Next step of my parenting journey... sending kids to college (or not)

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,677
I just listened to the high school guidance counselor speak through the mouth of my oldest kid (daughter, 15 y/o); the same line my own high school guidance counselors tried in vain to plant in my head... "I really just want to go to college to get a bachelor's in... you know, like, whatever, like, something cool, and after I have that I can go get a job wherever, doesn't even have to be related to my degree..."

Ignoring that advice and refusing to bang that drum is one of the few examples I can think of, where my teenage self-destructive tendency to defy authority actually served me well. My parents felt that my going into the military instead of off to college was a waste of potential, and I was more than "ok" with them feeling that way. In retrospect I think 4 years in the military was better for me than 4 years in college would have been. I came back an adult, more qualified to make decisions that cost money, and with a free ride to college (which I abandoned after 1 year in favor of starting a business).

My daughter is a better kid than I was. She doesn't have that rebellious bent, and she wants to make good decisions. But I don't think those authorities at school are giving sound advice. I think they are now, like back when I graduated in 2004, telling every kid it is imperative that they go to college or else they'll be digging proverbial or literal ditches. I am strongly opposed to that mantra; I have my own ideas about it (which haven't changed much in the past 20 years) and I want to open them up to critique/criticism. I grow less confident in my world view as the time draws near and the reality of my daughter's future becomes more, well, real. I figured this the best place to do it since am probably in the minority in this forum having no college degree.

My thoughts are as follows:
  • The public education system is (and has been) engaged in an intense marketing campaign on behalf of the private education industry that borders on brainwashing. Not to go into conspiracy theories about it, but... I may or may not harbor conspiracy theories about it.
  • This indoctrination into the "YOU. MUST. GO. TO. COLLEGE." horde has paved the way for college tuition to rise several-fold over inflation over the past few decades.
  • Getting a degree nowdays usually entails going into massive debt before you even understand how debt works, leaving you saddled for the next decade or two.
  • Having a degree seems to set one up with the expectation of a well-paying white collar job and no dirt under the fingernails. The "white collar" expectation is often counter to the expectation of "well-paying", which is more and more found in the trades, where supply and demand (of people willing to do the work) actually dictates a higher salary than folks with degrees can achieve.
  • Having a degree no longer sets you apart in the workplace. When everyone has one, you're just another drop in the bucket. What really sets you apart in this job market is experience.
  • If you have a passion, calling, strong desire, or whatever you want to call it; if you "know what you want to be when you grow up," and that profession requires a degree (doctor, scientist, etc.) then you should probably get a degree after high school. Otherwise, you should probably enter the workforce. If after a few jobs you have a better understanding of the world and yourself and you have identified a path you'd like to take and that path has a checkpoint inside a university, then take the path and spend the time and money in university.
  • Whether or not you should go to college depends (or should depend) as critically on who you are (maturity, intelligence, work ethic, etc.) as on what you want to be when you grow up.
  • Conversely to my previous points, while I haven't experienced it myself, I have heard other people's stories which lend weight to the argument that the imagined/fabricated need for degrees has resulted in an all-too-real demand for them. While they no longer set you apart, they are now a filtering criteria that is checked by default by many HR departments' search algorithms, even for jobs that absolutely shouldn't require them. A lazy way of eliminating "low hanging fruit."
A bit about my daughter:
  • She has a big heart and won't say a mean thing about anyone.
  • She isn't an inquisitive person. She was never that kid who asks a million questions. She doesn't wonder how things work or why things are the way they are. To her, things work, things are, and that's enough.
  • She is well behaved, never gets in serious trouble. As teenagers go, she isn't disrespectful or ill tempered at all.
  • She always does what she's told, but she has to be told to do everything. She will not self-initiate tasks. No amount of positive or negative reinforcement seems to have any effect.
  • She isn't adventurous and doesn't get interested in new things. She won't try drugs for same reason she won't try curry or robotics club.
  • She has her first real boyfriend and she's more interested in him than I've ever seen her in interested in anything in her life.
  • She keeps a cool head, doesn't get overly stressed out about anything (at least not outwardly).
  • She takes the path of least resistance in all things. I don't know what she's capable of because I've never seen her expend more than the bare minimum of effort in any pursuit. She's content to get Cs and Ds in her classes because they aren't Fs.
  • She likes to have good clean fun. She plays sports but isn't very competitive. She's in it more for the fun and camaraderie.
As a kid, she's great. But what makes a great kid doesn't make a great adult. She's not an adult yet, maybe I expect too much, but I worry.
  • I worry that she will feel like she is destined for college and I will (currently do) feel like she isn't.
  • I worry that she will be resentful later, because her younger sister probably is destined for college, and as a totally different kind of person, the advice I give her will be totally different than the advice I give to my oldest.
  • I worry that if I invest in her education it will be money wasted. She'll change her major 10 times and then drop out. Or fail repeatedly and then drop out.
  • I worry that if she tries to go on her own (student loans) the result will be same but she'll be paying for the mistake until her middle years.
  • I worry that I'm wrong about all this and that if I try to guide her in another direction I'll damage her future in ways I'll never know.
Please, share your thoughts. I can only see this from my own perspective and can't see where I might have ended up on other timelines in other dimensions where I went to college after high school. Anything is helpful, even if it's to tell me I'm a bad parent (I haven't ruled out the possibility).
 

