Not Interested in College

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  • Kid not into college,trying not to compare

    (14 replies)

    My sweet, bright high school son is a medium achiever and not a club starter, not an athlete, not a musician, not interested in AP classes, and not too interested in college. He likes video games and has two friends. He does the bare minimum to earn Cs in school. He’s not depressed, just….chill. We’re a pretty happy family though. The pandemic made him disengage from school even more. But I’m in a social group where many parents are sending their kids off to Ivy League, the UC system, or play water polo etc and that’s not happening for us. The pressure gets intense at times, with conversations about test scores, GPAs, admission status, applications, trips to colleges all over the US, etc.As a mom, I feel frustrated and angry. Not at my son, although there’s some frustration there, but mostly at the other parents who and talk and talk and brag and are so very invested in the status and academics of their children. Maybe I’m jealous, I very willingly admit that’s a possibility. But I also feel frustrated that one of the only measures of success for young people is through college. I wish people talked more about medium scoring children, or kids who are disengaged from school, or other routes to success besides Yale, Harvard, or UCB. Anyone else have this experience?

    Oh yesssss!!! It happened to me as well. I just tried to keep my sense of humor about it and recognize that while I was definitely envious of these high achievers, I also needed to trust that my child’s growth will be on their own terms. 
    Practical suggestions- leave the conversation when it starts in this direction. Redirect. Or at some point you could even say “ gee I am so torn hearing all of this cause John is just on his own path and it makes me feel like a “ less than” parent.”

    And as my final thought- my daughter ended up at Chico state- had a great time- joined a sorority and met tons of lovely kids. She thrived there and  is now a top exec at a high tech firm earning more money than I ever have! And 
    my son never graduated from his state college ( first in our families to not get a degree) and he is doing his own thing and happy with his choice. 

    good luck! So many paths to happiness and so many ideas of what success looks like!

    Yes!  I feel you completely on this topic.  I am the mother of a great young lady who just graduated high school.  My daughter is smart, level-headed, choosy about her friends, not interested in ANY kind of competitive sports, and is a quiet introvert.  She loves being smart and feels pride in this aspect of herself, HOWEVER she seems to see no value in scoring well on tests or challenging herself to "compete" for anything at all.  She just is not interested in the idea of competition, not even with her own self - to push past any limits.   She went from an "A" student before COVID to a "D" student in her junior and senior years and thus, didn't have what it takes to get into a good school, so she started at BCC instead.  She dropped her classes because she just could not stand any more remote learning, and is now on a gap year.  

    All of her friends have moved on with their lives, moved into dorms and are doing what my husband and I always envisioned that she would do. We are supportive of her but I have to admit that I somehow feel that we failed her.  Or that she failed herself by having the attitude that she does, even though she completely intends to go to college and get a degree (in something). 

    Thank you for your post, which demonstrates an extremely healthy and admirable approach. I have two teenagers. One is very focused on getting into a good college and is extremely anxious and unhappy.  The other one does fine (not great) in his classes, has a very active social life, is very physically active, and has zero interest in college. With just a tiny bit of additional effort, he could get his grade up to almost all A’s, but when I encourage him to do this he says that he doesn’t want to be miserable like his older sibling. That pushback from him was a wake up call to me that I wish I had had earlier. He wants to go into the construction trades, which can give him a very fulfilling and financially secure life. I am so proud of him. 
    I know that the pressure in some parent social circles is crazy. I hope to destigmatize parents supporting kids not going to to college, going to community college, or taking some time to figure it out. 
    I don’t have much advice for you in terms of how to interact with the parents you described. I hope that you can feel confident in your family choices and tune that stuff out. 

