What if my teen doesn't want to go to college?

Real Mom Problem

“My 'good' son, my soon-to-be 18-year-old, has applied to about 10 different colleges, but is now saying seriously that he doesn't need college!”

by MindyHB MindyHB

Quick Tips

  • 1. Talk to your kids about what they want to do in life and how college can help them achieve their goals
  • 2. Help your teen understand all of the post-high school options, from employment to 2-year college to university
  • 3. If your child decides not to go to college, moms say to insist he or she gets a job and pays rent

Real Mom Solutions

What do you do if your kid is questioning going to college? Get some great mom-to-mom advice right here!

Explain the Benefits of College

  • atlmom2

    I know people who have graduated in the past few years that have good jobs. Heck, my nephew will get his bachelor's and he has a $75,000-a-year job waiting for him come June. My husband hires kids out of college every year starting them out at more than $50,000 a year in finance. They've got to be good students, mind you (like 3.75 or better grade point average). You have to work hard for jobs now but, it's possible.

  • boys2men2soon

    I would ask your teen who doesn't want to go to college how he plans on supporting himself. I would encourage him to get a part-time job, now. It would give him a taste of what the working world is like.

  • annie2244

    Show your son the cost of independent life on a piece of paper. Write down all the categories of expenses, and what the monthly bill is for each expense. Then list 20 different jobs, some he's qualified for with only a high-school degree, some that take a 2-year degree, some that take a bachelors, and some that take a professional degree. List the after-tax earnings of each of these jobs. Shatter his illusions that life is pretty without a degree or that you'll be funding his non-educational life in any way after high school graduation.

  • atlmom2

    Ask your son what job he can get, that will have decent benefits and a salary where he can raise a family on the salary. Have him do some research and see what he comes up with. Show him online the lifetime earnings differences between high school only, college, and master's degrees. It is staggering. Doesn't mean some don't vary from the norm, but most are in the norm.

  • LoreleiSieja

    It is much better to get a college education, if at all possible. The reasons are many. Mostly, our public high schools are a disgrace. Japanese children learn more in their elementary education than our students learn from high school. We, as a nation, are falling behind the rest of the developed world. Our children simply cannot compete in the job market until they catch up with the very well-educated employees from other nations. Also, an 18-year-old entering the job market will only be qualified for minimum-wage work.

Help Your Teen Understand His Options

  • mehamil1

    I've already laid out my son's options: He can stay with me till he graduates from high school. After that it's either college, a trade school, the military, or get a job and move out. Do not enable your son. If he doesn't want to go to college, fine. It really is not for everyone and plenty of people "make it" without a college degree.

  • jazzieel

    Our 17-year-old has known what he wants to do since he was three years old and knows he has to go to college to achieve his goals. But then there is our 14-year-old daughter who is not so sure she wants to go to a four-year college. We have discussed a two-year school or some sort of trade school for her. There are people who do well career-wise who go to such schools. So maybe if you would mention that option, too, he might consider it. It is a lot less time, and to some kids, a lot less pressure.

  • boys2men2soon

    The thing is; if he is not motivated in high school, he will have a tough time with a college curriculum. Perhaps he would prefer a trade school? I am a big believer in higher education. My theory is that most 18 year olds don't know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, and they need to find themselves. They may as well be earning a degree while looking. That being said, if your son will incur deep debt to fund his education, and he is not motivated or ambitious enough to study a field to make it worth his while, he may be better off waiting or following a different path. You just can't hold his hand in college. He has to be willing to put in the effort. We can only guide our kids so far, then they have to choose their path. They will make mistakes, and learn to pick themselves up and try again. We can't make their choices for them. Have faith that you gave him the foundation and tools to find his way.

  • ContraryKari

    Maybe your teen should try a "gap" year...there is no cut off age for college!

  • rkoloms

    We told our daughter that she has three options when she graduates high school: Go to a university; get a full-time job and move out; or do a year or two of national service (like with AmeriCorps).

Accept that College Isn't for Everyone

  • MrsBLB

    My oldest did not go to college and is very happy with his job and salary.

  • momofne

    College isn't for everyone. I'd give your teen some space and maybe he will change his mind. That's what my older son did. Having him go to college or not doesn't make you a good or bad parent. It's their life, we can only guide them.

  • lazyd

    My kids know that they can go to a community college, college/university, or get a job -- any job will do -- when they graduate from high school. If my kids want to continue living at home, whether or not they continue their education beyond high school, then they will get a job, even if it's part-time, and start paying some living expenses. Let your son get out into the world and grow up. I wouldn't let him sit at home and do nothing, though!

  • mumsy2three

    Just because your son doesn't have plans to go to college immediately after high school doesn't mean he won't ever go. My daughter is a high school senior and has no interest in college right now. Her plan is to get her certification in yoga. We are fine with that. If she plans to go to college at a later date, great. If not, she will work full time.

  • KeriAZ

    I didn't go to college until I was in my 30s. No biggie. Tell your son if he doesn't want to go to college, then get a full-time job!

Don't Give Your Kid a Free Ride

  • jazzieel

    Your son might just need some time to see what the real world is like without additional education. But you need to make sure he knows that if he isn't going to get an extended education for now and wants to live under your roof he must get a job and contribute to the household. Giving adult children a free ride can really be a huge mistake.

  • mehamil1

    Do not let him live under your roof if he isn't doing anything. He has to get a job, pay his own bills, etc. I have already told my son that he would not be welcome here if he is not working. I plan on sticking to that. I refuse to support someone perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.