Not Doing College
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- HS Junior Doesn't Want to Go to College
- Daughters, 19 and 23, don't seem to want to grow up
- Frustrated with 18yo son's job seeking efforts
- 18-year-old daughter is directionless and uncommunicative
- Left college after one quarter, has little motivation
- 18-year-old daughter doesn't want college but not looking for a job
My HS junior (BIHS at Berkeley High) says he doesn't want to go to college. He says he doesn't want to do anything scholarly and would rather work as a mechanic or plumber or something like that. He's a B+/A- student (about 2000 SAT) who isn't a driven student but is pretty good at getting his assignments done. He views HS as drudgery. Wanted to do nothing but play video games, watch TV and hang out with friends (probably pot and some alcohol) during spring break and dreaded the end of the break.
In recent years, he's similarly expressed no enthusiasm for learning or school but had accepted that he needed to go to college to earn a decent living. Loved reading as a kid but no longer reads. I've expressed frustration that he doesn't put more effort into school, but I'm trying to get past that and be supportive rather than critical. I've expressed lots of concern that he is depressed and discussed the history of depression in my family (some very severe) but he insists he's not depressed and refuses to see a therapist. I've encouraged him to pursue his nonacademic interests, but he doesn't really follow through.
Personally, I was a very driven student in HS and I got into a top school, but I took time off after my sophomore year because I was tired of just being a student and also I was facing social and academic challenges. I had some great and challenging experiences when I took time off and when I went back to school, I got much more out of it. So I've encouraged him to wait till he's ready for college. (I also don't want to pay $$$ for college when he doesn't want to be there.)
On the other hand, I've regretted not finishing my degree at that top school, and if he doesn't even start out in a good college, I'm worried it'll be hard for him to get in to a good school applying as a 20-something, assuming he wants to return to college after having a taste of real life. And maybe hard to be motivated when he's out of sync in age and experience with his classmates. And maybe he'll forever miss out on the college experience of social/intellectual discovery as a young person. Any advice? Worried Mom
College is certainly not for everyone, and there are other career paths available. Mechanics, plumbers and electricians can make good money. Why not investigate those paths? They also require formal training and possibly apprenticeships. Community colleges are one place to start researching, as some offer certificate programs. Dig around online--I found useful information just googling ''How do you become a plumber in California.''
For some other career ideas, check out the Maritime Academy (CSU Maritime). Their ship is docked by the Carquinez Bridge. They also seem to have some practical career options.
I know it's very hard to get past your ideas of what would be good for your son. Maybe by throwing your emotional energy into some alternate ideas for his future, you can help move on. And you never know--he may decide he wants to do college after all in his mid-twenties. My husband did. Yes, he wishes he's gone right out of high school, but for various emotional and practical reasons, he could not. I also mourn the experiences that my children have chosen to forgo. My son who is very anxious has missed out on great things like sleepover camps that I think could make a huge difference for him...but I can't make him into someone who wants to go. feeling for you
In reading your message it feels like this is more about what you want and what you want your son to be, than about who he actually is or what the right path for him might be. If he is serious about learning a trade (from which you can make an excellent living) then I would suggest you tell him that he needs to start taking classes or apprentice himself to someone and begin to actually learn about the craft. He may find that it isn't what he wanted and develop a desire for academia, or he may find that it is absolutely what he wants and thrives.
Assuming that it must be depression causing him to reject the idea of college seems fairly judgmental of the life choice of people you rely on to fix your car, your plumbing, your heating etc. College is not for everyone, it really is that simple and not going to college doesn't make you less of a valuable person in the world. If your son doesn't want to go to college let him learn a trade and then as an adult he can decide whether or not he wants to pursue more scholarly education. why is a trade a bad thing?
You can worry yourself into a frenzy with this one. I relate! I was raised in a family where the expectations were high. Everyone-even my immigrant grandmother from Croatia-went to college. My son-however-is completely not into school. At all. Has learning issues which make it extra hard and even though he is very smart, his grades are VERY average.
Here is what I think. I think that we don't control as much as we would like and that your son is going to do what he is going to do. There is no shame in being a blue collar worker if that is what he really wants to do. However-he is just in high school. He has NO IDEA what he wants to do. Wait and see what happens when all of his friends are off to college, having their adventures. He might change his mind. and if not, how about encouraging him to do a gap year somewhere? That would provide a similar experience (being away, learning about oneself etc) without the academic pressure.
