Sometime at the end of my sophomore year of high school, I started daydreaming about what life would look like for me: I wanted to be my own boss, I wanted independence, and I couldn’t wait to go away to college.
While some of my friends stayed behind — or were forced to got to college by their parents — I didn’t understand why they weren’t as anxious as I was to be a college student. It never occurred to me not to go, and it wasn’t because my parents talked about attending college a lot. Neither of them went to college themselves, and while my mother was extremely supportive of my choice, she actually would have been okay if I didn’t go.
I watched many friends and relatives (who were forced to go) drop out after struggling for a year or two. They were left with low self-esteem and debt.
One of my good friends decided she would wait a while to go off to school. At 18, she had no desire to jump into a 4-year college and decided to live at home and take classes to become a Licensed Massage Therapist. And now, as a woman in her 30s, she is going back to school after having three kids and a running a successful massage business.
She’s always wanted a Bachelor’s degree and admits to feeling like she never measured up to her friends and colleges because she didn’t go when she was 18. But more importantly, she backs up her decision and says,” I knew I wasn’t ready, and I would have gone, had lots of fun, and probably been kicked out because of low grades, or given up and dropped out.”
Clearly, doing her own thing and working in a field she loved was much better for her self-esteem than going to college only to leave after a year or two.
I strongly believe in furthering your education, and I hope all my kids attend some sort of college after they graduate high school. But, that doesn’t have to be a few months after they complete 12th grade. If they want to take a year or so off to travel, work, or try their hand at their own business, what better time to do it than before you have a mortgage, family, and bigger responsibilities?
I can express to them how important I feel it is. I will help them financially, and will always support them, but am I going to force them to go to college if they clearly aren’t ready and tell me as much? No.
I refuse to fill out their college applications for them, pack their things, drop them off during freshman orientation, and then hope for the best — especially if they have their heart set on seeing the world or working for a spell so they can figure out what they really want to be when they grow up.
There was a time when I thought I would be that forceful mom, though. I believed I wouldn’t give them a choice and make them go away to school whether they wanted to go or not. My experience was amazing — it did so much for me, and I want them to have that, too. It’s even been said that a college degree can lead to living a more fulfilled life and that those who have one make more money. Who doesn’t want that for their children?
So, I will encourage them. I will take them to visit schools and constantly tell them how thankful I am for my college degree. After all, they see me use my B.A. in English almost every day. And I do hope it’s the path they choose, but they have to choose it. I’ve talked to too many adults who say they went to college when they weren’t ready, and ended up failing out, racking up debt that has ruined them, and leaving without a degree – or with a degree they don’t use.
One study shows that just over half (54.8%) of all college students will graduate — it’s a huge investment, and something to be taken seriously. Some young adults don’t get that — or want that at 18. I think forcing them will dilute the seriousness of their college education. They have to want it. But sometimes they just don’t want it enough when they are still a teenager, and that is okay.
As long as they aren’t sitting on my sofa playing video games and doing something productive like working, volunteering to make the world a better place, starting a business, or traveling and paying for it along the way, I’ll encourage them. Many successful people attended college later in life, and there is something to be said for that.