    I feel you!! Our kids were more on the college track than yours, but we live in an area with lots of high-achieving kids and hard-core, helicopter parents. When my kids were looking at colleges (def not ivy league or UCs), I started to pull back from certain people socially because they were driving me nuts. ALL they talked about were test scores, college rankings, blah blah blah. I started saying to people, "I just want the next step to be the right fit for my kid. I care more about their development and happiness than what sticker I get to show off on my car." That shifts the conversation immediately. haha. Also, I have a neighbor whose son has serious substance abuse problems. In a very serious car crash, in rehab a few times before he graduated, family therapy, the whole works. She was so freakin grateful he lived to even graduate, that she had no patience for the parents whining about SAT scores and admission rates. She was my role model. She was worried about the important stuff: her son's and her family's mental and physical health. So, not sure this response amounts to advice. But pull back if you have to, defend your son and your family's choices if you feel the need to, weather the storm because this will be so far in the rearview mirror so fast, you won't even believe it. 

    It sounds like my husband was a lot like your son when he was in high school. To hear him tell it now, he was happy in high school and  really didn’t care that his friends were applying to high status schools. He went to college right out of high school and partied at first. Then he somehow found his niche academically and ended up getting good grades. Fast forward to the present-he ended up going to law school (not a high status law school) and has a job that he loves. Our kids are college age now and whenever the conversation with other parents turns to college admissions he practically brags about his C-average and his academic path. Sounds like you’re a really supportive parent : )

    I know it's hard not to compare, especially when the ones you hear the most about are the ones going to fancy schools, but there really are plenty of kids out there who aren't going straight into top 4-year schools - they're getting  a job, or going to community college, or just generally trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. I think the pandemic has made this even more common recently, at least in my kid's peer group (class of 2021). Even in "regular" times, college isn't the right path for everyone, and I think we've lost track of that. Think of it the same way we did when our kids were babies or preschoolers and some were walking/reading/whatever sooner than others. There's no one right path and every kid is different. It's hard to keep that in mind when you're in the midst of it, but it sounds like your son has a pretty good outlook; I'd focus on helping him make some kind of plan for what happens after graduation - it doesn't have to be more education, but he should work on some kind of realistic path to earning a living. Beyond that, you can't really change other people. Celebrate their kids' successes and try not to worry about the differences. (For me, it's similar to how I deal with seeing friends taking fabulous vacations I can't afford or having more exciting jobs or publishing their novels or whatever else I'm jealous of - acknowledge your feelings, be happy for your friends, and then move on. Dealing with these feelings has to come from inside you, though, not through trying to change other people. If it helps, think of all the money you'll be saving on college - it's a lot!) But who knows, maybe if more people start talking about their kids' alternate plans it will help normalize paths other than 4-year college.

    Agree. I have teen/tweens and am trying to shed the ingrained mindset that equates worth with intelligence, achievement etc. and would love to know what alternative post-high school options are out there.

    I think cooking/gardening, construction/repair, non-violent communication, critical thinking, living a smaller footprint, helping others…is important.  

    Yes let’s please share ideas!

    I hear you! It's really annoying that all kids are judged on the same scale with college as the goal. My kid doesn't enjoy school and there's no way I'm wasting my money on college unless something changes. But there's no reason for him to feel badly about that. The world needs skilled labor way more than another paper pusher. My child has been judged and compared to the college bound kids since the beginning. The best part was when his kindergarten teacher compared him to the kid raised by a tiger mom who was lucky enough to be born during the window that made him eligible for TK. So my kid who was born 3 days too late for TK was graded and judged against a kid of the who had already completed a year of school. That led to my child feeling badly about himself and not wanting to go to school. This idea that there's only one acceptable path through life is just stupid. At the end of the day we need electricians, not marketing professionals and it would be nice if trade school was promoted as a viable pathway to success  

    I was an academic high achiever, BA from Stanford, MS and PhD from Berkeley.  The problem is what happens after school and its associated rewards are over.  I was never taught or encouraged to learn much about working with other people -- something I'm glad to see they have kids do now in school, much as my kid hates group projects -- nor how to succeed in a system where success isn't evidenced by something as unsubtle as test scores or grades. There aren't a lot of jobs out there that pay you to pass exams 40 hours a week. For many people, me included, post-academic success is pretty elusive.

