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My Son Doesn't Want to Go to College: What Can I Do?

Your child just told you he or she isn't going to college. Luckily, there are many options out there that can lead to secure, well-paying employment, even without that four-year degree.
No College No Problem
Updated: December 1, 2022
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To hear a lot of people talk, a high school graduate has two options: university or a life of poverty and uncertainty. Unfortunately, not every teenager wants to go to college.

Fortunately, there are more options after high school than pursuing a college degree. And many of those options can lead to secure, well-paying employment, even without that four-year degree.

Here are a few.

Arguments Against a College Education

Seriously? Who would argue against getting an education? Believe it or not, if your teen says they don’t want to go to college after high school, or that they want to put it off for a bit, they may have some sound reasons.

It’s Expensive

If you factor in tuition, books, and living expenses, a four-year degree at a state university will run an average of $112,000. Considering that the majority of financial aid comes in the form of student loans, can you blame a young person for not racing to sign up for that kind of debt?

Many students will carry their student debt for decades, even into retirement. So not rushing to enroll immediately after graduation may be a sign of maturity and wisdom.

A Degree Doesn’t Guarantee a Career

When fewer people went to university, a bachelor’s degree, any degree, set candidates apart from the pack. But one-third of Americans over age 25 now have a bachelor’s degree, and that number continues to grow.

Some degrees, like Statistics, Communications, and Finance, can lead directly to lucrative careers. Other degrees, like History, Information Systems, and Architecture, often lead to overcrowded fields with shrinking prospects.

It may pay to sit back and think before diving into a degree program.

Some Teens Aren’t Ready for College

Did you know what you wanted to do when you were 18? Me either.

Unfortunately, between college costs and the current job market, a lot of kids don’t have the luxury of pursuing a Bachelor’s degree for the sake of it.

Also, some people simply aren’t ready to commit to a Bachelor‘s degree program right out of high school. Your child may want a bit of time to explore options and to better focus their vision for their future career before signing on for four years of stress and associated expenses.

This doesn’t mean that they won’t ever pursue higher education. In fact, a year or two in the working world before filling out that college application may help your child to choose the right program the first time, and to stick with it.

Alternatives to College and University

Alternatives to College

So, if going back to school full-time immediately isn’t in the cards, what’s a teen to do? Actually, there’s quite a lot they can do.

Taking a Gap Year

The term “gap year” may bring to mind visions of idle young people partying in exotic locations on their parents’ dime. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In addition to providing an important mental health break, especially if high school was academically intensive, a gap year in the working world can provide valuable experience.

Check out these stats:

  • Students who take time out in the “real world” before going to college often do better when they do go to university.
  • In one survey, 60 percent of students who took a year off after high school reported taking their academics more seriously afterward.
  • Another 60 percent reported that a year off helped them to have a clearer idea of what they wanted to do with their lives, and how to get there.
  • 90 percent of students in the survey who took a year off before university did go to university after that year.

That extra year, especially if your student is living on their own, can also provide an extra measure of maturity and responsibility.

Employment After High School

Employment After High School

So what’s a teen to do after senior year, if they don’t go to university?

They can get a job.

What job? Well, any job.

Even if it’s not their dream career (or your dream career for them), an entry-level job of any sort can provide valuable experience dealing with people. They may also learn specific job skills.

They will earn their own money and may have the chance to support themselves and live life on their own terms. Budgeting and planning are skills that will serve them well throughout life.

And nothing will make a young person appreciate their parents more than experiencing firsthand the ups and downs of being responsible for their own food, housing, and expenses.

Your kids can make contacts in the working world, and may even discover a field of work that they enjoy and are good at, which they might have missed if they’d headed off to university right after senior year.

Certificates and Short Courses

Short courses and professional certifications can provide individuals with skills and a credential, without requiring either a lot of money or a lot of time. These can prepare your child for work within specific industries, such as IT or health care.

It can be a good way of getting a taste of a field, plus a foot in the door. Plus, if your child enjoys the field, certificates and short courses can be stepping stones to further advancement in that field.

Some to consider include:

  • Patient care technician
  • Certified nursing assistant
  • CompTIA A+ (an introductory IT certification)
  • Global Travel Professional Certification
  • Personal Trainer Certification
  • Professional in Human Resources
  • Certified Professional in Catering and Events (CPCE)
  • And more

Part-Time Study

Just because your child isn’t doing a full-time, four-year degree doesn’t mean that they can’t continue their education.

Part-time study at a university or community college can help them to learn new skills and keep their study habits sharp. They can also explore different areas of study in a low-stress environment and at a lower cost.

In addition, many universities accept community college credits for certain subjects. So your child could accrue university credits at a lower cost, and potentially shorten the time to earn their university degree.

Apprenticeships and Internships


Not all types of education happen in school.

Apprenticeships and internships allow a young person to learn skills, gain valuable experience, and make contacts in the working world.

Some apprenticeships and internships are work-based. Others combine work and study. And if your child does decide to go to university, every experience will make their application that much more competitive.

Most importantly, though, apprenticeships and internships provide a path for young people to improve their skills and employability without going to university.

Learn more at the U.S. Government’s apprenticeships information portal.

Vocational Training

University education has a certain cachet, but do you know how much a plumber makes?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a plumber is around $60,000 a year, or $30 an hour. No college required.

Many vocations, in fact, will train someone with no degree or experience.

Some high-paying vocations with on-the-job training include:

  • Aircraft cargo handling supervisors
  • Airfield operations specialists
  • Bus drivers
  • Communications equipment operators
  • Fitness instructors and personal trainers
  • Concierges
  • Flight attendants
  • Automotive service technicians
  • HVAC installers

To name a few.

No College? No Problem.

At the end of the day, our job as parents is to launch children into the world who are happy, self-sufficient, and prepared to live their own life.

That life may or may not include college admissions. If your grad isn’t certain that they want to jump right into an expensive degree program, listen. And then help them to research their options.

For more information on preparing your teen for life after high school, check out: The Top 10 Alternatives to College.

Jess Faraday

About Jess

Jess is a qualified teacher who is experienced in teaching different languages and linguistics… Read more

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