Guiding Your Uncertain Teen Toward College

By Huntington Learning Center

When you’ve put money away in that 529 plan and talked with your child for years about college, it might feel like a punch to the gut when your teen suddenly declares that they aren’t interested. What can you do? Here are a few tips to guide your uncertain teen toward the pursuit of higher education:

  • Talk about the higher earning potential. As teens become more independent, the appeal of a more comfortable living might be a good way to nudge them toward college. After all, it’s been proven over and over again that workers with bachelor’s degrees earn more than those with high school diplomas. This Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that the median weekly earnings of a worker with a bachelor’s degree is $461 higher per week than a worker with a high school diploma.
  • Talk about the big difference in unemployment rates. College or no college, your teen will need to support him- or herself as an adult, and it’s a lot easier to be employable with a college degree. The same BLS report mentioned above shows that the unemployment rate of workers with high school diplomas is 4.6%. Those with bachelor’s degrees, on the other hand, boast an impressive 2.5% unemployment rate.
  • Discuss the fact that college is where self-exploration happens. A common complaint among uncertain teens is that they don’t know what they want to study or do for a career. While it would be great if your teen were decisive about the future, college is the time to self-exploration and discovering interests. If your teen hasn’t gravitated toward a high school subject, in college, they’ll be pleased to discover a range of interesting majors that go beyond the typical English, math, and science disciplines they’re used to—from exercise science to philosophy, from graphic design to political science.
  • Share that even some college is a smart idea. At a minimum, your teen should give college a try. The fear of the unknown might be holding them back, but the truth is, they aren’t alone. College can seem as nerve-wracking as it is exciting. But the fact is that the earning potential of a high school graduate with at least some college education is higher than that of a student with no college at all. Encourage your teen to commit to one year of college. Chances are, they’ll find it valuable – even enjoyable – by the end of those nine months.
  • Make it sound fun. If your attempts to elevate college’s importance flop, try the easy route. Tell your teen that college is a great time. There are new people to meet and many activities and clubs with which your teen could get involved. College campus life is vibrant and exciting. Your teen will get the chance to explore newfound passions and do things on their own for the first time. It is the perfect opportunity to reinvent themselves.

You might not be able to change your teen’s mind overnight about college, but be persistent and patient. Offer your advice and encourage your teen to be open-minded and do a little soul-searching. College will benefit your teen in numerous ways. Do your best to convince your child it is worthwhile!


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