I know this is hard but I do believe that our kids will end up doing what is right for them in the end. And often that path is not the path we took. does not mean it is right or wrong.....
mom of 19 and 20yr olds. still tired!
It sounds to me like he's burned out and needs a break. He's a hard worker if he's got a B+/A- average, and now he's thinking about another year of hard work in high school followed by 4+ more years of hard work in college. That's a burden for some kids.
One of my kids burned out at about this time too. He left high school and then spent a few years at various minimum wage jobs, and tried out various scenarios for trades. After a few years of this, he began to see the value of a college education, money-wise and job-satisfaction-wise, and he was ready to work hard to get on that track. He's just finished up his two years at community college and has applied to the UCs - been accepted to one and is waiting to hear from the others. He's talking about grad school. It was a long slog and I often felt like a failure as a mom, especially when so many of his HS friends were going off to college. But he really did need that extra time to figure it all out. So don't throw in the towel just yet. all the best to you
I don't think you have to worry that he won't be able to go to college later. Many, many people go to school in their 20s and do fine.
I really wish I had gotten time off of school between HS and college. As it was in college, I goofed off, picked the wrong major and generally wasted an important opportunity to get a great education.
I recommend you make him do all the things he would need to go to college (SATs,etc.) but don't have him apply. That's the ''keep options open for later'' plan.
Let him have a few years of working. He will see how tough/terrible it is to be smart and underchallenged by menial work (his most likely available employment). Tell him the deal is work and pay rent to you or move out and pay rent.
The world of work has a lot to teach people that academics never will. I am great worker but I wasn't a motivated student until a part-time graduate degree in my 40s. mom2
I am definitely a tough love Mama. If I were you, there would be very clear ground rules, namely,.....college or you are out on your own. Strings cut. No financial support, and that begins the day of high school graduation. I have very few non-negotiables, but this is one. My kids can take up any profession they desire AFTER college. -Be the parent
Yes, I am very familiar with this one. I always expected my children to go to college, and they seem to have internalized that expectation as well. However, my son is graduating from high school, and he is not interested in continuing school at all, at this point. He actually really likes working. He is interested in supporting himself. He knows that we will help support him if he is in school, but otherwise he is on his own. So it's been tough emotionally for me, and at times I feel a bit ashamed and a failure, to say he will not be going to college next year. He has explored various options, including X-ray technician, dental asst, but is not ready. I have heard so many stories of folks who didn't follow the straight path of H.S. then college, that I feel I have to let it go. Instead I have worked to have compassion for him, I actually think it is a harder choice to not go to college, because the next step is not so clear. It takes a lot more soul searching. And I hold the possibility that he may decide to go to college in the future. Or not.
I heard this quote from Ariana Huffington this morning ''Live life as though everything is rigged in your favor.'' Which is the advice she would give her younger self. She says it is from Rumi. (It's rigged--everything, in your favor. So there is nothing to worry about.). As I searched for this on the web, i found another Rumi quote Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.
A wanderer on the parenthood path
Our daughter went off to college, not really wanting to. (She had not made this clear to us at all.) She was accepted by 14 of the 16 schools she applied for and got a full ride ($40,000 a year) at one of them. Off she went and was miserable. She felt it was not at all meaningful to her. She ended up staying for 4 quarters before we told her it was okay to take time off.(We had tried to get her to take a gap year but she had gotten caught up in the whole off to college thing.) In the mean time we got a counselor because she had become so depressed being in school. We made it clear to her and her counselor that we were supportive of this and that we wanted her to find what she really wanted to do so that if, yes if, she went back to school her experience would be different. We want her to finish school but more importantly we want her to find her passion and will support her in getting where she wants to be. I have to tell you her counselor highly praised us for supporting her and not insisting she go to college and said most parents aren't like that. I am glad you found compassion for your son's situation and agree that what he is doing is harder than heading off to school and I hope you can support him in his search, financially as well as emotionally. anon
I am at nearly at my wit's end with my two daughters, ages 19 and 23. They just don't seem to want to grow up. They both live with me -- I'm a single parent, and their other parent is barely involved. They have both been to therapy in the past and are not interested in going at this time. I don't think the issue is depression.
