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My Child Doesn’t Want to Go to College!


As we neared our third child’s graduation, like clockwork, we began hearing the questions that seem to pop up for any high school senior: “What college are you attending?” or “What is next for you?”

One of the unintended consequences of these sorts of questions is stressStress because there is the unspoken pressure to be academically “excellent” (we’re homeschoolers, after all!). Stress because it seemed (to her) that her peers had their five- and ten-year plans in place, while she was still praying and considering what her future held. Stress because she simply didn’t have a clear-cut answer to those questions, and wasn’t even sure that she wanted to go to college. She expressed surprise when I told her, “You don’t have to know the answer yet. You’re only seventeen!!”

What if your child doesn't want to go to college?

Each of our children’s paths has looked very different. Our oldest, now married and in the military, knew exactly where he wished to attend college after high school, with scholarships and admissions in place by December of his senior year. Our second child chose to get his general education requirements out of the way through classes at a community college for a couple of semesters before applying to Bible college. He also took a semester off school while we were in the midst of a military-mandated overseas move, went on a mission trip, and worked. After a gap semester, our latest graduate came to the conclusion that taking business classes would help further her goal of running her own photography studio, so she is now enrolled in a business degree program. She’s also filled her time with volunteering and working part-time. And for our youngest, who will graduate next year? I have no idea what God has in store for her life!

With as much variety as I’ve seen with our own children, it makes me realize that the possibilities are truly endless for homeschoolers in general. However, it seems to me that much literature directed at high school-aged homeschoolers assumes they will score highly—if not nearly perfectly—on their SATs, catch a free ride to the school of their choosing, and follow checkboxes a,b,c to get there in a perfectly ordered and predictable pattern.

But I’m here to tell you that if your teen doesn’t want to go to college—either not right now or even not ever, you aren’t a failure!

What to do if your child's dreams don't quite match up with yours?

Here are some suggestions that can help you and your teen work through possibilities and reduce your stress in the process!

Don’t close doors

Maybe he maintains that he has no desire to pursue higher education right now. But that could all change with some life experience. So, continue with covering the basics and being college-ready so that if the time comes, the door to college admissions isn’t slammed shut in his face. Be sure she has taken the appropriate math classes and knows how to research and write a paper. Have your children read widely and build their vocabulary. Study a foreign language. And, if they still don’t want to go to college? You’ll at least have made sure their high school education was top-notch!

Explore alternatives

There are so many options that can spark an interest or help a teen with life direction: long-term missions, a gap semester or year, travel, an apprenticeship, technical training, working a full-time job. College is simply not the right fit for some people and even vocations. And that is okay.

Remember it’s not about you

It’s so much easier to have a ready answer when someone asks your high schooler, “So what do you want to do with your life?” It reflects positively on the teaching parent and even gives us some validation. But when your kid answers, “I’m not sure,” well . . . not so much.

Trust that God is leading your child

Allow for the Lord to work personally in your child’s life. It may not look like anything you expected or what you would have planned. But, oh, how exciting to see your children discover their own paths and fulfill God’s plan for their lives!

I’m going to encourage you to let go of worrying about others’ opinions, which should be fairly easy to do if you’ve homeschooled for any length of time! And, when quizzed about your graduating child’s plans for the future?

Repeat after me:

“He’s figuring it out!”

Jen McDonald is an experienced editor and writer who’s been featured in several books and numerous national publications, including Good Housekeeping, Redbook, and Military Spouse Magazine. She’s the author of You Are Not Alone: Encouragement for the Heart of a Military Spouse, a book for military spouses born from nearly three decades of experience. She’s currently the Content Editor for MilitaryByOwner Advertising.

Jen and her amazing Air Force husband have lived all over the world and are the parents of four grown children who were all homeschooled, including one who is serving in the military. They’re also brand new grandparents! Find her at her site Jen McDonald: You Are Not Alone, on Facebook, and on Twitter and Instagram as @jenmcdonald88.

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