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It’s that time of year when high school graduates are headed back to college or about to go to college for the first time. For those of us with almost 20-year-olds, it probably seems like just yesterday we were weeping in front of the school on the child’s first day of kindergarten. Then, literally, fast forward 11-12 years and you’ve got a rising or graduating senior. Good gracious.

While college was the most obvious choice for our generation, it’s not so much the first choice for our kids. In their defense, it can be a lot for an 18-year-old to invest time, effort and money in a four year college degree after four years of high school. We’re talking coming of age, to a degree, building character integrity, standardized scholastic testing, social skill, peer pressure and all in the age of the internet and social media. Some soon-to-be adults can handle it, but there are some kids who are just not cut out for university.

So what do you do when your high school graduate doesn’t want to go to college?

Would it be so wrong to allow the kid to take a breather to piece together his or her own direction to a fulfilling future? And to be completely honest, the pathways to success are limitless in this digital world.

Speaking to my own personal experience, I am the second of four girls in my tight knit family. I have a set of committed parents  who are both college educated and after 36 years of marriage, they continue to push each other to strive for the highest appointed chairs of their occupational positions. Growing up, college wasn’t an option. It was not only assumed but inventible that once we walked the stage as seniors, we were to prepare for our first fall semester at a four year college or university. My oldest sister did everything according to their plan. She was straight-laced, shrewd and quite boring at times but her mission was to do what our parents had envisioned for her and her future. Me, the rouge seed, was a social butterfly with an innate desire to draft my own blueprint and if I had it my way,  I would’ve opted to go to an art school or apprentice with a furniture craftsman. I like to work with my hands and do something different everyday – as monotony is, for me, a slow kill.

Saying all this to say that you know your child well enough to know that they will choose what’s best for themselves, and if they’re not quite sure, give them the time to discover their path themselves. It’s not about making sure your child is out of the house by the age of 18 especially of they return home with a college degree without a clue of how they plan to use it to their advantage, right? If your graduate wants to learn a trade for a skill with endless supply and demand by default, why not?

For example, if your son has an affinity for fixing up vintage cars, he might be the kind of guy to own body shop. While the idea of blue collar, manual labor jobs don’t quite match what you had in mind for him – it may be what’s best for him and why not encourage him getting his license, put in some quality work at a quality shop and then open his own? Or, on the other hand, you might have a daughter who’s flirting with the idea of becoming a makeup artist, present to her the options of cosmetology schools in or around the area.

In short, the days of getting a degree and finding a job that’s going to retire you with generous pensions and retirement accounts are becoming obsolete! Therefore, our ideals surrounding success have to align with the times in some ways. Every child has a dream and as long as we support, encourage and believe in it with them, you can expect nothing less than a successful business minded young adult who knows you have their back. Who knows, it may even create an avenue for the family to build an empire.

The best thing to do is stay as open as your child’s mind.

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