For those of us with teens preparing to graduate from high school, it might be difficult to accept that perhaps college is not in their future, even though we have saved for years to send them. As disappointing as it is, sometimes our best laid plans are just not followed. Perhaps our teen’s grades don’t measure up or maybe they just simply are not interested. They want to pave their own way into their bright futures without our advice of, “Go to College.”
But college isn’t the only way to build a career. Some of the richest people in the world did not go to college. They had other dreams. Michael Dell, who started Dell Technologies, Bill Gates founder of Microsoft, Steve Jobs who started Apple and creator of the iPhone, and John Mackey founder of Whole Foods Market all either never went to college or dropped out before they earned their diplomas. These wealthy inventors and business owners relied on their sheer will, drive, and their ability to work much longer hours than the rest of us. They all had these characteristics in common, plus one more: perseverance. The persistence of purpose. The ability to keep their eye on the ball and never give up.
So how can you help your non-college-bound teen succeed? One of the best ways to cool your nerves about your child’s future is to simply talk to them. Ask them questions about how they see themselves in 10 years or 20 years. Do they understand the kind of life a minimum wage job will provide? Do they want more than that? Do they see themselves working for someone else and climbing a ladder for a better wage or building a business? Do they prefer working with their hands? Ask them what their interests are and how they might implement those interests into a business.
The Business Path: If they seem to have obtainable dreams and are fueled with a high tolerance for hard work and energy, then great. If they don’t want to go to college, perhaps ask them if they would like to build a business around one of their interests. Think about it this way… almost any interest can be turned into a business. Sewing translates to a sewing and craft store, cooking can translate into a restaurant, deli, or catering business, an interest in cars can translate into a car sales business, auto restoration or auto maintenance shop. A love of coffee can translate into an import/export business. Ask if they would like to attend a few night classes, non-college credit, that involve business or their specific interests or goals. They may or may not be receptive, but if they are truly interested in their future goals, they will seize the chance to learn more about it with very little prompting.
The Trades: If they are good with their hands, there are a variety of trades that pay well and will provide your young teen with the ability to be financially stable. Among the top paid skilled tradesmen are electricians, plumbers, and welders. Learning any one of these skills can provide them the opportunity to work for a company that includes benefit packages and health insurance or to open their own business and strike out on their own. Among the lesser paid trades are painters, construction workers, cabinet makers, HVAC etc., however if they learn the skills behind any of the trades well, and combine it with marketing skills and business sense, any of the trades will keep them worry free.
An Apprenticeship: If the trades are interesting to your teen, help them look for apprenticeships. The starting pay is usually $15.00 per hour or more and when they are done, they will be full fledged journeymen/women with a concrete career. The apprenticeships worth their time are usually longer in length, three to six years.
Tech Schools and Coding Bootcamps: If they have an interest in computers but don’t necessarily want to spend four years getting a degree, consider a tech school. They have a variety of options in both hardware and software applications. Coding bootcamps are for those who want to build websites or write apps.
Join the Military: Any of the military branches provide options for teens who want to succeed but are unsure of what path they want to take. It provides a break from high school where kids can mature and really assess what they want. Their time away from home can help them realize that, although mom and dad are still there, it might be time to think about a career that will enable them to support themselves. And their time also comes complete with the GI Bill. Four years of college will be paid for by the government if they choose to go to college after they leave the military.
On-line College: It’s probably important to ask your teen if they are opposed to going to college, or they are opposed to the structure of college. If it’s the regimented structure that they are dying to be free from, consider an on-line program. Choose a reputable college to get your money’s worth rather than a non-accredited college. Employers look at the reputation of the on-line college and consider the validity of the degree. It is possible that once your teen gets a few classes done, they may be more excited to attend a more traditional school.