When College Isn’t In The Cards

Jul 2, 2014 | Family Counseling, Parenting


         –7 alternatives when college isn’t an option.

            …a guide for parents of recent high school graduates

I have had many parents’ ask me how they should deal with a child who just doesn’t want to go to college, is feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of handling a college course load and in some cases, feel that their recent high school graduate just doesn’t have the propensity to make it in an academic atmosphere. Most of these parents are well-educated career driven individuals who have supported their children through academic and extracurricular activities. Whatever the case may be, my response is, it’s not the end of the world, but the beginning of something special. Being intelligent does not translate into scholastic success. Your child has not failed in the game of life if they don’t do well in school or go on to be accepted to a college or university. Once parents realize the potential successful outcomes for their teenager, we can begin to discuss other options for success. After all, we want our children to grow up, be independent and self sufficient, or in parent speak “get a job and move out”.


54% of Texas High School seniors enroll in a college or university immediately after high school1. Here in San Antonio that figure increases according to specific campuses. For example, at Reagan High School, a high school with one of the highest college acceptance rates, that figure increases to 71% for 20112. This means out of the 688 students who graduated in 2011, there were about 200 students who did not enroll in a college or university. 39% of recent U.S. college graduates are underemployed or working a job that does not require a college degree and over 50% of recent college graduates were without full time jobs3. As high school enrollment increases, college tuition rises, the job market tightens, and we as parents bare witness to layoffs and poor economic times, it may be time to reconsider what the future may look like for our children.


Here are some options, other than attending a 4 year college/university;

  1. Get a job – Any job. On the job training is something that is missed by almost every college graduate. As well as saving money, you will have immediate access to employee benefits like 401K and health insurance. Also, some employers will pay for you to go to college later on if you feel you eventually would like to pursue that college degree.
  2. Get into a trade/vocation – trade/vocation schools offer low cost training in order to learn and eventually master a specific skill. Although these skilled jobs carry a “blue collar” label, they can pay very well, and lead to other opportunities to work independently or start your own business. In a job market that has become unsecure, jobs held by plumbers and electricians have been in high demand, and will NEVER be outsourced to another country. Visit www.profoundlydisconnected.com for additional information. Here is a short list:    Construction, Welding, Landscaping, Electrical, Painting, Forestry, Photography, Woodworking, Masonry, Metal Work
  1. Community College– For those students/parents who feel college is in the near future, but just are not ready today, your local community college is the place to be. Inexpensive tuition and close to home, are just a few reasons this option appeals to some.
  2. Volunteer – being able to volunteer, connect and network with peers and mentors from all walks of life will be an experience most will only have when they are younger. Take advantage. Find somewhere local to volunteer @ www.volunteermatch.org or abroad @ www.goabroad.com
  3. Join the military – I am a proud son of an air force veteran and will always be an advocate of joining the military. Not only will it provide lasting experiences and friendships, but immediate pay, benefits & support that can be matched by no other employer in the United States.
  4. Start a business – As a therapist & coach, I advocate that all parents learn early on what drives their children. This passion can sometimes be converted into self-employment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10% of workers in the US are self-employed4 and in a market that has seen high unemployment in the last decade, being self employed is the best job security one can find.
  5. Online Courses – Many Texas universities offer online courses. These courses are an inexpensive alternative, and a great way to take classes while working full or part time. Bonus: if you decide to pursue a degree in the future, most of these courses will count toward a degree. Visit www.affordablecollegesonline.org for more details.


These are just a few of the options for high school graduates and parents when considering a next step. Remember, life can be more than Kinder through College Graduate. We should not just consider university life as the next step after high school. I have seen many parents frustrated with a teenager who has been forced into attending a college/university. Parents cannot force an adult child to attend college and then expect for that child to be happy and successful. Our philosophy, we must all find & move at our own pace.




1 “Closing the Gaps Revised Goals and Targets for 2015” http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/PDF/1176.PDF

2 “Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR) 2012-2013. http://www.neisd.net/neisdinfo/TAPR_2012_2013.html

3 “Recent US College Grads Disillusioned” http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/college-grads-disillusioned-unemployed-poll-article-1.1331346

4 “Self Employment in the US” http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2010/09/art2full.pdf


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