ronsimpson

Joined Oct 7, 2019
1,549
I did not read all.
Some children need 2 more years go grow up and school is a safe place in-between home and work.
Some people need two years of hard work to learn that school moves you up one step.
At 17 we do not know what we are going to do for life. (passion) At 30 some of us make big changes that we wish we did at 17.
Some people find that the passion is not some thing that pays at all. (art & music) So you get a job teaching English to make money so you can be passionate on the weekends.

No matter what you do, "I wish we did that differently". Make the best choice and be ready to change when that turns out wrong, or stick to it because there aren't any batter things to do.
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
3,825
I hate to say it, but she sounds like the kind of person that would succeed in the military. I was the opposite, and fortunately did not have to go there.

Bob
 

Papabravo

Joined Feb 24, 2006
17,030
I have a BSE and 2 MSE degrees. I derived great benefit from the university experience despite being a year younger than my contemporaries. I struggled through three semesters before I found meaning and purpose to what I was doing.

Fast forward 25 years (ca. 1995) and my son announces that he is leaving high school in the middle of the 10th grade. We had a thoroughly adult conversation about the mater and after listening to him I became convinced that he was willing to own his decision. He did own that decision and has gone on to achieve a comfortable and happy life. When he succeeded in getting his GED some years later he did tell me that he should have stayed in school. I was both pleased and proud as a father that he had owned his decision and that he admitted that maybe I had tried to give him some good advice. We have remained close to this day.
 

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
3,609
She sounds like a very good candidate to get an associates degree in a practical field if you have a good community college system. We have one here and it's very cheap but provides excellent training in many fields. It would give her what she needs to get a good job in a variety of industries, and, at least here, the credits are transferable to a 4 year program if that seems like a good idea.
 

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,467
My daughter is a better kid than I was.
So is my boy... blessed is the parent who believes that his kids are better people than himself. It means the future generations will not be so lost, after all.

I am strongly opposed to that mantra
Down here it's an almost certain fact that no one (with a few exceptions) will get too far ahead in life without a college degree. That's because it's a general policy of virtually all companies not to hand a high-end job to people without proper credentials. Then again, that's how it is down here, where I am, and not up there where you are.

A bit about my daughter
She sounds like a lovely kid. It's possible that she's had a childhood in which she's felt quite safe and protected by her parents/family. And that's a good thing. She sounds like she's in "surfing mode" regarding life and the choices that await her. She will eventually have to face the "real world" with all of its stresses and uncertainties. And I have no doubt that when that happens, you'll be there for her.

I worry that I'm wrong about all this and that if I try to guide her in another direction I'll damage her future in ways I'll never know.
And here's what I have to say about what you've described. When I was a kid, my parents flat out refused to give me an answer when I asked them what profession I should choose. They told me that it was up to me, and no one else to decide. Back then I almost resented them for being so neutral regarding such an important subject for me.

