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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
Anonymous October 20, 2010, 7:31 AM

18. To many parents push and push their children

actually too many parents coddle their children now and that’s why 25, 26, 27 year olds are still living at home.

Anonymous October 20, 2010, 7:36 AM

He didn’t choose to be born so he shouldn’t be forced to go to college.

With that “logic” I guess he never needs to get a job or move out, ya know, since he didn’t choose to be born. His parents can just support him forever. I certainly hope you never forced your kids to go to grammar school or high school -since ya know, they didn’t choose to be born. Oh, and no chores, since they didn’t choose to be born.

And we wonder where the sense of self-entitlement comes from?

Flowspoon October 20, 2010, 10:01 AM

Remember the psychology of disallowing candy to your child, and the child then wanting nothing BUT candy? It seems to me that you put so much emphasis on your son “serving time” in college that it sounds unappealing. And what is wrong with letting your son live at home while he works for a year to save up for college or trade school? He’ll have a chance to see what interests him, and get a taste of what it’s like to be self-sufficient - have him help with the bills. Sheesh.

Traci Titus October 20, 2010, 10:10 AM

My son is not happy about going off to college next year, however, he knows how important it is for his future. My husband and I did NOT pay for his car, he worked and saved himself. He also has to pay for his own auto insurance. By encouraging him to get a part time job at 15 yrs. old he has really come down a peg or two on the “entitled” mindset kids seem to always have. Hopefully, he will have a great college experience just as his father and I did.

anonymous October 20, 2010, 1:14 PM

Even if you have a trade it is a great idea to get educated in how to run a business. Learn to manage and plan. Hire others and make good decisions. There is so much more to a college education than just a degree.

IRJessica October 20, 2010, 7:45 PM

Find a cousin, kid of a friend, anyone that is 19 years old or 20 and in college. Let your boy skip a day of high school to spend the day on the college campus, going to classes, meeting the students. I think that will show him college is awesome. It is not just more of high school (which most of us can agree is terrible!). Good luck motivating your boy!

IRJessica October 20, 2010, 7:51 PM

One more thought- one tour in the military could give him time to mature. It really makes clear the difference in lifestyle between a HS education and college degree. Then he can choose with knowledge, and it buys him some time if he isn’t ready to continue his education at 18 years old.

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