My oldest daughter takes a minimum college course load and resists getting a job. She doesn't meet expectations I set for her in regards to helping out around the house and also in generally taking care of her responsibilities.
My younger daughter is somewhat more responsive and helpful. She left college after one semester and she wants to work, and I expect her to work, but is dragging her feet. Past summers I've had to insist on an activity, like a community college class, but it took a lot of nagging and nudging on my part.
I need help knowing how to set boundaries and expectations with them in a way that will get results. I don't know why they can't find their own inner engine and motivation. My efforts seem to occasionally get brief results, then the behavior returns. Maybe I should go to a support group? Does anyone have a group to recommend? Thank you.
I really feel for you. We had some of these issues with our daughter, who needed a job during the summer before college. She would drift through the day and then get in the shower at about 5 o'clock and then say, ''oh, is it too late to drop off applications?'' Repeat, day after day. I think if you haven't experienced this yourself, it's easy to think you can ''make'' someone else do something. You really can't at any age, and especially not at 19 and 23.
But you CAN assess your points of leverage, and apply them aggressively. What are your points of leverage with your daughters? Do you pay for their cell phones, for example? Or provide a car or gas money? Your ultimate leverage is, of course, housing, but you probably have plenty of smaller things before you have to play that huge card. No job? Then no phone. No school? Then no gas money/car/etc. They need to experience that if they want things, they will have to earn them--not with chores around the house or empty promises, but with money they earn outside.
Do it cheerfully but firmly. ''Oh, you didn't get a job by the 20th? You won't have your phone anymore. That's going to be a drag.'' Make it their problem, not yours. Be consistent. You have to be willing to deal with some emotional discomfort, just like you did when they threw temper tantrums at age 5. Keep an eye on the long view: you want them to be independent adults. If they get mad and decide to move out, so be it. It's not your job to be their friend. you can do it: loving but firm
What I am about to suggest isn't easy. It is highly effective. I would suggest you may want to treat your daughters differently. Brain research has indicated that the part of the brain that is able to plan ahead doesn't develop in woman until about age 22. So I think you may decide to give your younger daughter a bit more time. We are not required to support our young adults once they reach age 18. At age 23, your older daughter is capable of being fully independent. Do you really want her in your home? If not, give her a timeline for moving out. If you are financially able to do so, consider gifting her with enough money for a deposit on a room and the first month's rent in a shared apartment or home. Make it clear that after that she is on her own. As one of the directors of Willows in the Wind, I have seen this approach work with young adults. You must be clear on your boundaries, not engage in dialogue about it, and be as neutral as you can during the discussion you have with your daughter about this plan. If you feel it is necessary, make it clear she is only welcome in your home for meals when she is invited (no sneaking in and raiding your kitchen for food). For safety reasons, some of us chose to continue paying the cell phone bill so we knew our child could contact us. Some continued to pay health insurance and car insurance. But the young adult must ''launch'' by paying for shelter, food, clothes, entertainment etc. on his/her own. With your younger daughter, you may choose to have a serious discussion about how living in your home is no longer a right but an opportunity you are giving her to prepare to launch. Make your boundaries clear, and make clear that if she can't adhere to them, she too will be asked to leave. Robin
April Wise MFT in Orinda has a support group called ''Failure to Launch'' which we attended a few years ago. It would have been helpful for us if it hadn't turned out that my young adult offspring has mental illness. But for common variety young adult inertia I believe it's a worthwhile group. It was helpful to have the feedback and experiences as well as continuity of the other members of the group and April was an informed and compassionate facilitator. The group is kept small (there were 3 other couples and one single mom). April also offers individual therapy. Here's a link to her website: http://www.aprilwisemft.com/SupportGroup.html Best wishes!
My 18 yr old who graduated in June 2012 has opted not to go to college and wants to work instead. He is doing some of the foot work to seek employment including going to EDD to learn how to do cover letters & resumes. I find I a getting frustrated with him, however, because I don't feel like he is trying hard enough. I know it is hard to find work for an unexperienced worker these days and he is a young 18 yr old but I find I am in this awful cycle of encouraging then nagging!! He is doing an internship twice a week to get some work experience but when it comes to job hunting he checks classifieds & craiglists daily but has a hard time going out and hitting the pavement. Does anyone have any suggestions?? (tips, books, mantra's....anything!?)