And then I grew up, and I understood what they meant.

One of the most important questions for any human inhabiting this earth is: "What do I want?" ... Believe it or not, most of the time it is really, really hard to answer. That question can be applied to both of one's personal and professional life. And no one, and I mean absolutely no one, can answer it for you but yourself. It would be a grave mistake for any parent to try and answer it for their kids, no matter how well intentioned they are when doing it.
The main job for any parent (or teacher) regarding their kids' education is to help them figure it out for themselves. That's the difference between counselling and advising.
Advise is helping and pointing someone towards the right door or direction so as to make it easier for them to overcome or resolve a particular situation. That's what most of us do down here at AAC when helping others. We try and show them the way but leave it up to the thread starter to do the actual mental work.

Counseling is helping the person look inwardly so that they can find by themselves what they want. Once they've figured that out, then (I believe) it becomes proper to advice them on how to get it.

Anything is helpful, even if it's to tell me I'm a bad parent (I haven't ruled out the possibility).
You don't sound like a bad parent to me, at all ... you sound more like you want to help and protect your kids but are afraid you might screw it up ... and that's perfectly natural. In fact, the people that I believe are not such great parents are those who feel absolutely certain that their own methods and approach to raising their kids are the absolute best and should go unchallenged and unquestioned by anyone. Most of the time their results are disastrous.
 

Reloadron

Joined Jan 15, 2015
6,137
My daughter is a better kid than I was. She doesn't have that rebellious bent, and she wants to make good decisions. But I don't think those authorities at school are giving sound advice. I think they are now, like back when I graduated in 2004, telling every kid it is imperative that they go to college or else they'll be digging proverbial or literal ditches.
Maybe we should ask the guidance counsellor when was the last time they called a plumber on a Sunday. My brother boast a Master's which is in the arts and as useless as teats on a bull. We have two, grown now with kids of their own. Daughter went to college and has done very well. However, son went to work for a large company and has worked his way up and also doing very well. Something I stressed to both the kids was people will pay you what you are worth, make yourself of value to an employer. Next year two of the grandchildren will be faced with college or looking towards the trades, whatever they decide is cool with me. What I feel is important is they choose a career they enjoy.

You just want your kids to be happy with whatever they decide which I see as good parenting and guidance.

Ron
 

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
8,786
She sounds like a very good candidate to get an associates degree in a practical field if you have a good community college system. We have one here and it's very cheap but provides excellent training in many fields. It would give her what she needs to get a good job in a variety of industries, and, at least here, the credits are transferable to a 4 year program if that seems like a good idea.
Bingo. Two of my older kids did this while 'finding' themselves.
 

LowQCab

Joined Nov 6, 2012
1,189
I totally agree with The Thread-Starters Post.
The Educational System has been totally perverted, and I mean TOTALLY.
The only time I might advise pursuing College is if
the person wants to go into a STEM Field.

Personally I still have the viewpoint that my High-School Education
was about ~95% a heinous and tragic waste of time.
I consider myself to be "Self-Taught", in a wide variety of subjects.
It was a blessing that my Great-Grandmother had me reading Books by age 5,
and that my Mother would take my Sister and I to the Public-Library once a week.

I, never the less, put 3-Step-Kids through College.
The only value they currently put on it was the Social interactions they experienced.

Quite often Girls pursue College specifically to get their MRS. degree.
Not a bad strategy, I must admit.
But in the last ~30-years or so, most of the Colleges have
turned into "Progressive" Indoctrination-Camps teaching Marxist-Ideologies,
maybe the "dumb-ass-Teenagers" will succeed in blowing-it-off,
but it will stick to some of them,
especially now, when good-grades are no longer a prerequisite to entry.

Home-Schooling can't be beat, by any marker.

It won't be long now until People start getting "slapped-up-side-the-head"
with the reality of exactly why the History of Man has been
so tumultuous, and even Evil at times.
At that point this problem, (and most others), will quickly start to disappear.

So, just hang on tight, and keep your wits about You.

