Bamboo grows quickly, but its flowers can take quite some time to bloom, much like many teenagers.
Their bodies may grow bigger. Their feet have quickly grown through kid’s shoes and well into the adult sizes. But this does not mean their brains have matured for such adult tasks as being academically, socially, or emotionally ready for college.
Our current system often forces kids of a certain chronological age to begin the college search process. Often, it’s without regard to whether they are truly ready for this major life change. There is no shortage of teenagers who, for one reason or another, simply don’t want to go to college. After all, they’re barely old enough to obtain a driver’s permit.
These are what I call “late bloomers”. Teens, who, for one reason or another, do not have the internal drive to take charge of their college search process (at least not at the time when it’s most relevant to them).
For parents, it can be an incredibly frustrating experience: How can you best help them? What should you do–or not do–to push your teens who don’t want to go to college forward?
While some students are ready to start planning for higher education even earlier than 11th grade, many don’t want to go to college. They do not express the interest, hard work, or dedication necessary to warrant the kind of investment inherent in going to college.
I am not advocating that we, as parents, should simply sit back and let our sometimes-disorganized teens drive this bus; however, there’s only so far I think we should push if the engine fails to work on its own.
The key is to keep your student’s options open
Many of these students will one day wake up and realize that there is life after high school. Some planning will help make this time more successful, especially if and when they decide that some type of post-high school education is important. Here are some steps to take with late bloomers:
- Take the SAT/ACT
Even if your teen is waffling about post-secondary education, they may well change their minds. If they decide to go back to college even a year or two out of high school, they may still need to provide standardized test scores, and taking the tests as a junior, still entrenched in classroom learning, will be better than having to go back and take them after a break from questions about geometry, algebra, and analytical writing. If they never use the test scores, oh well. Your teen wasted a few hours and a few bucks, but it’s a risk worth taking.
- Apply somewhere
Unless your child has repeatedly expressed an abject unwillingness to ever sit in a classroom again, they should apply somewhere. Perhaps a community college, a state school, or some other alternative that will potentially allow them to change their minds between the beginning of their senior year and May 1st (the date on which college deposits are generally due). This is an age of rapid change. The teen that starts their senior year in September may be a very different person from the teen who graduates in June.
- Don’t complete your child’s college applications for them–ever!!!!!
As a parent, it can be incredibly tempting to simply take charge of the process. But, don’t give in. You can plead, nag, reward, punish, cajole, or bribe even, but do NOT do the work for them. If your child cannot bring themselves to fill out a college application, should you really invest what might be thousands of dollars when they’re sending you a clear signal that they’re not ready?
Continue to support and remind your child that with education or training comes more potential for increased earnings. But, also remember that there is a significant percentage of the population that don’t want to go to college or doesn’t go to college right out of high school but who still go on to be very successful.
It may be terrifying to let your teen be in charge of their own future. But, remember that they will soon be adults. Your attempts to steer them in the right direction may be in their best interest. Ultimately, they will have to make their own choices in order for it to matter.