    On top of that, a lot of the high-achieving kids you're hearing about are focused on things they don't really care about, and may end up in careers that have little to do with their real interests.  When I was an undergrad studying biology at Stanford, many of the kids I met were aimed at med school but had no real interest in biology.  And they were scarily determined.  No doubt many of them went on to become bad doctors.

    Of course you want bragging rights, who wouldn't, and going to a top college has a lot of advantages.  On the other hand, a lot of the bragged-about kids may be never again be as successful in life as they are now.  If your son finds work that he loves and that meshes well with a complete life, he will have some important components of a happy adulthood.  He may find a productive groove that will escape many of his straight-A peers.  In 10 or 15 years, you may be the one with bragging rights.

    You didn't ask for advice, but here's mine.  Encourage your son to explore activities and hobbies other than playing video games.  Unfortunately that's hard right now, with covid.  My kid (who sounds a bit like yours) has taken a skateboard-building class at BHS and will be doing an online maker's class -- these are things she sought out herself.  She has long been interested in product design and architecture, so these are good choices.  I share with you the icky desire for Ivy League bragging rights, but I try to keep them tamped down in favor of encouraging our kid to aim for work that she loves.

    I think you can be the parent to teach them that there's more roads to success- social and emotional success are not the same for everyone. Perhaps you could try it out on your closest friends- be honest about your jealousy and disappointment but also proud of the things you are actually proud of about your kid.

    I'm not in your exact shoes but I had a recent experience with my 18 year old senior that really put this to the test.  I realized (after I got over my initial shock, disappointment, rage, embarrassment) that I'd actually be ok if he took another route if he wanted-a gap year or went to a less "impressive" college. I really believe it. Part of parenting is letting go, isn't it? I realized that it's really his life and I'll love him no matter how it goes.

    Good luck!

    I don't have a high schooler yet, but I can see my family being in a similar situation in a few years. The humble (or not-so-humble!) bragging is hard to take! It's one of the reasons we're leaving the Bay Area. It might be worthwhile to check out the community colleges in the area. I'm a PhD and former prof, and have been so impressed by community college students. They're a wildly diverse group in age, life experiences, country of origin, etc., and the students are incredibly interesting. While the students I met there may not have been Ivy League candidates, I think it's because of a lack of socioeconomic resources and/or different life priorities more than anything else. It's also a smart choice in terms of transferring to a 4-year university in the future, having a chance to take a wide variety of courses (including trade/vocational classes!), learning about the dignity of all work, and earning job skills that can be applied immediately while earning a higher degree. Good luck to your son! 

    I know exactly what you are talking about. My daughter was a pretty good student but then completely disengaged from remote learning when the pandemic hit. And this was during her crucial high school sophomore-junior years. Her best friends on the other hand have excelled, going on to AP courses and community college. I thought I was in a group of parents that were more focused on preserving their child's mental health than pressuring them to get into the top schools, but I realize now that I was wrong. These kids are being driven so hard with studying and college applications that they have very little time to socialize anymore. It seems a little insane to me. It really feels like these parents are setting their kids up to be future workaholics. This has left me at times feeling alone, stressed, and very much an outlier. And most of all I really feel bad for my daughter. When I read your piece, what stood out to me is your mention that you are a pretty happy family. Hearing that made me feel like it is most likely going to work out for your son. Having a loving and stable home is so much more important in the long run to a child's development. I know it is hard but I encourage you continue being there for him as he grows and takes time to figure out what he wants. It astounds me how much pressure we put on kids to do well and to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their life. I think laying the foundation of love and support is far more important than bragging rights. But believe I have struggled with worry over the past almost 2 years. So hang in there, pour yourself a glass of wine, and give that kid of yours a big hug. Remember, mental health first. With time the rest is likely to fall into place with a loving family behind him. ( I'm happy to keep our conversation going if you want.)