Don't ask me to tell You why, I don't want the Thread to be Locked.
You won't find any answers on the TV, only distractions.
.
.
.
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,677
I hate to say it, but she sounds like the kind of person that would succeed in the military.
I agree and I don't even hate to say it. I have brought it up in the past and she was immediately opposed to it, before even hearing what it's all about. Would have had better luck getting to get her to watch a documentary about 80s hair bands.
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,677
She sounds like a very good candidate to get an associates degree in a practical field if you have a good community college system. We have one here and it's very cheap but provides excellent training in many fields. It would give her what she needs to get a good job in a variety of industries, and, at least here, the credits are transferable to a 4 year program if that seems like a good idea.
That's probably what will happen. If she takes it seriously and passes her classes I will pay for it. I have seen my niece go to community College at least 4 times now, always losing interest and fizzling out. My sister has paid probably thrown tens of thousands of dollars away on it. I don't intend to do the same.
 

killivolt

Joined Jan 10, 2010
805
Lots of programs with Grants, some of you know I worked at a University. If it means anything, I have watched over the years the Achedemic course my University has taken, it began as a Trade/Tech School, my first Degree was in the Trades, at this point I’ve taken Heavy Equipment Operation, Electrical Automation which BTW was my Associate Degree, Heating & Air Conditioning, since then Network Administration. At the University I did several things but I am just a Tech. No Engineering Degree I designed systems, integrated, programmed, built Technology rooms, was over 2 hourly and 9 Student hourly positions, worked Broadcasting Professors to local Highschools distance education programs, and satellite location all over Utah. I couldn’t believe it, had I not lived it.

However, also at Seventeen suddenly my life cascaded I thought I could obtain a Scholarship but, my Baseball Career ended with an injury. Afterward, I made decicions that altered my life, for good or bad, early I Married and began working for the water dept as my father did. I came from humble beginnings, although often overlooked, are the Trades. Colleges with Grants, and spacific goal driven system programs with an end game, to get a damn job and without debt e.g. something you and you alone can accomplish, without Family. As I did.

Right now is a hot opportunity with current administration they want to invest money into Education, I took advantage of the same thing, it was for people who want an education, paid for by .gov nothing to pay back. it was offered by a President Peanut Farmer. Thank goodness he did, I took full advantage, became a Tax paying Citizen worked hard, I have never been without work and if I did I could land a job before going bankrupt. I did work to make the money needed to survive always leaning on things I enjoyed, never really hated my job ever.

If I lack punctuation or sentence structure it’s true I suck at writting, even worse speaking. But thats what you get dropping out of Highschool then straight away begin working at age 17, I’m the come back kid, who hates english, but loves math. Which I also suck at lol

kv
 
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Reloadron

Joined Jan 15, 2015
6,137
Some of this reminds me of my sister, two years behind me. She breezed through high school and started at OSU (Ohio State) with our parents footing the bill. First year was a total train wreck. She enlisted in the Marine Corps where she excelled, ended up back in college at George Mason University. She came away with a great husband and her degree. Like so many she just needed time to figure things out and find herself. Some kids just take more time than others to know what they want to do or where they want to go in life.

Ron
 

justtrying

Joined Mar 9, 2011
435
Some of this reminds me of my sister, two years behind me. She breezed through high school and started at OSU (Ohio State) with our parents footing the bill. First year was a total train wreck. She enlisted in the Marine Corps where she excelled, ended up back in college at George Mason University. She came away with a great husband and her degree. Like so many she just needed time to figure things out and find herself. Some kids just take more time than others to know what they want to do or where they want to go in life.

Ron
One tends to figure things out faster when money is short and help is not readily available...

But, never project yourself onto your children. Your path is not theirs. And the path that you may have mapped out for them is not theirs either. All of these tend to lead to a lot of resentment.
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,677
One tends to figure things out faster when money is short and help is not readily available...

