One of the proudest days in any parent’s life is when they drop their child off for their first day of school. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the first day of kindergarten, first grade, high school or college, there is a deep feeling of accomplishment that comes with knowing that your child is taking a new educational step towards their professional future.
So yes, when this same child grows up, becomes a young adult, and then decides that they no longer want to attend college, initially, it can be hard to take. Immediately a million questions flow through your mind like “How are they going to support themselves?”, “What are they going to do instead?”, “Do they realize how hard life can be without a college education?”
All of these are valid questions, but really, when has panicking ever helped a situation? Take a moment to inhale and exhale a couple of times. Then consider applying the following tips.
Respect your child’s feelings. A lot of parents will hear that their child wants to drop out of college and the first thing that will come out of their mouth is, “Oh, you’re going to stay in school. Believe that!” But when you think about it, how is forcing them to follow through with your plan for their life benefiting them? You may not like where they are on the issue, but every human being wants to be respected. Be open to hearing them out.
Discuss the pros and cons. It’s not discussed nearly as much as it probably should be, but the truth of the matter is that a lot of young people are not mature enough to go to college right after high school. After all, it can be a bit challenging to know what they want to do with their (professional) lives at the young ages of 17-18. So, if they’re seriously considering dropping out, ask them to write out a pros and cons list. On one side, there should be the things that they like about college; on the other, the things that they don’t. By looking at things on paper from a more objective perspective, you both might be able to see things a bit more clearly and get to the root of what’s really going on.
Come up with a plan. If after hearing their point of view, seeing that the cons far outweigh the pros and noticing that they do seem to be completely miserable, it’s now time to think about some other alternatives. Now, for the record, this doesn’t mean that you’re conceding, but it does mean that you are expressing that you’re open to coming to a compromise. If they’re not going to return to college, ask them what it is that they plan to do? Do they want to get a job? Do they want to go to community college part-time? Do they want to get into a community service program like Peace Corps or AmeriCorps for a year? Maybe they would be interested in earning some kind of specialized certification like the kind that you can get by enrolling in one of the top GIS programs. If you’re open to discussing some other options with them, not only will it calm your fears down, but it can also help to refocus your child. After all, college is the traditional plan, but it’s not the only one around. By not pushing your child about college, they may come back around to wanting to reenroll all on their own, when they’re ready. And that’s always when it’s best.