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  • Stephanie Haynes

Why college isn’t for everyone and parents don’t need to panic about it!

If your teen has decided the 4-year college is NOT for them, don’t panic! They can still become successful, happy, functioning adults without that degree!


You stand facing your teen in disbelief, incredulity even. How could a simple question like, “So, what do you think you are going to do after high school?” have unleashed a torrent of frustration, stress, overwhelm and, finally, the declaration that a 4-year college is NOT in the plan?


You try to formulate an effective response that will change their minds as thoughts race through your head:

How on earth will my child be successful?

Where have I failed as a parent? Haven't I ALWAYS talked to them about the necessity of a college degree?

How could they not want to go to college?


The battle to change your teen’s mind ensues in a panic-tinged argument as you recount, for the hundredth time, all the benefits of a college education, calling out all the fun they could have and even dangling the promise of so much more money with a college degree than without in front of them.


Yet, they remain unwavering in their decision and we have no idea what to do.

So, we anxiously fear for our child’s well-being as they stand and choose the road (currently) less travelled, secretly hoping they will change their minds. We wonder what will become of them. Can they even earn enough to support themselves? We also wonder how it will look when we tell our family and friends our child isn’t going to college and treat the news as if they have contracted some terrible, shameful disease. We may even avoid social media, believing we will have nothing worthy to post.


The panic over our teens' decision not to attend a 4-year college after high school is real, but we do not have to give in to it because it is based on the false fear that success is only found with a college degree.

Let me tell you the truth: Success is not found in a college degree or in any other option available to our teens. Success comes from having the grit and perseverance to make a life to be proud of on their own terms.


We are not a nation of cookie-cutter human beings so how can we expect every teen to choose the same post-high school option? Nor can we sustain a culture filled with only college-degree-level jobs. Think about it. We have allowed so many careers to become “beneath” us that there is a massive shortage, and now we are feeling it.

Additionally, those with college degrees cannot get jobs as easily as once touted and so graduates are turning to learning skills for other industries, with the student debt to carry as well.


No wonder our teens are questioning the logic of a 4-year college right after high school. Shouldn't we be applauding them for the level of critical thinking this decision entails?


Since when have we become so afraid of the non-college road, believing it is a dark and gloomy path fraught with overwhelming struggle to the point that we panic when our teen considers anything else?


The American dream is NOT based on a college degree, but rather the ideal of being able to build a successful life on our own terms and no one else's.

So, if your teen is against the 4-year college for themselves, they are embracing the true Spirit of the Dream. That is something to be proud of, not panicked about.


If you find yourself in this reality, use it as an opportunity to help your teen learn to fly their own way out of the proverbial nest. Engage them in discussions about what they want to do, without pressuring them to see how a 4-year college can help. Ask them about their values and how they define success for themselves. Help them understand the costs of adulting and expose them to Apprenticeships, 2-Year Colleges and Certification Programs, Trade Schools, and the Military as viable pathways to building that successful future they want for themselves.


Instead of panicking, love them by offering them the freedom to choose for themselves what they want to pursue in life and equipping them with the knowledge they need to make an informed decision and then stand back and let them start building.


For more information on the options available to your teen, and how to have conversations that will help them build a successful pathway after high school on their own terms, check out College Is Not Mandatory: A Parent’s Guide to Navigating All The Options Available to Our Teens After High School today.