The New York Times Motherlode column shared stories and commentary about children who are not going to college. It started with a request by the mother of a child “whose primary interests were in creative pursuits, and who is, at best, “ambivalent” about college”.
… “He loves to learn but heavy-duty academics are not something he relishes, so on that front, I don’t want to push him into a four-year college where he would be miserable and we would spend what amounts to a fortune from our meager budget.” College of some kind may or may not lie in his future, and she is trying, amid some support from friends and some judgment, to feel sanguine. “It would really help to hear stories from other parents whose kids found a meaningful life with decent work, without college,” she wrote, as well as stories of what children who don’t choose college do after senior year.
Many parents whose children are not following the traditional college path feel conflicted, and endure the angst of being judged by others.
College is not for everyone, and we should consider the wisdom of this statement.
… being intelligent is not the same thing as being scholastically inclined…
This boat analogy struck a chord with me. It is not only relevant to the pressure of “having” to attend college after high school graduation, but of the many other pressures parents feel when their children do not march in lockstep with their peers along the “smooth and quick” path to adulthood.
Amanda Rose Adams, aunt to a high school senior, wrote that she told her niece: “When you’re 18 and just graduated from high school, there’s a luxury liner waiting for you at the dock that will take you more smoothly and swiftly into a professional future. Of course, that’s not guaranteed, but it’s far more likely if you get on that boat that you will get wherever you wanted to go much more quickly and with less pain than if you stay on the dock and watch it leave.” But for students who are uncertain about direction, Ms. Adams wrote, “then it’s O.K. to not get on, to wait for the right boat for you.”
Contrary to what this mother wrote, I have found that gap years are becoming more accepted and even encouraged. But I partly attribute this to the growing popularity of the idea that our children need a prolonged period of adolescence.
“I am forever lamenting that it is crazy that in this culture we expect all 18-year-olds to decide what they want to be,” wrote Molly of Boston. “And we profess to saying it’s acceptable to take a ‘gap year,’ but that is not what my son felt when he made his decision.”
As it turns out, sometimes learning disorders underlie academic difficulties that make college unappealing.
Delaying or avoiding college can sometimes result from a battle with learning difficulties. Been There, of Tulsa, Okla., wrote about a son who struggled with attention deficit disorder, anxiety and depression throughout high school. “My son is extremely bright but at this point directionless,” Been There wrote. “We’re trying to steer him toward community college but I’m really not sure how this is going to turn out.”
Sometimes it’s the child who is hardest hit by the pressure to attend college.
Anxiety abounds for some parents of students who feel compelled to follow the path their friends are taking. “My stepdaughter is headed to college in the fall, but the hard truth is that none of the four ‘parental units’ in her life really think she’s ready,” E wrote. “We are all trying to be supportive (including scraping together the money to help her get there), but we are all very apprehensive. She’s not a strong student and has failed several high school classes, but since many of her friends are going to college, she is hell-bent on doing the same.”
If college is not the right choice, forcing the issue is unlikely to end well.
“Please encourage parents not to send their children to college if the children don’t want to go,” Laurie Cubbison wrote. “The students will work very hard at failing, if only as an act of rebellion.”