What to Say When Your Teen Doesn’t Want to Go To College

What to Say if Your Teen Doesn't Want to Go to College (image)

Liz Greene headshot (image)Liz Greene
Blogger | Former Pre-K Teacher
Liz’s Blog | Twitter


Teens today face an extremely difficult decision — whether or not it’s worth it to go to college. The present state of higher education in the U.S. is understandably terrifying. The majority of college students have to take out student loans in order to afford tuition, and with the average cost of a bachelor’s degree coming in at $46,000, that’s a significant amount of debt to be starting their adult lives with. What makes it even worse is, all too often, the jobs they obtain after graduating don’t pay enough to make the cost of the degree worthwhile.

What to Say When Your Teen Doesn't Want to Go to CollegeNonetheless, if you consider college to be the best option for your child — and if they tell you that it’s not in the cards — your first reaction might be to fly off the handle. However, it’s important to get a handle on your emotions and resist lecturing them. Instead, ask why they’ve made this decision. Actively listen to their point of view, and ask questions to determine what circumstances have led them down this path. Then you can offer them guidance based around their answers.

If They Need a Break

If your teen is overwhelmed and exhausted (13 years of schooling can do that to a person), it may be in their best interest to take a year off between high school and college. Not only will this allow them to rest and regroup, it’s also a good time to travel or do community service before the responsibilities of life make difficult to do so.

There are a number of community service organizations that offer teens chance to hone their skills — and a few of them even offer educational grants! If your child does decide to go to school after their gap year, having been involved in community service projects can prove to be an advantage when it comes to admissions.

If your teen would rather not spend their year in service, you can allow them to continue living at home. However, in order to help them develop important life skills, it may be wise to set some expectations such as continuous employment, contributing to household expenses, and occasionally preparing meals.

If They Just Want to Work

Your teen might be at the point where they’re ready to enter the workforce — diploma be damned. Though you may be wary, getting a job immediately after high school has its benefits. Teens on the job learn a lot, such as how to:

  • Search for employment
  • Write a resume
  • Develop interview skills
  • Manage time
  • Interact with customers and clients
  • Communicate with co-workers and their superiors
  • Make responsible financial decisions

If your teen is able to break into the field they’re interested in, all the better. Nonetheless, any form of employment will allow them to gain valuable experience, handle greater responsibility, gain leadership skills, and of course, earn a bit of money.

Another choice for employment is the military — but this comes with some serious caveats. Teens will earn money, save for college, learn a trade, and become incredibly well disciplined. However, should your teen enlist, there is no turning back — and war is always a threat. There are numerous benefits and drawbacks to military service, make sure your teen considers them all.

If a Four Year University Isn’t the Right Choice

Your child may not know exactly what it is they want to do with their life — and that’s totally fine. If your teen doesn’t want to waste money flitting from major to major, community college may be a better option. Not only will it allow them to remain close to home, it’s also far more affordable than typical universities. They’ll be able to get general course requirements out of the way, adjust to college life, figure out what they’re interested in doing, and then transfer to a university and a major of their choice.

Of course, your teen may choose not to go to college because the profession they’re interested in requires a different type of education. There are a plethora of training programs and trade schools to support a wide variety of interests. Even the medical field is an option, as there are a quite a few types of nursing which only require two year degrees or online degrees. Other fields your child can enter include:

  • Aviation or Auto Repair
  • Culinary Arts
  • Carpentry
  • Legal Assisting
  • Graphic Design
  • Law Enforcement
  • Dental Assisting
  • Manufacturing
  • Accounting
  • Cosmetology

And that’s just to name a few! Trade schools allow your child to focus their learning on a future career, complete schooling far quicker than they would at a university, and do so at a much lower cost. Once they’re done with school, they’re already set up to succeed in the career path of their choosing.

Whatever your teen decides, they’ll need your positive influence to guide them through this difficult transition. Remember, it’s not the end of the world if your child doesn’t attend college — not all education has to be formal. Plus, this decisions isn’t necessarily final; they can choose to attend college at any point in their life. Stay calm, stay positive, and shower them in love.

Liz Greene headshot (image)About Liz Greene

Liz Greene is an animal loving, history studying, former preschool teacher from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, Idaho. You can visit Liz’s blog here, and you can find her on Twitter here.

View all posts by Liz Greene here.



2 Comments on “What to Say When Your Teen Doesn’t Want to Go To College”

  1. This is a huge dilema for so many teens. And alot of pressure. There needs to be more said about it. Thanks!

  2. Thanks every parent should read this what a great post,honestly i think sometimes parents put way too must pressure on their kids…we must remember how we felt at their age before we speak.

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