An exasperated mom asked me what to do about her son who seems to have little interest in college. This family is a dual parent unit and both are educated, which is traditionally the magic formula for getting a student on the college track. So what gives regarding this student?
- Lack of understanding of the benefits of college.
Many high school students hide the fact that they have college plans. If their peer group is more into goofing off and playing video games then to fit in most students will fall into the same rut. Parents cannot make any of their young people go on to college, but they can make clear their expectations and enforcing them. Demand to see grades, and if they aren’t up to your standards then take away privileges. Involve the student in groups that emulate the type of success you would like your young person to have. Take him or her to your collegiate homecoming. Introduce them to your educated friends who have thriving careers. Young people have to learn that the money you use to buy them all of those wonderful, nice things comes from taking that first step toward a higher level of education.
- Introduce other options.
Not everyone will go to college. I believe that the option should be there for anyone who wants to go, but that young people shouldn’t be forced. My brother is quite successful after learning a trade and becoming a machinist. His job uses all of the skills he had as a child including understanding how machines worked and being able to draw. The traditional classroom wasn’t for him, but he’s still a productive citizen.
- Gap years are okay.
There is room for non-traditional students in higher education. In fact the vast majority are no longer beginning college at 18. This particular young person may have to get out there and work, find an apartment, and live on his own before he understands that mom and dad worked really hard for what they have. Forcing a student into college too early could mean that the student never completes and ends up in huge debt. Give the young person the space to make the decision, but be firm about your rules. If you allow him or her to stay home after graduating from high school then lay out for how long, how much they are to contribute to the household, and what happens if the agreement is violated. This contract can be negotiated (we ARE in a recession), but at least set up the initial boundaries.
Thoughts or other concerns about your high school student? Leave them in the comments below.