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What if your child "suddenly" didn't want to go to college?


Susan in TN
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Well, do I save tens of thousands of dollars?

 

j/k

 

I am not sure. I would tell them to get a job. I would want to make sure they were not just thinking they were going to sit around playing and doing nothing. I would say no fulltime job by..and set a deadline...then they have to go to college. I would probably say July, not August. 

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To me, that sounds like anxiety about change. 

 

If it were my kid, I would try to defuse the tension, lower the stakes, encourage him to plan on going ahead with at least the first year. I've read that most students change majors at least once. So, if the major my child had planned on were losing luster, I would likely suggest beginning the first year as an undecided and see how things went. 

 

I would also remind said kid that no one was expecting him to move into the dorms for more than three months. So, there would be no reason to panic today. If, come the first week of August, he was still feeling really sure that college in general or this particular college would be a mistake, I would support at least deferring while we had some heart-to-heart talks about an alternative plan.

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If this was a student who was very interested in going to college before and had a sudden change of mind, I would take this as a sign that the reality of leaving for college is now sinking in and that the student is apprehensive and anxious about the coming changes: leaving home, leaving friends, fitting in in a new environment, coping with academic challenges, time passing, growing up... I consider it equally normal for a student to be scared as to be excited; in fact, alternating between both feelings sound normal, too.

I would sit down with my student and talk in order to get at the heart of the matter. I would show compassion, understanding and support, give my honest input as a parent from a rational point of view (since I am not affected by the same emotional turmoil), but ultimately leave the decision up to the student. I would also emphasize that it is OK to give college a try and come home if he is truly miserable at college.

Is your student depressed?

I think this is a tough transition, and the students need to feel that they are loved.

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I think I would try to find out why, in a gentle, non-threatening way.  Perhaps the child felt pressured to pursue one major over another, or even college itself over some other preference; or perhaps they feel scared; or perhaps they just feel a bit depressed at leaving a comfortable high school experience.  If college is still desired, but it's the major that is causing the pause, then going to college for the first year with an undeclared major is no shame; it can help someone schuss out what they enjoy and what they want to do with their life.  So I would probably suggest that, assuming college is still appealing and it's the major that is up for question.  Another option would be a well-planned out gap year (not to mean sitting on the backside listening to the iPod).  Either way, I would keep digging, and doing it without desperation, threats, anger, or poorly-veiled disappointment.  Some kids hear their own inner voices with great clarity, and they discover things about themselves that it would take others until middle age to discover.  If you've got one of those, you and the student are lucky to have discovered the discrepancy now, rather than later.

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Remind the kid that transfering and / or dropping out at the end of the first or second semester is a possibility. I'd encourage the kid to go and try it for a semester, really trying to get good grades etc. and then reassess.

 

I transferred at the end of my freshman year. My ds2 dropped out at the end of freshman year. The key is to maintain your grades so transferring at some point is an option and any future employers can see by the GPA that dropping out was truly for personal not academic reasons.

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Thank you, everyone. We all just had a long talk, and it seems that the issue here was major stress disguising itself as apathy, head burying, and concern that college would go badly. Ds has a dual enrollment final and three writing assignments due in the next 3 days and a major project due in a week that has not been started. Add two concerts to perform in and a recital to prepare for, and he's ready to throw in the towel. He was very honest with us about his struggles and I think we were able to make a workable plan.

 

We also talked about getting some help with executive function issues which he knows will help in college and beyond. (Shoot - I need help with it myself) :D

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Yup. BTDT. It was the result of panic over making it through a semester messed up by flu and college apps. We made a plan for finishing up as best he could, he called the university to see if they would still take him if he dropped a cc class and the rest of his grades weren't stellar (they said yes), promised he'd feel better after some summer vacation, promised we'd take him out to dinner every week when he was away next year and help him figure out his week, and promised that if he hated the first semester, he could transfer or come home. By the end of summer, he was just a normal mix of scared and excited, not a panicked mess. He loves his university so far and made it through his first year. It probably will be ok. : )

Lots of hugs,

Nan

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Glad you had the talk and that you have a plan!

 

I think it's really easy to worry that our kid is the only one having doubts or struggles or (fill-in-the-blank), and then we tend to attribute it to homeschooling--when in reality, a lot of kids, no matter what their background, go through similar stages.  We just don't talk about that part of the college experience.

 

It's like homeschooling. We share our wonderful plans and then don't talk about the parts that change or don't get done the way we originally planned. And then other people wonder, am I the only one?  :)

 

 

 

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