when your teen decides against college

Posted : March 31, 2015
Last Updated : October 1, 2019

when your teen decides against college

As a parent, you always want what is best for your child. Over the years, you have strived to give him nutritious food, a nice home, a loving and supportive family environment, and a proper education. You always presumed that your child would attend college, and you started saving for college expenses years ago. So what do you do when your child tells you that he has decided not to attend college?

Here are some tips for when your child says "no" to college.

Stay calm.

After a teen relays his decision to not attend college, the automatic response for some parents may be to yell, "Oh yes you will go to college and earn a degree! I know what’s best!" However, now is not the time to lose your cool and start an argument with your child. Doing so will only reinforce his decision. Instead, take a deep breath and take time to process what your child has just told you.

Hold a discussion.

After you take the time to process the announcement, sit down and hold a discussion with your teen. Having an open and honest conversation with your teen will help him explore his feelings and help you understand his situation. Find out why your child has come to this decision. If your child is still in high school, he could be feeling unprepared and ill-equipped to begin the college path. If your child is already enrolled in college but wants to drop out, he could be homesick or overwhelmed with his new schedule. Help him think through his reasoning and the implications of his decision. After you have discovered the reason(s) for the decision, you may be able to change his mind by exploring different ways to fix any problems or issues.

Consider other options.

As you hold a discussion with your teen, you want to be open to or even suggest other options. Consider these alternatives:

  • Going to a different school. Maybe a specific college is the reason your child doesn't want to continue with his education. If your child has enrolled at a college and realized that it's not a good fit after all, he may want to consider going to a different school. Maybe he would rather attend a school that is closer to home. Or maybe he would prefer a two-year school instead of a four-year school. Attending a college that is a good fit is crucial in order to stay enrolled and earn a degree.
  • Taking a gap year. Many students just aren't ready to begin college straight out of high school, and these students can benefit greatly by taking a gap year. If your teen isn't sure about choosing a college major, he could take a gap year to explore different career fields. If your child feels like his grades or study skills are not up to par, then he may want to take a gap year to improve himself academically. If your teen needs to develop a level of maturity before he enters college to study a career, taking a year off to travel or work full time will give him real world experience. Keep in mind that some colleges will allow students to defer for one year, while others will request that the student reapply after the gap year is complete.
  • Enrolling in a trade or vocational program. If your teen struggles in school, he may prefer the type of hands-on-learning that a trade program can provide. Trade or vocational programs offer a direct path toward specific jobs, such as web design, electronics, medical assistance, etc.
  • Joining the military. Enlisting in the military is a good option for students who thrive on structure and physical activity. Service in the armed forces can often lead to a job or college-level education.
  • Obtaining a full-time job. Although obtaining a full-time job will be tough without a college degree, this is still a viable option if your child doesn't want to continue with his education. He may be lucky and find the job of his dreams, or after working for a while, he may realize that he needs to obtain a college degree in order to acquire his dream job.

Set boundaries.

If your child decides to delay college for a year or even decides not to attend at all, make sure he understands that you will not be giving him a free ride. If he is taking a gap year, let him know that he must still be productive. If he has definitely decided that college is not the right path for him, then he needs to develop a different plan and take action to pursue it.

Offer your support.

Most children want to make their parents proud, so it took a lot of courage for your child to come to you and tell you about his decision. It's important that your child understands how much you support him even if you may not fully agree with his choice. As a parent, you will want to try very hard to convince your child to attend college, but you should never force him to go. Keep in mind that college is not the right path for everyone.

Saying "no" to college is a big decision, and one that should not be taken lightly. Helping your teen stay focused on his ultimate goals will allow you both to feel more positive about a difficult decision. For more information, consider speaking with a counselor at your child's high school or college.

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when your teen decides against college

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