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My Son Doesn't Want to Go to College

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Guest blogger Mary: As my son was growing up, he never knew that going to college was optional, because my husband and I never let on that it was. Whenever we talked about it, we were always careful to say, "When you go to college," not "If you go ...." Technically, he always did have the choice, but we certainly weren't going to point out that fact to him. He was going, and that was that.

My Son Doesn't Want to Go to College
He's now a sophomore in high school, and he has done well -- his teachers doubt he'd have any problem getting into a decent school. Except that he's just announced he doesn't want to go. "It'll take too long to pay it all off!" he says, and (I love this one), "Other parents pay for their kids' educations. You shouldn't have kids if you can't pay for them to go. It's not fair! It's too expensive!" 

Yeah, it's expensive, but it's not like we expect him to pay for an Ivy League education. Suddenly he thinks it's not necessary to have a degree to have a career. Perhaps that's true ... if he's aiming to be senior fry cook at Burger King. He's naive. He has no idea what it means to be an adult in the real world. I'm willing to let him learn on his own, too; it's just that I'd prefer he do it with a diploma. 

He's always been told he'd have to be responsible for part of his tuition. It's not like we suddenly announced, "You're on your own, kid!" He's known that, like the both of us, he'd have to pay for a lot of it, through a combination of work, financial aid and scholarships. My husband's and my parents couldn't afford to pay our tuitions, but we never considered not getting a degree. We'd never be where we are now without one. We've explained to my son that, most of the time, it's not that one technically needs the degree to do a job (most of us learn on the job, anyway), but that you need the degree to be considered for the job. And let's not forget to mention the experience of college itself that he'd be missing, which is a good stepping stone into the real world. 

We've tried to talk sense into him, but he insists it's not our decision to make. Once he's 18, that may be true. But since he's only 16 and we're still the bosses, he still has to prepare himself as if he's going to college. He's got to take the SAT and he's got to apply to some schools, at least, and open some acceptance letters. If he decides, after all that, that he still doesn't want to go, we can't force him. But he has been informed that the day he graduates from high school, he'll need to move out, get his own apartment and start working to support himself. "Start saving now," we told him. "You'll need a security deposit to be able to get your own place." 

He'd assumed he could simply use the money from his college fund (we did have some money we'd saved to send him to school), but was told that the money would go back into our bank account if it didn't go toward his degree. This dose of reality is the only card my husband and I have to left to play, and it's gotten my son thinking about his choices.

Welcome to the real world, kid.


next: Give Your Kids a 'Green Allowance'
80 comments so far | Post a comment now
GemmaI October 14, 2010, 12:54 PM

I agree with Leah (er, sorta.) If you choose not to go to college, then don’t expect the perks of a degree-necessary job. That has nothing to do with how valuable a person is. Just how valuable the job is…I guess? But I still stand by my first post. You don’t need to go to college to be a happy, successful, valuable person. Perhaps this is a sore spot for me because my husband is half way through college (final step being his PhD) and he places a huge deal of importance on higher education. I never went to college (nor did I ever plan to) and while he respects me just fine, he’s often harping on his younger brother who also chose not to go to college. Some people have a habit of believing that they are better than someone else, be it because of better education, more money, etc without even realizing it. What’s “best” to you may not be best for someone else.

Anonymous October 14, 2010, 2:05 PM

I have a Masters Degree in Education. My husband has a trade licence in the Electrical Field. I’ve been teaching for twenty years and yet he makes $40,000 a year more than I do (no overtime). So you just never know.

KS October 14, 2010, 2:49 PM

Your house, your rules. I would however wait to transfer the funds for a year. I have a feeling life is going to smack him in the face and college is actually going to start looking mighty nice. Living off minimum wage and dealing with room mates is enough to drive even the most stubborn of young men to the books.

hmmmm.... October 14, 2010, 3:40 PM

i have no college, nor my husband of 24 yrs.
we do have 3 teens, 14,16 and 18.
(which grew up with health insurance paid for by my grocery store employer, and i had good vacation, sick days and disabilty insurance)
the 18 yr old has wanted college since elementary school, and she is there, and understands the costs. she achieved in school, IB and 4.0 gpa. she also went in state to a very, great school. do you know how hard it was to be accepted this year? very. she obtained all but $4,000 in scholarships and finanical aid, for the first year. i’m trying to say, listen to the kid, insist on at least 1 SAT. if he wants to go in a way other than what you believe, then it will be ok.
i’m all for a college education for my kids. but i would never put pressure on one of my kids. life is not about what you do, it’s liking what you do.
my point is, my husband and i have raised 3 great smart, witty kids with a good outlook on thier future. and we did it with love, not with a college degree. :)