    Your child could be my child. It’s been hard for me bc I am type A myself, went to Cal & then Stanford law & it’s been hard to see that he’s not driven in the way that I was - but I’ve learned that I need to just back up off of him. He’s reasonably happy. He’ll go to community college. I’ll have him home longer. I’ll save some money. I really liked the response from the adult child. We all just need to relax. What I’ve noticed is that the more I push him, the less he wants to do. So I had to ask myself - do I want to be writing all his papers, preparing all his college applications myself? And I decided that it’s better if he learns to do these things himself. And I can live through the indignity of the occasional B or god forbid C+. I had to retrain myself to not see anything less than an A as a “failure.”  I have to retrain myself not to be obnoxious like your friends bc that was definitely my first inclination ;-) Just to let you know you’re not alone…

    I remember those dreadful parent discussions so well from my first teen's experience, and now with teen number two I'm careful to protect my feelings AND those of fellow parents by never asking where other kids want to attend college, never saying what my kid's plans are beyond 'oh, he's making his own decisions on this....' and walking away from those awkward group discussions. It may be temping to hear the gossip about who is applying and where, but you won't learn anything valuable and you'll just feel bad about it later. If you're going out with friends, ask if you can make it a 'college free zone' for the evening where the college thing is not discussed. If you're stuck in such a group, excuse yourself as soon as you can - just walk away, you won't regret it, and believe me those type of parents won't be your long-term friends anyway. Good news: by end of senior year, everyone tends to calm down and respect others' choices. Good luck in protecting your mental health! You and your kid will get through this!

  • Teen Overwhelmed with College Decision?

    (10 replies)

    Hello.  My son, a rising senior,  is absolutely disinterested in college application related activities - starting from looking into colleges to making a list, let alone writing essays.  With every passing day as the applications are coming up, he seem more disinterested.  He had been working with a college counselor last few months but he has not been responsive to her either. He is a very smart kid, with excellent school and AP grades; and not putting his 100% towards maximizing his chances for a good college seem bizarre to us.  However, he is not interested in taking our help either with anything or discuss with us or talk through anything with us.  One thing came to my mind is that perhaps he is worried about making this huge decision himself - the first substantial decision he is making. So I was wondering if any of you have experienced a situation like this, and what did you do to help?

    Our daughter, who just finished her first year of college, also had good high school grades and many AP's, but was overwhelmed by the college application sweepstakes. She ended up applying and getting into U Wash, Santa Cruz etc, but decided instead to attend Community college (DVC) this year, which turned out to be a very good experience. The pressure was low, she got her feet wet and confidence up, had mostly good, available, conscientious teachers, and now has a 4.0 GPA.

    She had to endure some feelings of inferiority as her friends went off to Ivy Leagues, Cal etc, but she had such a feeling of success that it was worth it. Now she is filling out applications to "TAG" into a UC as a Junior, and is feeling confident and well prepared. This might have been an especially positive experience because of Covid restrictions, but it really was better than we could have imagined. There is an option for your son if he doesn't want all the pressure. Only thing with Community College is to sign up for classes EARLY and ask a lot of questions of the excellent counselors, in order to get the classes with the best teachers/ times etc (there is an app that rates teachers ). The other good option is UC Santa Cruz. Most kids with good grades from NorCal will be accepted there and the application isn't too daunting. My daughter's friends who went there had great experiences. The pressure is too much on these kids, and they risk burnout.  Once they grow up a bit and know more who they are, they are willing to endure more pressure to get what they want, but freshman year is too early for many kids. We were pleasantly surprised and impressed by Community College. It's one of the great things about California. Even just doing freshman year at a CC can let a kid find themselves a bit.

    I had a similar problem with my daughter, and after she finally chose and went to college, she was not excited to go an not happy when she was there. As it turns out, this situation was basically my fault. Here's what happened: I told her to choose among any UC or CSU because I thought that was all that would allow for no debt. However, there was no UC or CSU that was small enough, close enough, or accepted her for her intended major. She chose a large, local CSU and did very well grades-wise although was completely miserable and came home in tears every weekend. During her first semester at the CSU she started looking into some private colleges, locally and in the Pacific Northwest, and their costs and programs and class size. She found the type of college she was looking for, transferred, and has been super happy and excited about college ever since, the past 3 years. My advice is, please make sure you are not implicitly or explicitly limiting his options like I did. And go on some college visits as well; if my daughter and I would have toured some local and Oregon/Washington colleges earlier I'm sure she would have been more excited about the process. Good Luck!

