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An honest question for parents... re:Education

I've got an honest question for parents that I would love to have answers in the comments... hopefully it even creates a back and forth in the comments, a discussion. We will see...

Ok, Here's the question...

If your child graduated high school and chose not to go directly to college because they didn't know what they wanted to study, how would you feel, would you be disappointed?

I need to set some ground rules, because I want it to be specific.

1. I specifically mean they chose to not attend college. Not they couldn't get in, money prohibited it, they got strung out on video games and forgot to show up, for this question and your response... your child made a choice not to attend college.

2.  For the sake of this particular discussion, assume their reason actually is "they don't know what they want to study." Don't put in the comments "my kid would never do that" or "I never thought about it cause that doesn't sound like my kid" -- for the sake of this post, assume they did.

3. I have an answer of my own, but I want to see what folks say, I want to see if it reaffirms my thought or changes it, I wanna learn from your responses.

4. Please, on this post, put your responses in the comments here on the blog, not on Facebook or Twitter or Google Plus... I think it will make a cool back and forth... please?

5. No other rules... cut loose in the comments.

I would really love a ton of conversation on this one, I don't ever ask for this, but if you don't mind share this one on FB or Twitter or Google Plus or email the link. Please?


  1. Honestly I have no problem with my kids make that choice. I feel like it would be a good decision. I have a degree and honestly can say I will never use it again. Took 4 1/2 years to earn degree and I make more money now then when I was using my degree full time. I also fill like I really didnt know what i wanted to do so i just chose something if I had it to all over again I wouldn't have. My main reason for college athletics. I slow was the first of a very large family on both sides to go to college so it was a big deal. I believe there are really successful people all around me without college degrees. And a lot of really not so bright with degrees. I personally don't feel I would have a problem with it. There is no reason to chase after the "American dream" I honestly dare my kids to be different. Do what makes you happy obviously following gods will.

  2. My children are still too young for this subject, but I'll try to address it from both sides.

    If it were my son, I would make every effort to persuade him to go anways, even if it were part time. It's so easy to get out of the groove of studying, going to classes and doing homework. If said young adult gets a car with a loan, a job and credit cards? The odds of going back to school keep dropping.

    From personal experience...I went through this debate when I was sixteen and going into my senior year. I was leaning towards medical or veterinary school, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. If I graduated HS without going to college I would have gone straight to work on the farm full time.

    I got lucky, my riding coach sat me down and talked me into applying to colleges I could attend with an undeclared major.

    So maybe remind the teen in question that college isn't just about learning. It's about making contacts and friends that will last your entire life, getting a degree that will get your foot in the door, eating Ramen noodles and all the experiences that come from going to college. If teen picks a college that has credits that transfer to a lot of other schools have her/him go undeclared and get the English/Maths/Arts/Filler classes out of the way. Then when a major -is- picked all the stupid stuff is out of the way.

  3. You shoulda just wrote the post for em Nicole... I do want to note... I am definitely not trying to say that people shouldn't go to college... obviously it is an incredible opportunity in many cases. I am just starting to truly believe that many folks waste a lot of time and money going to college for the wrong reasons... and I think peer/parent and public pressure are the biggest reason for it.

  4. Danielle,

    I appreciate the comment, not sure I see how you "addressed it from both sides."
    Do you feel like getting into 150k in debt is justified by the statement "It's about making contacts and friends that will last your entire life, getting a degree that will get your foot in the door, eating Ramen noodles and all the experiences that come from going to college"

    Minus the getting the degree to get your foot in the door... can't all that be accomplished while earning money or volunteering, or traveling the world...

  5. First off, I would not be disappointed. I believe it is Ok to not know what you want to be when you grow up. I am the parent and there are days when I barely know what I want to be when I grow up! As parents of 10 and 7 year olds, my husband and I have already discussed our expectations of continuing education and have stressed the importance of it. With that being said, we have also realistically taken into consideration the "not going to further my education at this time" option and have spoken with them about our expectations or "house rules" on that. If our children decide to move on without a higher education, we will continue to morally support them and expect them to get out and work. The end all being... "Do something with your life, kid."
    Thanks for the topic, Cody.

  6. My niece started taking classes at a local community college and worked. Then she took a semester and went full time. Then she went back to working -- liked having money -- and going to school part time. Now she's taking courses online. She's taken 6 years, but will graduate this spring. She found a way that worked for her.

    I went away to college and truly went wild -- so 2 years of classes I didn't really go to and money down the toilet. I think I would've done better if I did it like my niece!

  7. I don't qualify (not a parent). But I always say that college is wasted on those 18-20 (dealing with new independence, etc.) Students are much more productive 20+ (I was). The key is make sure that there is follow through and eventually attend college .

