing nothing is not an option. Doing some research into their interests or passion might yield some job possibilities that will give them experience for their desired career. These days, experience can be just as valuable as an education. If they don’t have any goal oriented interests, job experience is still going to be important, even if its importance is scaring your kid back into school with the reality of life experience.
While your kid is working, encourage them to take an online class. If their hesitation towards school is that they aren’t confident in their ability to handle college course work, taking a class is a great way to get a feel for what it’s like, and to keep their mind active and learning. Some universities, like Arizona State University, offer both a developed set of online programs or even select freshman courses online for free, without having to enroll in the school. This gives people curious or worried about college level classes a chance to experience a class without a huge commitment or start their college career without moving away from home. Options like these are more and more common across the country every year, and help to ease the transition of young people who aren't 100% sure that college is for them.
Delaying or not attending college is not the end of the world. Pressuring your teen to go to college when it is the last thing they want to do will only put a strain on your relationship with them, not push them to succeed. Success is measured by a person’s ability to achieve their goals, and those goals don’t have to be academic. A person who is forced to go to college will not be successful, and will just be throwing away money doing something they don’t appreciate or value. Let your kids know they have choices, and let them decide what’s best for their future.