My Son’s Post-High School Education Will Not Come In College Classes


My 18-year-old son is graduating high school in one week. His high school career has been everything but successful. Once COVID struck and school went entirely online, my son’s grades and motivation reached an all-time low, and he has never recovered from it. 

College is not in his immediate plans, and I have come to a place of acceptance. As a family we all agree if he dislikes school so much, why waste money on classes he’s sure to drop out of? It would almost seem like he was taking a step back into the old routines and habits, rather than moving forward.

bored teen boy
My will not go to college right now, but he will learn through life experience.

My son is burned out, tired of school

He claims it’s burnout, he’s tired of high school, uninspiring classes, and the same schedule. In some ways I can understand, yet I try to remind him receiving an education is a gift and not one to be taken for granted. At this point anything I say, fails to inspire.

Instead, he’s going to work and try to save money. He shares that he may eventually go to culinary school, but this comes from a kid who can barely make instant ramen, although he makes an incredible omelet.

For a year he has been employed while attending senior year, working up to become one of the highest paid staff members aside from management. And now, with school concluding, he’s decided to take on a second job to try and maintain 40 plus hours per week.

His education will come in the form of life experience

His education will not come in the form of spendy textbooks and college lectures. At least at the present. It will come in the form of life experiences that will both challenge and motivate him. Maybe he will discover his passion along the way, maybe he won’t but the experiences of day-to-day adulthood will prove his fortitude and teach lessons he will not learn in a classroom.

He will figure out what it means to be a leader, what communication looks like with bosses, how he will stand up for himself, what decisions he will make when addressing bad habits. He will learn many of these lessons the hard way, with consequences. For my son, it’s the only way this information will stick.

He will find out what happens when he overdrafts his bank account from too many fast-food deliveries or how expensive car repairs are when he lets his vehicle run out of oil. Since he’s not going to college, he will discover what it requires to budget for rent, cell phone and car insurance. 

There will be no classroom buffer easing him into adulthood

He will hit the ground running without the buffer of a classroom to ease him into adulthood. It’s going to be hard, especially when friends are hanging out after class in dorm rooms and he’s racing to his next job so he can make rent for the apartment he can’t afford.

He will fail at this until he doesn’t because he must live it to learn it. Real-life for my son is going to teach him more than textbooks can at this point. But he will be wiser for it. Everyone learns differently, but for my son, his best success will come from working in the field known as life.

As a mother, I struggle with his decision to wait on school. I wish he had a clearer direction, a specific goal and a purpose. As someone who did not finish a college degree, I want it even more for my child. But is that what’s best for him or for me?

Am I pressuring him to do something he is simply not ready for? His choices are forcing him into adulthood faster than he realizes. I want him to have what I didn’t, however, I can’t force my will upon him.

I’ve been nervous for the entirety of his senior year. Whenever I inquired about his post-high school plans, he told me he didn’t know yet. I wanted an action plan. We were running out of time. Do we apply for scholarships? Do we fill out FAFSA? Does he take his SAT exams? 

My plans and his differ, but I need to sit back and let this happen

My plans and goals do not necessarily align with his. Do I want to spare him the disappointment of a degree from the school of hard knocks? Yes. Does he need this journey to succeed? I’m afraid the answer is also yes.

It’s taken everything in me to sit back and let it go. I want him to go one way, he wants to go another and I’ve finally realized that it’s OK. He will be OK. It is better for me to support his decisions than to alienate him with my disapproval. 

While his brain develops in maturity, he can gain skills that will serve him well as he enters adulthood. He will also learn what not to do because he has seen the results firsthand.

We will support him, guide him, and encourage wise choices as he navigates his path forward. He may save on tuition money, but his decisions will still come with a price tag. 

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