But, never project yourself onto your children. Your path is not theirs. And the path that you may have mapped out for them is not theirs either. All of these tend to lead to a lot of resentment.
That should have been on my list of worries too. It is something I'm conscious (self conscious, maybe too much) of. @cmartinez talked about it as well, I forgot to address it. I don't want to plot a course for her. I don't know if I can be truthful or unbiased about this, but I think I am 100% in favor of her choosing her own path. But there are a couple of potential flies in the ointment:

1. She needs to choose a path. I don't know if she will. She has a lot of growing up to do in the next few years, and while these are the years where typically a lot of growing up happens in the blink of an eye, I don't feel like things are progressing at the rate needed to avoid a "failure to launch" situation.

2. She's prone to letting others do the thinking for her, and the staff of the high school are thinking she needs to go college; reasoning, finances, aptitude, life goals, and all other considerations be damned. If she does launch, and their input is all she's heard, then that will be her trajectory.

I'm trying to walk a fine line here. I have to make sure she's aware that she has more than one option, and I feel like I should give her at least as much exposure to the alternatives as the exposure she gets from the HS staff, without cramming an agenda down her throat like they do. I'm not sure if that's possible. I'm trying to not fight fire with fire but instead fight it with the absence of fire, which is to just invite the fire in to consume every other possible outcome.
 

Reloadron

Joined Jan 15, 2015
6,137
Strantor, you have done pretty much your part for the last 15 years. Kids figure things out. Some quicker than others, even among brothers and sisters. Now we have two 17 year old grandkids who actually ask our advice. The granddaughter is an academic type looking towards medicine so we are hoping for some scholarships. The grandson is clueless but wrestled varsity as a freshman. The kid is good, has no clue for a career path but made all state last year do maybe some scholarship money or he can look towards the trades. We try to just let the kids think for themselves, suggestions are OK but it's their call. Like you, their parents seem to have done their homework so pretty sure given the tools they have. Granddaughter has been taking some basic college courses to get some out of the way. Alabama has expressed interest in her so I jokingly tell her to go to Alabama so she can give me alumni tickets for football games. :)

Anyway, kids with good upbringing figure things out. Never push but a gentle nudge is OK. :) They tend to make good decisions with minor guidance but my experience is don't push, they will figure things out.

P.S. Hope your brother-in-law is doing OK, best wishes on that note.

Ron
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,677
P.S. Hope your brother-in-law is doing OK, best wishes on that note.
Thanks for the good advice, and thanks for asking after my brother in law. He is doing very well. He has memory issues but they're slowly improving. His speech is slower than it used to be, but if you didn't know him before you wouldn't think anything "off" about it. He is able to walk again, no walker, no cane, but he looks like a zombie since his legs are stiff. My sister has been letting him drive rural routes. I think at the current rate of recovery he will be able to get a job (or go to school, or do something other than hang out) within a year or so.
 

click_here

Joined Sep 22, 2020
444
In the end it should be what she wants.

If I were you I'd sit down and make a list of things that she likes to do at school.

If she struggles to do that, make a list of things she does at school and then talk about the things she likes/dislikes.

I always end with saying - "Doing subjects you like at school leads you to a course you like. Doing a course you like leads you to a job you like".

It's not always true, but it's a great place to start.

This way you are guiding her into her making an informed decision.

Depending where you are in the world having a degree won't set you apart, but not having one will, and not in a positive way. Don't nag her with that, but make sure that she is aware of it.
 

Reloadron

Joined Jan 15, 2015
6,137
Thanks for the good advice, and thanks for asking after my brother in law. He is doing very well. He has memory issues but they're slowly improving. His speech is slower than it used to be, but if you didn't know him before you wouldn't think anything "off" about it. He is able to walk again, no walker, no cane, but he looks like a zombie since his legs are stiff. My sister has been letting him drive rural routes. I think at the current rate of recovery he will be able to get a job (or go to school, or do something other than hang out) within a year or so.
Just a quick off topic but very pleased your brother in law has improved so well. Kathy and I are happy to have helped out. Turned 71 this year and thinking maybe it's time I sell my bike. A 900 Lb Harley is a bit much for this old guy and I laid it down last year and some bones still hurt. Just real glad he is coming out of it all. :) Thanks for good news.

Ron
 
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