I would suggest he applies to temp agencies. My company hires a lot of people for our call center from a temp agencies and then keeps the good ones. Marina
My temptation is to say take lots (and lots and lots) of deep breaths and don't say anything, good or bad. Or at least stop nagging. If he had decided to go away to college or move out, not seeing his lack of effort in either endeavor would be a heck of a lot easier and therefore easier to not nag. This is the time that our fledging adults are learning to sink or swim on their own - develop that inner drive and motivation. To use a clumsy visualization exercise: imagine nagging as throwing sharp and painful things at him. He will therefore use a lot of energy avoiding them. Conversely, too much encouragement can be seen as him receiving rewards for nothing and might expect that when it's not deserved. If both are gone, he can focus on the task at hand. Now of course, easier said than done, and it can backfire initially. Do you have rules or deadlines? Budgets and related tasks that young adults need to learn and adapt to? Is life basically too comfortable for him? I don't know your family dynamics and atmosphere, but maybe you can have a contracts that put clear, reasonable expectations in writing (no emotion) and work on adhering to that? elena
The issue is: why do people get a job? What's the motivation? It's either: A) they enjoy the work OR B) they need the income Perhaps your son needs to have actual motivation,not just the knowing that he should work if he is not at school. That means you need to: A) help him find out what he enjoys that he can do as an occupation or career. This is really the best way to inspire the motivation that will not only help him find a job, but keep him going with the daily grind. OR B) do not pay for anything for him except the absolute essentials (food, shelter, maybe a bus pass.) Cell phone? Even my 12 year old can cover that with her babysitting money. Cable TV? Gaming? Car? Gas? Eating out with friends? To pay for these things he will need to earn income. That's what the rest of us do, right? It sounds harsh and I know teenagers today are used to being provided a lot of wonderful but nonessential perks. Working for them will help your son mature and grow. Good luck to both of you! Elizabeth
I wonder if the reality of the job market has made him reconsider his college application decision? If so, it's the perfect time to revisit that and apply this fall for next fall, or even take a course or two at a local community college. Then, this becomes a gap year and a time to not only get some job experience and money, but a period of exploration/internships/maturity, etc. That shift in perspective might help both of you right now and he certainly is not committed to go next year if he's happily working by that time. Pat
For job hunting I would recommend starting with a reasonable goal of perhaps 2-3 cold calls to businesses nearest your residence. then gradually increase the number of visits and the distance from home. make it simple. have him pick up a business card and ask for a job application. this way he can see the progress and track his progress. michael
My son starting struggling his last year of HS, having a really hard time getting things turned in, getting to class on time...etc...we dragged him to the end of the year where he graduated. We thought at the time it was senioritis and he would move on when he went to University. Well, it did not, and he left college after a quarter and retuned home to live. He had a evaluation which showed ADD with depression and anxiety, was started on 10 mg of Lexapro and seemed to do somewhat better. 6 months later, he is still spending most of his time in his room and with the exception of seeing a few friends now and then and his therapy appointments. He has trouble doing the things we ask him to do such as cook dinner weekly, take out the trash, etc. We recently asked that he either get a job or return to a local college for a few classes. He seems to have little drive or motivation to get back on any track and seems to be quite anxious still about the transition to adulthood. As a parent , I am pretty stressed by all this . Are there folks out there who have any advice? Are there parent support groups to go to for myself? anon
Your letter exactly describes my own first shot at college. I, too, had a lot of trouble finishing up high school -- I'd start off each year getting fantastic grades, and then I'd just stop going -- and then I nosedived in my first year of college, and pretty much spent the next year back home in my room.
Obviously, I can't say if this is true for your son, but for me, years of treatment for depression didn't work -- I'd feel better for a bit, but pretty soon I'd run out of energy. This would be followed by a nasty cycle, with despair about how I was possibly going to function in life when I couldn't even manage a day, leading to more anxiety, dread, and less motivation to get out and do anything (plus unpaid bills and parking tickets, unwritten thank-you notes, and all that good stuff). What HAS worked is finally treating inattentive-type ADHD as the root of my depression, rather than trying to treat the depression first. Adderall is frankly the best antidepressant I've ever taken; lexapro didn't do it. If I can organize my brain, suddenly life is manageable; otherwise, it's overwhelming and impossible.
