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Am I concerned that my wife is pushing my son too much on his work in selecting a college. She is constantly reading about ways he can get in to college, but frankly he didn't apply himself and got fair grades. He also isn't motivated to do the college application and essay work himself. But instead of him getting on board, I think my wife's relentless work is pushing him further away from being interested at all.


Valerie Broughton Replied: This is a huge issue in many families. High school counselors are overworked and stretched too thin. So, parents try to motivate, educate and guide their children in this important decision because it's such an important one. I'm not sure what your approach would be. You say your wife's interference is having a negative impact, but you didn't say what your approach would be. There are private educational consultants (that's what I do) who guide students through the process, helping them understand themselves and colleges and matching a student with appropriate colleges, and then guiding students through the application process. You could find a qualified consultant in your area so your son would get the assistance he needs without his mother having to harass him and maybe push him farther away from making a good college decision.
Posted On 2009-08-31 11:19:20
Ellen Gibran-Hesse Replied: You are right to be concerned. The focus on just going to college is often a recipe for dependence and failure to launch. Many colleges are seeing fewer and fewer males apply for college. Quite a few are already 60% female and I suspect that with all the general ed requirements, many males find college not relevant enough to the real world. Also, only 11 of every 100 students entering high school will ever get a four year college degree. Therefore,the most important thing is to focus on a career and job interests. Given his abivalence to academics, it would be better for him to start in a community college where he has more contact with professors who teach their classes. Often in four year colleges, grad students without any ability to teach do most of the teaching and the classes are huge. Community colleges also have classes on figuring out your career path and how to time manage and study. If he can get settled into college through community college, he stands an excellent chance of transferring to a four year university. Another way to go is a career college. Those are more real world based and many will give an Associate's Degree at the end of 18 months. Also, graduates of those colleges get help with job placement and frequently make much more money than those who go to four year colleges. The focus should be his career and job disires and helping him figure out the right training and education path for his personality. Focusing only on going to college is why 1/3 of 18 to 34 years olds live at home without jobs or careers.
Posted On 2009-07-28 14:37:22
Todd Johnson, JD Replied: Getting into the right college for you son's needs is an important process. However, when to go to college depends a great deal on the student involved. Although students traditional attend college right after college there are many students who should wait a few years to attend. In fact, taking a year or two off after high school is common in Europe and getting much more common in the US. Princeton University announced last year that they were encouraging many students to consider taking a year off before starting college.

It sounds like your son might be a good candidate for waiting a year or two before starting college. For students that are not motivated to begin the college admissions process, waiting a year is often beneficial. If the student works for a year they will often see first hand the benefits of having an education and will be much more interested in actually attending college. Students who are looking forward to college for the learning experience tend to do much better than students just going because they are expected to go to college.

Having a parent who is interested in the college process can be helpful to the student but your wife needs to understand that your son needs to own the process. He is the one going to college and if he goes and is not motivated, he will likely not do as well as he could. He is also more likely to drop out which is a waste of money.

The other issue that may be going on here with your son is a fear of the unknown. Going to college is a major change for most students and the thought of leaving home, moving to a strange campus where he knows few, if any people, can be frightening. If he is feeling this way, spending a year working before college can also give him some additional confidence and let him see things outside of the world he has lived in the past 18 years. He can learn that new experiences are not something to fear.

Your wife may also be facing questions from friends on where you son is going to college and she feels the need to provide some answer. Saying that he is waiting a year to figure out what he really wants to do in college is a perfectly acceptable answer.

Hopefully, by waiting a year or two, your son can enjoy the process of finding the best college and not feel like he is being forced to make choices he is not ready to make.

Good luck.
Posted On 2009-07-27 11:28:11
debbie mandel Replied: To a large extent you are right. When one person pushes, the other pulls away. Change this dynamic and the other person will start to move. Your son might need to take some time off and work. Working and earning a living will help him to mature and figure out what he wants to do. Does education hold the key for him? What career fires him up? What does he want to study in college? It's fine for your wife to suggest and inspire. However, if your son is not motivated enough to follow through or at least write the essay "together with her" - as it is hard for many people to start an essay, especially an essay as open-ended as the personal college essay - then his rhythm does not match hers. I empathize with how much your wife wants the best for her son, that she is looking out for his future. However, sometimes the best parenting we can provide involves stepping back and letting him figure it out or at least asking for help. Your wife needs to manage her personal stressors and fulfill herself. Stress is contagious. She can lead with calm assertiveness and as a role model.
Posted On 2009-07-27 10:41:41
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