Please Stop Asking Me Why My Kid Isn’t Going To College

As a high school graduate in the ‘90s, I was constantly asked about where I was going to college. It wasn’t a question of ‘if’ I was going, just where. No one even considered that some kids might be taking a different path. So, if you weren’t going to college, you had to explain why. There was a huge stigma around not going to a four-year college, and as seniors in high school, we felt it. 

I’ll never forget the poster that was plastered in the halls that listed everyone’s name and where they were going to school. The students who weren’t going to college were left out. I remember feeling so relieved that I wasn’t in that category because of the way other kids, and adults, would talk about “those kids.”

Not going to college implied that you were lazy, unmotivated, didn’t have any direction in life, and that your parents didn’t push you hard enough.

My daughter is not going to college and I wish people would stop asking her “Why not?” (Shutterstock Minerva Studio)

Teens who don’t choose college still feel stigmatized

Now, when I’m talking with some of my high school friends about watching our kids navigate the whole “What do I want to be when I grow up” path, we talk about how the stigma has lifted, but not entirely. Despite our efforts to try and make our teens feel comfortable in choosing their own path after high school, there remains a stigma. 

I’ve had two children graduate from high school and neither one of them had the desire to go to college. My youngest will graduate this year and he’s following in their footsteps. He has no desire to sit in a classroom again any time soon. Instead, he wants to see the world, work, and have different experiences that don’t involve getting another degree. 

People push my kids to give them a “better” reason for not attending college

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that when someone asks my kids if they are going to school, even if they explain what they’d like to do instead, and why, they still get pressed for more answers. Like they owe it to people to give them a more solid answer because simply saying they don’t want to go to school so they can work or travel isn’t enough of a reason. 

Habits are hard to break. I get that. When people hear that I have a child graduating high school, instead of asking what they are doing next, they invariably ask where they are going to college. It simply rolls off their tongue without much thought. But, we need to change that paradigm. If people are really interested in hearing what my kids want to do next-they can ask without pressing them about not wanting to go to college.

My kids are old enough to know that they are done sitting in a classroom

My kids are old enough to know that sitting in a classroom isn’t for them. They have career goals that don’t require further schooling. They don’t want student loan debt. They have done their research and feel that it’s more important to them to live debt-free than to spend money on an education they don’t want.

Even if their father and I could afford to put them all through school (we can’t) they don’t want to go to college. And, I refuse to try and talk them into something they, very clearly, don’t want to do. So I find it interesting that people will still ask when my son, who graduated from high school three years ago, when he’s going back to school.

It bothers me when people tell my daughter who graduated last year that she might regret it if she doesn’t go to college. And when people approach my son and ask him where he’s going to college in the fall, my blood boils a little bit. 

Instead of interrogating our high school graduates about where they are going to college, why not simply congratulate them on their achievement and let them tell us what’s next for them? These questions, although well-meant, put stress on some kids when they are under enough strain already. 

More Great Reading:

Seven Reasons Skilled Trades May Be the Best Path for Your Teen

About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

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