Why You Shouldn’t Pressure Your Kid to Go to College

Those of you with kids in high school probably have college on the brain. You want your kids to be successful and happy, but there is a chance that their idea of successful and happy and your idea might be a little different.

Support your kids by NOT pressuring them to go to college

You want them to go to college, but with the pressures they feel in high school, maybe that’s the last thing they want to do right now. I’m here to tell you that the best way to support your kids is to not pressure them to go to college; it may be what ultimately gets them into college and flourishing in it.

Why parents shouldn't pressure their teens to go to college
Don’t pressure your kids to go to college right away.

When I was in high school, I absolutely hated it. I hated attending classes I didn’t care about, I hated the endless and pointless homework, and I hated the whole environment. I earned average grades because I didn’t want to be there.

There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t want to drop out of school, but my parents’ one requirement of my siblings and me was that we graduate high school, then after that we could do what we wanted.

My parents didn’t pressure me, but society did

My parents never got their high school degrees, so they wanted us to get that achievement they never did. They also recognized that college is a financially draining commitment that may not pan out in the end. With as much as I hated high school, going to college was the last thing I wanted to do.

Unfortunately, even though my parents didn’t pressure me to go onto college, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t getting it from everywhere else. My teachers, my classmates, and other adults in my life kept insisting that if I didn’t go onto college I would basically fail at life.

After one semester I dropped out

So I succumbed to the pressure and went to college. After one financially draining semester as an undeclared major, I failed out and dropped out with no intention of going back. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wasn’t going to figure it out while stressing myself out in classes and getting into debt. My parents supported me leaving school, even when everyone else deemed it a failure.

[More on how one parent reacted when her son told her  he didn’t want to go to college here.]

I spent the next two years working retail and using my spare time to find out what my interests were. At the end of two years, the only things I knew for sure were that I didn’t want to work retail the rest of my life, and I wanted to travel. I knew I liked learning about languages and new cultures, and after taking the much-needed educational break, I could actually fathom the thought of going back to school.

I took the next year off to save money and gather the necessary information and materials to get myself back into school, and just two and a half years later I was back in college with a major and a goal in mind.

Time away made me appreciate school

Having that time away from formal education was just what I needed to gain an appreciation for it. I had a goal in mind and motivation obtained from life experience, and I took my classes seriously. I ended up graduating with honors, something I could have never done with my attitude towards education right out of high school.

I got an amazing opportunity to teach English in Japan after graduating, an opportunity I would have never had considered if I hadn’t had the time to figure myself out what I was interested in during my time off from school.

[More on what parents need to know about study abroad here.]

I think too many freshmen college students are only in college because it was a requirement for them. They go into school with no idea what they want to major in, so they don’t take school seriously and use their time and new-found freedom to party.

They stay undeclared or switch majors several times, wasting time enrolling into classes that they frequently skip and probably won’t work towards the requirements of the major they eventually decide on. I truly believe letting them make the decision of whether or not to go to college is vital to them being successful if they eventually decide to go.

Suggestions for High School Kids Who Don’t Want to Go to College

If your child is not excited about the idea of going to college, don’t pressure them to go immediately after high school. Let them know that they don’t have to decide right now, they can take a break from school after they graduate. However, here are my suggestions for what they should do now:

  1. Take the SAT or ACT-Have them take their SATs or ACTs in high school, so they don’t have to take them again later when they haven’t studied in some time. While, technically, SAT scores are valid forever, some institutions will only accept results within 5 years. And even though many schools are going test optional, it never hurts to bank a score. 
  2. Apply to Colleges-Have your student apply to colleges they are interested in attending, so that if they get accepted it’s easier to get in later.
  3. Introduce Alternatives-Introduce them to alternate options for school, like online degrees. Online university is a great option for students who are not interested in the social aspect of being on campus. If your child decides to take some time off after high school, you can encourage them to explore online school without a commitment. In doing research for online college classes, I found that Arizona State University offers a Global Freshman Academy where people can explore and enroll in average freshman classes online without applying to or currently attending ASU. Then if they decide they like it, they can pay for the credit at ASU and apply it to either online or on campus programs. It’s a great way to see what college classes are like and keep the mind active without a huge commitment.


Having the option to succeed or fail on my own, without pressure from my parents, was exactly what I needed to figure out what was right for me and my future, and I believe it is what many more kids/young adults need.

Getting real life experiences and working is a great way for young adults to focus their life and their priorities, and for many that may be furthering their education when they are ready to take it seriously.

More Reading:

College Readiness: How to Know if Your Teen is Prepared

Not Ready for College, Not Yet 

Gap Year: Three Things to Think About First 

milagradphotoMila Sanchez is a writer and recent college graduate with a BA in Linguistics. Her ambitions in like include traveling the world, studying languages, and taking pictures of her dog, Baymax. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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