7 alternatives when college isn’t an option

Jun 1, 2016 | Family Counseling, Parenting


7 Alternatives when college isn’t an option

A Guide for Parents of recent high school graduates

I’ve had many parents ask me how they should deal with a child who just doesn’t want to go to college. In some cases their young adult is feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of handling a college course load. In others, parents feel their recent graduate just doesn’t have the propensity to make it in an academic atmosphere.

Most of these concerned parents are well-educated, career driven individuals who have supported their children through academic and extracurricular activities, with the long-term goal of – COLLEGE.

Sometimes it throws parents off when I respond by saying that college isn’t for everyone and it’s not the end of the world, but the beginning of something special. Being intelligent doesn’t necessarily equate to 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 openly 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”.


56.9% 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 Ronald Reagan High School, a high school with one of the highest college acceptance rates, that figure increases to 69.6% for 20132. This means out of the 724 students who graduated in 2013, there were about 224 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 witness layoffs and challenging 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;

  • 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.
  • 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 insecure, jobs held by plumbers and electricians have been in high demand, and will NEVER be outsourced to another country. Visit profoundlydisconnected.com for additional information. Here is a short list: Construction, Welding, Landscaping, Electrical, Painting, Forestry, Photography, Woodworking, Masonry, Metal Work
  • 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. Community College can be both inexpensive and close to home, which is appealing to some.
  • 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 @ volunteermatch.org or abroad @ www.goabroad.com
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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. University Life isn’t the only feasible 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.


Pace Counseling Group is a professional counseling firm located in San Antonio, Texas. We are focused on continuously improving the quality of life for our clients and their families. We are currently accepting new clients with no wait list.  Insurances accepted. Make your first appointment online by clicking here. 

To learn more, visit us at Pace Counseling Group or call (210) 481-3727.



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.


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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