“So, you going to college or…”? If you are anything like me and have kids nearly ready for life beyond high school that is where you are right now. You have had the college chat more than once and reached your limit for blank stares and half-answers.  The war between your pocket and your hopes for your kids are twisting your thoughts and your nerves.

What if your kids are feeling the same way you are? Maybe they want to give you a solid answer and they are just unable to figure it all out.

The dreaded conversation

Sitting at the kitchen table with my kids I decided to ask them the dreaded question one more time.  When the last words escape my lips, I immediately want to retrieve them. They both threw their heads back and exhaled deeply as if I was getting on their nerves. Neither of them realized how close they were to a throat chop, but we can save my karate fantasies for later.

They attempted to come up with an answer that would appease my curiosity, but would also resemble the truth. Epic failure on both counts. Their verbal constipation ended abruptly with, “Well, I think I want to do something with the law” and “I think I want to be a nurse?”- combined with a synchronized shrug and a slacked jaw supported by a palm and an elbow on my kitchen table.

My daughters sat staring back at me while their eyes revealed small contractions in their brains, but little else.  The upward lilt in their intonation let me know that they were not quite sure about the response but it was the best they could do. I simply said, “OK women”. It was then I realized there was only one answer to this obvious mystery.

If they had clarity they would say…

Dear Dad,

We keep making up answers to the college questions because we know that you think there is synaptic activity between our ears. We are smart but we don’t have any life experience. Also, we never want to have an entry-level position because those take too long. We want to have lots of money, be fancy, and exert the least amount of effort possible. We would also like to have a job that is at least as glamorous as an episode of Law and Order, Grey’s Anatomy, or The Blacklist” (We don’t have to get dirty for that right?).  This job should also comes with a title that will impress grandma’s friends at church so that she doesn’t keep saying how spoiled we are.


A2 Nash

Despite my moment of improvisation, you get the point.

Why ask our kids questions we know they can’t answer?

Remember when you were 17? It has been awhile, but attempt to think back to who you were at that age. There are three very good reasons new graduates have no idea what they want to do with themselves after high school.

  1. They have no real world experience with which to decide what they are both good at and enjoy or will pay them at a rate to sustain their imaginary lifestyles.
  2. The only exploration they do in high school is on the successful completion of state-mandated tests and new features added to social media platforms. Basically, they have become really great at memorizing things and corresponding electronically about nothing.
  3. The people they are today, are not the people they will be in 4-8 years, so their hopes, dreams, and desires will shift before they ever complete the first degree program

Should they commit to earning a degree?

I asked a question on Facebook to see if any of my friends think about this issue and to see if we shared similar sentiments.

Many of the responses were exactly what I thought they would be, but a couple surprised me. Not all parents are on the ” you gotta go to college bandwagon” like earlier generations. Not all recent future/ recent grads see themselves traveling the traditional path to success.

Why? Most people are just sick of piling on debt for a degree that has no guarantee for future success. I don’t have a stack of cash sitting around waiting for my kids to leisurely figure themselves out, while I am able to help them, the “finding myself routine” just isn’t in the cards. I do, however,  know where they could get a good sturdy pair of stilettos. Just kidding.

Coaching your kids into adulthood

Parents want the best for their kids, but they also want them to be able to get out and stay out. For that to happen you must have a chat about planning with them. College is not the only option and they will need the flexibility to try on a few options before they find a good fit.

College, like anything else, is what you make of it. If you know for a fact that your kid is not a self-starter, ready to milk college for all its worth, its beneficial to talk with them about alternatives.  Let them know that you are invested in their success as an individual whatever that will look like.

A few ideas to start your chat

  • Remind them to compete with no one and everyone. Meaning, always do your best, but never compare your journey to anyone else’s.
  • Success lies at the intersection of happiness and financial stability.
  • Degree’s are tools, not guarantees.
  • Just because a path is traditional, doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Never be afraid to freestyle as long as you can commit to making your choices work for you.

Don’t forget to share your thoughts with me. You may have some ideas I didn’t.