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

Having your teen declare they don't want to attend college can be a difficult situation for parents who want the best for their kids. Here's how to handle it.

Ask the Experts

Rhiannon Schade
Director of College Counseling
Collegewise of Millburn

This can be a difficult situation for parents who love their children and want the best for them. If you force your student to attend college when they don't want to go, they'll likely not get the most out of the experience. If this situation comes up, it's important to think about the reasons why it is happening in order to develop a course of action.

If your student simply feels that college is not the right place for them right now, it doesn't mean that they'll never go to college. More and more students are taking a gap year and/or delaying their college experience to pursue a work, travel, or alternative learning experience they feel is worthwhile—an opinion that many, many colleges share! (If your student wants to do this, I would advise them to apply and get admitted to college and then ask for a one-year deferral so that your student knows they have a spot waiting when they're done with the gap year.)

Of course, some students delay their college experience for different lengths of time or other reasons, and some choose not to go at all. The answer to this will look different for each student, but I would encourage parents to listen to their children, find out why there's an objection to going to college, and then work through how legitimate the reasoning is to find resolution.

Charlotte M. Klaar, PhDCharlotte M. Klaar, PhD
Klaar College Consulting LLC
Tell your student they can take one year to work at something productive and begin to pay her own bills, including rent to you, car insurance, dry cleaning, etc. At the end of that year, they can then decide to go to college, and you will help them. This usually does the trick. Often, once a student recognizes that home is not the same once all their friends have left for college, the reasons they chose to stay are gone.

Need more help with this difficult conversation? Check out our full article on How to Help a Reluctant Student With College Plans.

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