Obviously, stimulants don't work for everyone, but based on my experience, I'd recommend finding a doctor who knows a lot about the ADHD/depression/anxiety complex -- preferably one who will do medication management and therapy together -- and to aggressively go after the ADHD.
Your son is lucky to have such supportive parents! He needs you right now, and it sounds like you're doing all the right things.
Afraid I don't have experience yet from the parents' side (though I suspect it's coming soon), but from the kid's side, I can tell you that after flailing for a while as a teenager, convinced there was no way I could make it into adulthood, I went back to college as an older, much more motivated student. I ended up with perfect grades and a graduate degree. Still terrible balancing a checkbook, but working on it. More importantly, I have a great relationship now with my parents, and I'm awed and grateful that they were so supportive during the hard times. As with so many things - it can get better! -did that
18-year-old daughter doesn't want college but not looking for a job
My 18 year old daughter decided not to go to school this year, 2001-2002. She had been working, but quit about 2 months ago. She's been looking for another job, but not very hard. We talked about available opportunities for her, but, unfortunately, I really don't know of any. Does anyone have or know about any resources for kids who didn't choose college? Internships, volunteer opportunities, community service, etc? I feel like she's floundering, that she really would like to be engaged in something, but is not sure what. I'd appreciate any help you could provide.
In response to opportunities for those who don't choose college, I suggest you check out Americorps on the web. They have a broad range of community service and leadership opportunities. In addition, I suggest checking out the site for Public Allies. There are many rich opportunities for those who choose not to go to college or to delay attending. Good Luck! Bella
Internships, volunteer opportunities, community service, etc? There are a number of opportunities, I think hooking young adults up with Skills Classes is one way to go-- for example in some junior colleges they have other classes than just the typical lecture class -- like music production, baking/chef school, working in a pre-school, like Montessori, massage school, sewing, jewelry making,sports, music, voice, dance lessons, etc.-- what are her current interests? That way she is learning a skill that will enrich her life, and perhaps get her going in a career or just juice her up to try other things.
- Nabolon Bakery (up above College at the intersection just 1 block north of Ashby- internships - learn to bake)
- Spun Sugar (classes making and decorating cakes and candies, etc.)
- Stone Mountain Fabrics (Sewing classes)
- Mechanics Class (Alameda Jr. College)
- Sign Language (Vista)
- Jewelry Making (Bead Shop on Shattuck near Virginia)
There is a website called successwithoutcollege.com. It was created by a journalist whose son didn't want to go to college. She has also written a book by the same name. You might find some ideas there for you daughter who doesn't want to go to college right now. I heard her speak on NPR on the Work with Marty Nemko program about alternatives to college. Laura
There are community service oriented travel organizations for teens who take a year off before college. These model themselves on the Peace Corps. Try Interlocken, 603-478-3166, http://www.interlocken.org -- it's the only one I know of , specifically, but there are probably more. If your teen is just not ready for college, but does not mind school, The experiment in International Living also offers international student exchanges, and in Europe, there is an additional year of highschool. Further, by researching ecology and wilderness on the web, you will find several service & field research programs for older teens -- involving tracking endangered species, worldwide; mapping tree loss, US, etc. Sorry, but I do not have the exact URLs handy. Costs on these vary considerably. Some are free.
Does your daughter have a marketable trade? You don't have to have a degree anymore to get a good job, but you do have to have a marketable trade. Mine is graphic arts which I learned in high school through the ROP (regional occupation program). I am still doing the same thing as I was doing 25 years ago only with more complex equipment (which actually makes the job easier - gotta love those computers).
Find out what she likes to do and maybe she could take a series of courses that would make her more successful. That's not the same thing as a degree. Someone once told me to get eighteen months of training (last couple of months) for anything and that will go a long way towards getting a better job. I've never stopped training since I started working (but no college). Technology is always improving so there's always something new to master out there. Look into the different trade schools. Perhaps she just hasn't figured out what she wants to do with her life yet. Marianne