    What's the rush? He doesn't have to go to 4-year college right from high school. If he doesn't know what he wants to study yet, it's a good idea to wait. He can get a job, and take some community college courses until he figures out what he really wants to study, then he will have a reason to go to college full time. Also, the community college transfer route to UC is great. Transfer is much more straightforward than applying from high school and you save a ton of money. I know for my kid, going through the transfer process helped him be so much more ready to get the most out of being at a large research university once he started as a junior, than I was as at 18 when I just kind of automatically started college after high school because that was expected of me.

    I haven't been in this exact situation but I would think about your bottom line. Is it ok with you and  with him if he doesn't go to college next year and stays home? What about a gap year program? What about two years at a community college? If that's not ok what about a CSU or a UC? With those stats he will get into some state schools and the applications are not that hard. Maybe you could suggest/insist he applies to UCs and CSUs (no essays), just do some check boxes for the campuses he likes. You might need to scaffold by helping him as he does them and offer a reward when he completes parts of the task. Another possibility is that he wants to have a summer break and will kick into gear once he's with his peers and everyone is talking about which colleges they are applying to. Remember that teens sense of time is different. While deadlines might seem right around the corner to an adult, to a teen it might seem like there's plenty of time. If it's overwhelming, as you suspect, breaking the task down and reassuring him that he will have good options might help. Visiting colleges that we knew our kid would get into and making the options more visible helped us. Good luck! I bet a year from now he will be about to start college at a great school!

    I get it! I also have a rising senior son who is less than excited about the college search/application process. One thing I’ve explored with him is whether he wants to attend a four year college or even go to college right after high school. He assured me that he wants to go and has slowly warmed to making a college list and working on some essays. Could your son feel too much pressure to get into what you consider a “good” college? I suggest starting with a realistic list that HE creates and work from there. Visit some of the schools he’s showing interest in. If he really doesn’t want to go, that’s his decision. My older son completed his first year of college and got an opportunity that led him to defer this coming year. Not my first choice for him but it’s what he wants and I’m happy for him. Best of luck to you and your son. 

    I was your kid, decades ago.  My family steered me towards some Ivy League schools, which I applied for, a bit passively, and I only got in where I didn't want to go.

    Meanwhile, I'd started imagining a gap year, and applied for a program to live a year on a kibbutz in Israel.  Many of the kids in the program were Jewish and exploring the idea of emigrating to Israel.  My family isn't Jewish, but to me it sounded like an adventure and an opportunity to explore socialism.  My family was worried and tried to talk me out of it, but I went anyway.

    It was the best thing I ever did.  As another non-Jewish girl commented, it saved her life.  I learned how to enjoy hard work , picking grapes, peeling onions, and scrubbing floors, and how to become a valued member of a team by working cheerfully.  I learned a lot about the world, and about myself, and I grew.

    While I was abroad, I applied again for college and got into Stanford, and later into grad school at UC Berkeley, so I can't say a gap year did my academic life any harm.  in many ways, the transition back the the US was harder than my first weeks in Israel.

    I'm not suggesting sending your kid to Israel.  I do suggest that your son's lack of interest in college applications may stem from a need to do some exploring outside the paths you envision for him.  A gap year in a challenging, nonacademic environment away from home may help him find his own direction.  Chances are it won't be much different than what you envision for him, but it will be a direction he chooses.

    I think taking a gap year is a great idea for most kids, and it sounds like it is really a good idea for your son!

    I used to teach at Santa Clara University, and there were many students who had gone on to college because it was the next step expected of them, but they weren't motivated or interested, and imo, they were wasting their parents' money!