Anonymous October 14, 2010, 4:46 PM

Well since no one else has said this yet, I will. My oldest is 15 and we have also always said that our kids are going to college. My son has said in this year alone that he wants to go into the military right after school, then he said that he wants to be in the forsenic field and then just last month he said that maybe he will attend culinary school. Point is, he is 15 and he changes his mind all the time. Your son is just a little bit older. Who knows what he will say next week, next month or next year so just relax about it for awhile.

renee October 14, 2010, 6:13 PM

he needs some sort of school whether its college or technical. does he have any idea what it costs to live?car insurance? food? etc when he is on his own. in our house you get to stay here for as long as u want BUT u have to go to school AND work for your car,fun money and your education. if you dont so these things…leave,and it isnt fun just ask my stepson who didnt do what we asked.he now makes $8 hr and had to go live with his mom and he is in his 20s.

Robin October 14, 2010, 9:11 PM

You need to approach this without bossing him into it. If he doesn’t want to be there he will get nothing out of it. Arm yourself with knowledge. Gather information on all of the ways he can go to school without incurring too much debt. Scholarships, grants, ROTC. Look into his current interests and extracurricular he could add. I fenced in HS and could have applied for scholarships. Involve him every step of the way. Research Majors and careers they can be applied to so he can maximize his time at college.

Anonymous October 15, 2010, 6:07 AM

My husband has a trade licence in the Electrical Field

Proving that you need college or trade skill - something more than a high school degree.

Havok October 16, 2010, 7:17 AM

I am eighteen years old, fresh out of high school, and already working a good, stable job. I’m paying my own rent, car payments, insurance, etc. I have no education further than my high school diploma. Frankly, your son is going to be fine, but you’ll be lucky if he speaks to you again.

Anonymous October 16, 2010, 3:40 PM

We have a lot of money set up for our kids college and they both know that if they don’t go…momma gets a beach house!

Anonymous October 18, 2010, 5:45 AM

Ah, doesn’t want college, but wants the nest egg? Tell him to go save his own then - see how well that goes without trade school or a college degree.

Susan October 19, 2010, 2:44 AM

Sure glad you weren’t not MY parents. You want everything on your terms. He has to go to college, but you won’t be helping much financially.. You want him to learn what it’s like to be an adult but with a diploma. If he doesn’t do what you want, you’re going to kick him out of the house on the day he graduates if he isn’t going to college like you want him to.

If I had as seemingly little support from my parents as you seem to have to offer your own son, I would be scared witless about my future.

“Tough love” isn’t my parenting tool of choice but I haven’t had need to use it. The problem I have with your post is that after reading it, I’m not convinced you have any need to use it either.

And lest you question my “credentials” I am the mother of a freshman girl who is attending her dream college with the help of federal loans, parental monies, and a part-time job. My plan is to pay out less of my own meager pocket next year. My daughter knows this and has been researching scholarship and loan options, job options, and is applying to be an RA in her dorm next year because it means free board. And she’s doing this because she is resourceful and thoughtful. I taught her that.

marinac1 October 19, 2010, 2:45 AM

Neither of my husband’s two children wanted to go to college, yet in my family NOT going wasn’t even an option. My stepson finally DID go to college and he graduated AND got a great job right away.(He was lucky in having studied computer science). Now my stepdaughter doesn’t want to go..well she says she does because her friends are going, but she’s always hated school. My husband’s comment to that is that some people just aren’t cut out for college and that someone HAS to make the fries at the fastfood place, and someone HAS to clean up hotel rooms….I guess some people truly aren’t cut out for college.I thought about it long and hard, and it’s true..some people do have to do all the other jobs out there that need no college education. AS for pushing your son out of the nest if he doesn’t go to college, I wholeheartedly agree. If he wants to act like he’s a responsible adult, then he should take on ALL the responsibilities of an adult…Good luck!