    I would not have a problem with it if they had a PLAN. I would not let them just work or live at home ... they would have to agree to study or work abroad, volunteer with Americorp or some other reputable program, join the military, or have some specific purpose ( seriously trying to make it in music like a touring rockband, a real start up business idea, hiking the Appalachian trail, etc.).

    If not, you are off to school my friend.

    However, not knowing what they want to study is not a valid excuse. You are meant to change your mind and feel things out in college as you are exposed to more and more.

  8. Honestly, it would freak me out. I would want my kids to go straight into college from high school, even if they didn't really know what they wanted to do. I think college is a good way to discover new things about yourself. So I hope they would go, take the basics and learn what they are interested in.

    I'm always concerned that if there is a break between high school and university, that life can happen and get in the way of a higher education. I've been drilling into my kids already (ages 11 and 8) that they finish college first, then get married, have babies, take real jobs, travel, etc.

    But I'm weirdly old fashioned like that.

  9. Just remember parents that God has a plan for your children. Sometimes our plans don't align with Gods plans. It's ok to be different . I once had the American Dream and life planned for myself. Thank God that he smacked me upside my head and woke me up. I wouldn't have the freedom I have today if i would have followed my plans of the American Dream. Isaiah 55 : 8-9 love being a mother of 5 beautiful children. If i followed my plans I would have one boy and one girl. LOL. I encourage my kids to so and be whatever they want to be. Whatever that may be who and I to tell them any different that there is a better way. I also don't want to be their dream stealer. I use to squash my husbands dreams all the time and i refuse to do it to him, my children, or anyone else.

  10. Here's my thoughts on this as I do have a high school child and this topic has come up. Last year she had to choose our regular high school in town or the vocational school. We weighed all options with her, pros and cons of each school as she is determined she is going to be a big famous hair dresser one day and didnt need college. However, she has realized she has many other talents that come naturally as she experiences different shops this year. With that said now that she has an idea of what else is out there for her and has 3more years to decide, I am comfortable with saying I laid down the path of many options for her and what she decides is okay with me. If she was to choose to take a year or two off because she was unsure of what she wanted to do I would call that wise, although I would sit again with her and weigh all the options, pros and cons of waiting. I believe all their decisions should be their own and not pressured by a parent, teacher or society. It will be one of the biggest decisions of their life why get upset or mad if they truly want to wait & make a conscience, well educated decision on if its what he/she really wants in life. They could go right from high school be there for yrs and then say its not for them all because they weren't sure.

  11. If they had a sound, reasonable plan in mind and had proven to me over the years that they weren't just talking, I would probably be supportive. That very well may be because I was a great student who went right to college and did very well, but ... I lack ambition and was never career-oriented. My husband, on the other hand, has always been allergic to school, but he's a hard worker, is goal-oriented, had a very good grasp on his mechanical talents and was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to pursue a trade.

    The one thing I would like my children to have that I never cultivated is a plan, whatever that may be, whether it's a five-year plan or a life mission. And if that means putting school off to accomplish something worthwhile, I can get behind that. Being as opinionated as I am, though, they would have to convince me of their plan's merits!--Nora

  12. As a past lost HS grad, a parent, a college educator and even a transition coach for college students I have a lot of opinions on this subject. I can probably answer this question from many different angles but even if they all have a different starting point mindset they all have the same end result….get the student into college! These days more than ever our workforce has become the most competitive market any of us are a part of. Walking into a business and filling out a job application just won’t get you a job anymore. You must have the ability to compete for a job. Stackable credentials are vital (these can be anything from extra certifications, honors, accomplishments, college certificates/degrees or anything else you can think of) because we have to be able to set ourselves apart from the rest of the “stack”.

    If a student graduates HS and has decided not to attend College it then becomes more import than ever to give them the opportunity to figure out just want it is they are interested in. Colleges are starting to see this more often and realize the importance of finding a solution. At HCC students can enroll in a 1 credit hour course called Career Decision Making. If/When my HS graduate decides they are not going to attend College because they maybe uncertain I will certainly be enrolling them in this course. Even if this is the only course they take it is a wonderful tool to help them decide what they want to do or will be good at doing in College or beyond.

    From personal experience I know what this feels like. Although I didn’t take a break after HS before entering College I can honestly say I had NO CLUE what I wanted to do but I knew I needed to go to college and so started my college career. I completed 2 Associates Degrees, 1 Bachelors Degree and even my Masters Degree and I can honestly tell you it took me until half way through my Masters to decide what I wanted to do with my life. I worked full-time while completing all my Bachelors and Masters coursework I even got married and had two kids during that time frame as well. I did a lot of growing/searching during that time and was still lost, so can we really blame a young adult for not knowing what they want? I didn’t have the option (or if I didn’t I didn’t know about it) to take a class such as a career decision making course, I can’t sit here and say I would be in a different or better place but it sure seems like it could have helped! ;) It is a parent/educators responsibility to teach our kids to advocate for themselves and understand the options and directions they have are endless but sometimes you just have to search for them! We also must open our minds and see that just because you start one degree doesn’t mean you can’t ever change or build on those original thoughts/classes.

