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My Parents Want Me to Go to College But I Don’t

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From a teen in the U.S.: My parents are talking me into going to college every day, even though I tried telling them that I’m not college ready. Is there any way to solve this?

My Parents Want Me to Go to College But I Don’t

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Please tell your parents that sending you to college when you aren’t ready is a total waste of their money. Kids who go to college without personal motivation and goals don’t take advantage of the classes and experience. Often they end up partying too much and studying too little. Often they drop out or flunk out, feeling ashamed and like failures. Often they become depressed.

This can all be avoided by taking a gap year or two. A “gap year” is a year between high school and college that is devoted to something besides school and that gives you new experiences and a time to figure out your own goals. It is not a year to just hang out.  It is a year for adventures that stretch you and that give you some experience with something you think you might want to do in your life.

There are formal gap year experiences as well as informal ones. Formal ones are sponsored and maintained by organizations. There are programs here in the states and there are programs that take you to another country like India or South Africa. Most give you the opportunity to explore yourself by helping others. Most cost very little. Some even provide a stipend.

A teen I know who thought she might be interested in education signed up for a year with CityYear. CityYear is an Americorps program that places young people in high need schools. With placement in a city far from where she was raised, she got to stretch her wings further by learning about another place and how to navigate being far from home. She also came away from her time there with a commitment to becoming a high school teacher.

An informal “gap year” is an experience you create for yourself. One student I know, for example, thought that maybe she wanted to become a journalist. She networked in her town and was able to work with the local newspaper to set up a year long internship. She ended up falling in love with the marketing department. She’s now in school as a business major, majoring in marketing.

If you think a trade might be for you, see if you can find a job or internship with an electrician or carpenter or plumber — whatever interests you, Assisting for a few months to a year can help you decide.

If a gap year isn’t for you: Consider starting school very part time. There may be a local community college where you can explore a course or two that interests  you.

Meanwhile, find a job and save your money. Hopefully, find a job that gives you more experience than flipping burgers. See if you can find part time work in human services or in a field that you think you might want to pursue. A job in retail doesn’t have to be just ringing up purchases. Talk to the HR department, for example, about how to get some experience with buying or managing or display if any of that intrigues you. The point is to figure out what might help you make a decision and go for it.

You might find it helpful to read this article.

I suggest you stop arguing with your parents about who is right and start taking responsibility for finding out what you can do instead of college. Research gap year opportunities or make one of  your own. Your school guidance department probably has some brochures. Talk to a counselor there.

Present your folks with a plan and a promise to revisit the college question after you’ve had the chance to explore yourself. Remind them that they will save thousands of dollars if  you go to school when and if you are ready. It”s a win-win.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

My Parents Want Me to Go to College But I Don’t

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2019). My Parents Want Me to Go to College But I Don’t. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 30 Aug 2019 (Originally: 5 Sep 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 30 Aug 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.