What to Do if Your Teen Doesn’t Want to Go to College



It happened; your high schooler came up to you and said they don’t want to go college. For years you dreamed and assumed your kid would graduate high school and move on to the hallowed halls of university to solidify their future successes. Unfortunately, college is an expensive venture that isn’t always a guarantee for success, and pressuring your teen to go isn’t going to motivate them, it’s going to stress them.

But, just because your teen doesn’t want to go to college right now, doesn’t mean they will never go. Take me for example: I hated school. I wanted to graduate high school and be done with formal education for the rest of my life. Luckily, my parents were really supportive of that, and the only pressures I received about higher education came from my school and well-meaning family friends. I fell victim to their pressures, and went to college for one horrible semester and promptly flunked out. I didn’t want to be there, and paying to do something I hated was a waste of my money. I took the next three years and got real life experience in the working world. I was working a retail job, and knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I did, however, learn about myself and the things I did like, and the break from schooling gave me a new appreciation for learning and I went back to college.

So, how can you prepare a kid who doesn’t want to go to college? There are many approaches you can take to make sure all of their options are open.

The SATs and ACTs

Even if your high schooler has no intention of going to college now, they don’t know what they might want five years from now. Encourage your teen to take the tests now. Most schools require the ACTs or SATs, but taking those tests after years of not being in school is going to be much harder than if they do it while the information is still fresh in their minds. There is no consequence to taking the test if they don’t go to college, but a big benefit if they do eventually go. SAT and ACT scores never expire, but colleges typically accept scores up to 5 years after high school graduation. By having your teen take the test now, it keeps their options open for their future.

Help them discover a career path

Many teens don’t want to go on to college because they have no idea what they want to do with their lives, and frankly, at 17 or 18, that’s okay. So, they don’t want to get into college only to be undeclared for two years, taking classes with no direction, and then be forced to finally choose something so they can finish out their degree. That is a waste of their time, and a waste of whoever’s money it is. Sit down with your teen and have a conversation about career options, academic and non-academic. Find out their likes and dislikes, and suggest ways to make those into careers. They can try to find a job in that field, or even volunteer to get an idea. For example, if they love animals, you might suggest they volunteer or get a job at the local humane society, a vet clinic, or even a zoo. If they like this type of work, help them set goals to advance their career, whether it includes higher education or not.  If they don’t have an idea how to make their hobbies into jobs, just have them get any job, be it retail or food service or whatever; sitting at home doing nothing is not an option. Perhaps, like myself, they will learn what kind of jobs/careers they don’t want, and will be more motivated to continue their education.

Suggest taking free online courses

We are in an age of fast growing technology, and the world of online schooling is getting bigger and more accommodating than ever. Perhaps your teen’s hesitation towards college is the fear of the classes being too difficult. Now they can test out classes before actually applying to schools. Some schools, like Arizona State University, are not only offering a full and developed set of programs and classes online, but are also offering a global freshman acadamy so that people wondering what a college course is like can test a few out without going through the whole application process and making a monetary commitment. If they like the class and want to enroll in school, they can pay for the credits and keep them to apply to an eventual degree. If they didn’t like the class, there is no penalty, but they got a chance to try it out and keep their brain active.

Your teen not wanting to go to university may be disappointing, but it certainly isn’t the end of the world. Encouraging them and letting them decide for themselves is a great way help them empower them, and even strengthen their relationship with you.


Mila is a writer with a BA in English Linguistics living in beautiful Boise, ID. Her ambitions include traveling the world, studying languages, and taking pictures of her dog, Baymax. Connect with her on twitter and instagram!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here