    Now, as I read your plea for comments I made myself a promise to respond but also to not read anyone else’s opinions prior to writing my own so now on to post this and read everyone else’s opinions!

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. @Cody....150K in debt! Wow that's a big debt. I have earned 2 AAS degrees, 1 BA and an MBA and spent WELL below half that amount for all of my degrees. They have opened many doors for me. Also if you are looking realistically into Education you will find that many people have the mindset that they must earn a degree such as Business, Education, History, Psychology or something of the academic sort. This is no longer the case. Technical Degrees are the fastest growing degrees at many colleges, especially Community Colleges these degrees with give a student tools to earn a family sustaining wage within the next 2 years (or less) and spend well under 5K to earn them. Also, with all the grants and funding sources available someone interested in the Allied Health field or Manufacturing can nearly attend pennies on the dollar. There are so many opportunities for students but sometimes their parents "ideas" are what is holding them back more than anything.

  15. Nope, I didn't address both sides because I had to leave before I could finish posting.

    Other side of the coin-

    I financed my education by going into debt. I owed more in college loans than I paid for my first house. Most of the classes I -had- to take per the college were expensive and had nothing to do with my (eventual) major. Gym? Physical Education? Art History? Let's not forget French. Everyone going into Veterinary school needs French.

    What did I do with this education? I graduated and made 15/hr in my first job. There was no way to earn enough money to survive and pay off the loans. I went into Real Estate and paid off my loans in two years worth of sales.

    What I do for a living now has nothing to do with my education. I write scripts for comic books, do some movie script doctoring and I've got some book deals in the works. All the contacts I've made doing these things have been made with good old fashioned legwork.

    If I had it to do over again I would still go to college. Maybe not to the same one or for as long, but the experience was worth it.

    My advice to my child would be to go to college. Yes, they could get the experience, knowledge and contacts by traveling and doing things, BUT if they don't have a plan for what they want to do, they won't have a game plan for the next two-three years either.

  16. I would support my child's decision. However, I would encourage them to engage in something that they were passionate about that could be developed into a career. I would also encourage them to maybe take a gen ed course each semester just to get them out of the's not REALLY going to college if you're not taking a full load. When they find what they like, they can get a degree in that field.

    There are so many people who get a degree in XYZ but never use it b/c they hated it and ened up doing ABC instead. So why waste the time/money on something you *might* like?

  17. 90% of people I knew growing up didn’t go to college out of high school. Both my husband and I attained our educations later in life because it just seemed the thing to do, even setting an example for our son. It used to be back in the day, getting a high school diploma was the gold standard. Now people are competing not only locally but globally for employment. I think it has a great deal to do with if your child wants to stay close to home, what are the opportunities for employment. Do those opportunities require higher education? It’s not really about what you want to study, it’s about how are you going to support yourself and does that means require an education? What about in the long run. I feel fortunate to never have had to worry about this question, our son always knew as long as I could remember that he wanted to be a Marine Officer, no doubt it required him to compete and attain a scholarship. So that is what he did and with current cuts in the military we feel extremely lucky he was able to attain what he put his eye on. I think college has provided my son some fantastic opportunities not only for education but socially, helping him become very independent in a relatively safe environment and make connections and friendships as a young adult. If this was already expressed in other post sorry, I didn’t have time to read them all. With all that being said, I managed to do ok without it and so have a lot but I did as I stated have to eventually get my degree to further my career since education has become much more available to the younger generation whereas it was never an option for me out of high school.

  18. I think most parents would encourage their child to attend college, but I don't think it is the end of the world if the child doesn't go. I encouraged my son to enroll, but he had to drop out for a number of reasons and he is doing just fine. Would he be making more money if he had stayed in school? Probably. Would he be any happier with his life? Maybe not. He has a good job and a wonderful family, and I have two beautiful grandchildren. In my opinion, that's what life is all about.

  19. My son is only 6 Cody, but I will say this: If he would come to me and say I want to go to College, you bet I would be right behind him with Self Confidence and let him know that he can do anything he wanted! When I was out of HS, I went to first day of class, couldn't find a parking spot, left and never went back! You can be very overwhelmed when going and very confused on what you want to do. My brother has a 4 yr degree that he never uses. I will say College isn't for everybody but can also say, I hope my son understands one day he will have to be a provider and possibly want things for his, vocational school, training or just lucking into a good job I will be behind him no matter what letting him know you can be whatever you set your heart too! For myself, I wish I would have stayed there and finished a degree. And for now in my life still don't know what I want to do, but one thing is I'm a mom and wife and that's the best job ever! Degree or no degree!