Anonymous October 19, 2010, 3:00 AM

I think when kids are smart and do well in high school but don’t want to go to college, that is just a sign of immaturity (he still has some growing up to do). 9 times out of 10, after the child matures a little, they realize they decide to go to college. My sister went to college, then flunked her second semester then dropped out all together. She then got married at age 20 and now she wants to go back to college.

My parents didn’t pay for my school, although they paid for my sister’s. Now as I begin graduate school, I KNOW I will have a lot to repay. So I have vowed that when I have kids, I will pay for their school, because it is stressful for a teen to begin adulthood with debt. I wish my parents had paid for my education (at least some of it) but it all boils down to how bad I want it.

Julie October 19, 2010, 3:12 AM

My son is in college and we are paying for it. Your son is right, you should be paying for it and the government will make you. There are so few scholarships out there, you’ll be doing loans and they’re parent loans. Your income will be the base income until he’s 22. After 22 (and not living with you) then he can be considered on his wages.

Sounds like both of you need to spend some time looking into the way things are now, not when you went.

Vicki October 19, 2010, 5:09 AM

There are so many careers out there they do not require 4 years of college. There are trade schools, mentor programs, military, online college, etc. Visit some trade schools, look up salaries, he has his whole life to change his mind. Also, I just read an article from an investment magazine that said 10 good reasons NOT to send your kid to college and one of the ideas was college is going to cost around $100K so give your kid that money to start their own business.

Lorilyn October 19, 2010, 5:26 AM

I have 4 children 2 graduated college one in his first year. the 1st one who was a b-c student said “i dont want to go” i said you are going to go but if after the first year you dont like it you could take a gap year but you have to have a job waiting so you could pay your monthly bills…turned out he LOVED college and did the 4 years. this one in college now goes to an IVY LEAGUE school between the loans and scholarships he wouldnt want to be anywhere else and we DONT make good $$ at all he needs to experience this and you need to be supportive!

Sharon October 19, 2010, 5:40 AM

You take back the money by not actually putting it in an account with your child’s name on it. You don’t have to open an account in their name to save money for them.

Suzan October 19, 2010, 6:19 AM

The workforce and way of life for the next 50 years or so will look vastly different from what we’ve experienced. Our middle class has been shrinking since the 70s, and the single most important difference between the remaining “haves” and “have nots” is educational level. Those with higher education earn more, suffer unemployment less often, and have more flexibility throughout life.

If you want to help set your child up for this new future, higher education is mandatory. And in this vein, I think parents should do everything they possibly can to pay for it. Treat it as a cost of raising a child. A child can go on to be an artist, or a musician, or learn a completely new trade. But first get the bachelors degree (at least). Otherwise, they have a high risk of struggling forever just to make ends meet. And don’t we all want better lives for our children than what we experienced ourselves?

Mother of 3 and College Student October 19, 2010, 6:22 AM

I am a mother of three and a full-time student. Plus on top of that I am 30 years old. I wasn’t ready after highschool to go to school. Shoot I dropped out of highschool because I was in such a hurry to grow up. My parents both had well paying highly respected jobs and stressed very much that their desire was for me to complete school and continue college.
Finally at the age of 24 I received my GED and started college, and I quit. Then a year ago something hit me like a rock and told me that I needed this degree and I went back to college and I am in my sophmore year, with a 3.58 GPA. Sure things might have been a little easier on myself, my children and my family as a whole if I would have done it earlier.

But my point is my parents never once said that they would kick me out because of my lack of going to school. What they did do is show support and love and understanding (although they didnt understand it at all!) But they let me ride in life with my own choices and now I am a better person and I know what’s in the world with and without an education. I wish for my children to go to college someday also, but in return I will support them no matter any choice they make, thats what unconditional love is about.

In my opinion support your son, stand behind him. Let him make his choices for it’s his life once he’s 18. To many parents push and push their children these days and don’t stop to think that they have a mind of their own just as we did when we were young, and just because he isn’t on the same page as you were at that age, doesn’t make you any better then him, or him any worse then someone with a higher education.

The age that he is right you, what you say, what you do, and what you show, Will make a dramatic change in his life. So support your son for who he is, and remember he is YOUR SON! Don’t pass judgment on him, it’s not your place or anyone else’s……

Blessings


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