    I recommend that you stop paying for the college counselor and tell your son you think he should take a gap year but that if he does want to go right to college you are available to help if he wants that or that you can line up a college counselor if he takes the initiative.

    And rest assured, a gap year won't hurt his chances of admission and may even help it! Of course, you will need to set some ground rules re your expectations if he continues living at home during a gap year, but I would wait to do that. 

    Also, I found that with my daughter, she went through a lot of changes senior year, so it could be that in 3 months he suddenly gets motivated and is scrambling to do the admissions thing :)

    We have a son who is a rising senior and we are having the same issues. He says because he has spent the last 1.5 years inside he feels like a 15 year old still and doesn’t feel ready for college. We are doing three things to help him:

    1. We got his college counselor to give him a list of about a dozen colleges she thought he would like, I made a spreadsheet for him summarizing some basic information about them plus about a dozen others people had recommended for him or he had been interested in, and got him to start signing up for online college tours/information sessions.

    2. We are giving him more growing up experiences — staying the night at home alone, going out at night with friends to hang out, ordering and picking up dinner for the family, learning to drive a stick, having him get groceries, pay bills, order from Amazon, buy clothes. Basically trying to give him a bunch of adulting skills even if he can’t do everything because of covid.

    3. I spend 1-2 hours a day talking to him about college and growing up and assuaging his concerns about whether or not he is ready. It seems like he has a lot of anxiety about it because of the last year and being able to talk regularly is reassuring to him.

    Between these things it seems to be making a difference. He is now taking some steps on his own and seems to be looking forward to it more. But while he has the grades and scores and intellect to do well at a highly selective college if he gets in, we have been encouraging him to not focus on such schools and to look at schools where students are happy.

    We have suggested he take a gap year but he feels like if he does that he will fall even further behind socially and in growing up so he isn’t currently interested.

    Good luck to your son. It’s been such a tough year+ for our kids and it doesn’t seem like this next year is starting out with a bang.

    My Son graduated class of 2021 and I can tell you that many kids are in this space! After the 1 year and half of COVID they just weren’t into it. Many have chosen the JuCo route and will apply to 4 year institutions in 2 years. Others like my daughter, class of 2020 chose a GAP Year and headed to JuCo this Fall as well. The mental stress of our students during these last couple years has just been something else for them! Nothing that I had to experience when I was in school. I say have a good chat with him. This is when he really needs to think through what works best for him at this time in his life and help to navigate that with him.

    Hi There: I wanted to offer an alternative view. I agree that gap years can be great, and that going straight to college is not for everyone. Also, COVID has complicated this for many kids who feel very disconnected to the whole thing. However, here's my experience: My son would not make lists of colleges. Would not visit colleges or engage in questions. Did well on the SAT but could've done better -- refused to take it a second time. REFUSED to apply to UC's, which nearly gave me a heart attack. Could not have shown less interest. Allowed CSU apps only because they really ask for nothing from the student -- just input your grades and scores and in one case list some activities. Worked on an essay as a high school assignment. Refused a college counselor. Finally, at the last minute, would only engage with me about colleges to apply to via text -- and somehow managed to find half a dozen common app schools he might be interested in (mid-sized, near outdoorsy stuff).  Fast forward -- he got in everywhere (he applied for no 'reach schools'), made a decision quickly and is HAVING THE TIME OF HIS LIFE. He loves his major, his classes, his friends, everything. You really don't always know what's going on in their head. In his case, it turns out he knew his choice and thought all the hoo-ha was silly.  Allow him some room to really consider taking time, doing some applications, and assume he knows himself better than we do. It'll work out no matter what he chooses. 

  • Thoughts on Coding Bootcamps vs College?

    (5 replies)

    Biggest con I can think of is lack of college experience (meeting friends, living in dorms, etc). However bootcamps such as Lambda School seen very promising! Am wondering if anyone else has kids attending or has any thoughts they'd like to share.