  20. The following response is only my opinion. I'm not an expert in child rearing, economics, or psychology.

    If I found myself in the aforementioned scenario with one of my kids, I would have mixed feelings. I think I would be concerned but not so much disappointed. Being honest, my concern would stem from the societal "push" for a college degree and not from legitimate worry for their fiscal survival. If my child truly, as stated, did not know what they wanted to do...I would rather they take more time to "decide" what they want versus jumping into something they will hate later. This equates to time wasted and money lost. As long as we are in agreement that said child would earn a living while "deciding" and not freeloading off mom and dad. With technology today and no foreseeable end in advancement, there are many ways for a child to earn money.

    I think we push our children into college based on our parents' or grandparents' mentality especially those who lived the Depression. Education was the key to success because it was so difficult to obtain. Thus giving the "educated" the better, higher paying jobs. (My parents drilled education into me and I ended up taking the wrong collegiate path initially.) Of course, this is not the case today. Education is easily obtained. Also, kids have WAY more options today then even I had going into college. As we age and our children grow up, we will see more of this mentality die out.

    So as long as Kid-A is motivated and ambitious in determining their life path, I'd ultimately be okay with it after the initial knee jerk of concern.

  21. While I am not a parent I am the person who should have never gone to college directly out of high school. The best advise I never took came from a teacher in high school...rethink your college plan, you're not ready for college. At the time it was a slap in the face. How could I not be ready? College had always been the goal. What was expected of me. It was why I had worked so hard for the grades, the SAT scores and ultimately the acceptance letters. I halfheartedly listened to her reasoning that I needed time to find me and what I wanted out of life before I should venture off to college. So what if I didn't know what I wanted to major in or what I wanted to ultimately do with my life. Who does at 18 right? Everyone else figures it out I'd be fine. I was so concerned about what I was suppose to do that is all I could see in my future for myself.

    It was a bad experience from the beginning. I was stuck in the general ed required classes that didn't interest me. In classes that 5 times larger than anything I saw in my small high school. Surrounded by people who knew what they wanted to do. I chalked the first semester up to adjustment but by the end of the second semester I was done. I felt like I failed myself. I didn't go back for five years. When I did go back I let myself feel out what I liked and wasn't concerned about anything else. It took a while but I found my way.

    Yes, I am glad I went back and got my degree but I'm not convinced that I am any further along for having it. It will take forever for me to pay off student loans. I have a job that I love but it is not related to my degree. I had it before I completed my degree.
    If I was to able to change anything and do it again would I? I don't think so. Each and every part somehow has made me look at things differently...that is education.

  22. Oh my, There is really no right answer and that is a choice the individual will have to make. And to be honest nobody will know if it was the right choice until later on in life. I would prefer they go to school even if they don't know what they want to do for a living. But, I would not be mad if they decided to go into the military or take a year and travel or explore other options they will not be doing those things on my dime though. They will have to learn what is the higher priority and for some it will getting a degree to parlay into a career others it will be trying new things or attending the school of hard knocks. As a parent we always want what is best and least heartbreaking for our children but in reality we don't know any more than they do about what will be the outcome of any situation.

  23. Well being a parent to two sons who could not be more different. One chose not to go to college, he joined the Army like his father. Then my youngest was asked to go to the RHP (Resident's Honors Program) across country. The youngest wanted to be a neurosurgeon in Kindergarten. He could spell it and knew what they did we even looked it up in the Encycolpedia to see how long it would take. When I picked him up one day in the 8th grade he asked me if he could change college majors. I said of course and asked "What are you changing to and why?" He said "Politics and Law because I think I can help more people that way." He has tried to encourage his brother to get a degree. But it has fallen on deaf ears. The youngest has degrees from high ranking top tier schools and is now in law school. Thank God my children were older so they got or could have used scholarships. My youngest has always worked his way through school otherwise I would have never been able to afford his education. So did I force the oldest to go to college? No. Am I proud of both of them. Yes I am. I am the proud mother of Veteran of the recent wars and proud mother of a son from nowhere USA who made it to top schools. Though I will admit the first year when the youngest should have been a senior in high school and the oldest in Iraq, I prayed constantly and could not tell you the time of time because of the time zone difference and waiting for any communication possible from both. In case you wonder why I am using the word I. My ex and I are divorced. He of course favors the one who followed him and not to quote him "the nerd". I support my children and have no problem telling them when I disagree. Would I have liked to seen both go to college? Yes, but my oldest was always a hands on kid.


I love the discussion in the comments.. so... GO FOR IT!

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