    The biggest con I can think of is being 40 years old without a degree, and needing one to move into management positions, or if there are layoffs 10 or 20 years down the road, and people with degrees are getting priority for re-hire. I saw this happen to several people during the 2008-2009 recession. While it is true that college is not for everyone, and skills/trades are needed, it would be a good idea to at least get an AA degree by the age of 30 to have some career options and possibly enhanced job security.

    Your question opens a lot of other questions ..... big questions about the purpose of college, what is an education, etc. I'll limit myself to the more practical question that seems to be your focus -- will my child be served well by doing a coding boot camp rather than a CS degree from a university?

    1. A boot camp will give some quick skill development. Don't misunderstand -- they can be tough. This is intense work - cramming lots of learning into a short period of time. They will help you search for a job, but frankly there is no guarantee and I've seen kids struggle to get a job despite a college degree AND bootcamp.

    2. This presumes your child really knows what he or she wants and has an unwavering commitment to CS. 

    3. The boot camp will help him or her get an entry level coding job -- which can admittedly pay good money -- but these jobs are not as secure and come and go with the winds. He or she will not be prepared to go into higher level computer work, to think more strategically, etc. Some companies might promote from within so even without a degree he or she might advance -- but many others will want the college degree and all that entails -- a deeper knowledge of CS, certainly, as well as the broader thinking and knowledge base across the board.

    4. 85% of college students today will work in jobs that do not exist today. Colleges are working hard to prepare students for a lifetime of different careers -- not just their first job. 

    All depends on what you want out of life.  College you get a rounded education and a degree.  Bootcamps you learn a skill and do not receive a degree.  Also depends on where you want to work.  Not having a degree will limit job opportunities and advancements in ones career.  These boot camps are brutal.  To be successful you need to be dedicated.  Expect to  spend 60-80 hours or more per week  If you can't keep-up or can't devote the time you will fail. 

    All of the material Lambda offers is online for free.  Or for $150 can be taken at a community college.  What you are paying for with these boot camps is the structure and to foruce you to complelte assignments.  Then have you looked at how much you will make?  Lambda considers $50,000 /$24.00 success.  And how much you are paying them?  Look at the one star reviews as the 5 star can be purcahsed.

    Have you tried programming?  Do you even like it?  
    Good first language to learn is Python.  Give it a try and you can learn it for free.

    If the only skill you have is programming, you should realize that can be outsourced to anyone anywhere in the world.  Once of the companies I worked for outsourced programming to Poland for $20 - $25 per hour.  These "guys" were really good. 

    Good luck 

    I know three college graduates that attended boot camps. It worked out well for all of them. They all have good jobs and make good money. I do think that four years of college is a wonderful experience, a chance to make lifelong friends, and a time to grow up a bit. But if your child is chomping at the bit to be done and get into the workforce, a bootcamp is probably a good alternative. Another idea is to  attend community college for a year or two before doing a bootcamp. 

    A coding bootcamp is great as an entry into the field for career-changers, but it does not replace a college degree. If you have a child who has no current interest in college and is struggling academically, it might be worth trying out Lambda (or any of a variety of other trade programs that might be a better fit than a traditional college program). But a college degree is still a prerequisite for a significant number of jobs, so it's worthwhile to have a plan for your child to pursue that path over time (community colleges are a great resource) even if he or she opts for a bootcamp experience to get into the job market initially. I will note that Lambda specifically is a very expensive way to pursue coding--you can find options for similar intensive training for a lot less than $30K. Your child might also consider taking a year off to work in an internship in his or her area of interest if the goal is to get into the workforce sooner rather than later, and then reassess at the end of that year.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


HS Junior Doesn't Want to Go to College

May 2014

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, 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

Daughters, 19 and 23, don't seem to want to grow up

Feb 2013

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: Best wishes!

Frustrated with 18yo son's job seeking efforts

Sept 2012

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

Left college after one quarter, has little motivation

July 2012

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

Dec 2001

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)

-- Linda

There is a website called 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, -- 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