6 Ways to Support Your Non-College Bound Child

College isn't for everyone. If your child decides not to attend college, don’t fret—here are 6 ways to focus on a bright future.


Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #427

#4.  Keep Them Reading

Reading is the gateway to learning new things, thinking differently, experiencing new adventures, and for just pure entertainment. For kids who aren’t interested in heading to college, reading probably is not one of their favorite pastimes, but it can be more important to keep those pages turning now than ever. In addition, reading can also keep your brain sharp.

In Smithsonian's Being a Lifelong Bookworm May Keep You Sharp in Old Age, the authors write, “The findings, published online today in Neurology, suggest that reading books, writing and engaging in other similar brain-stimulating activities slows down cognitive decline in old age, independent of common age-related neurodegenerative diseases.”

For a teen who is now no longer a student, reading can definitely fall by the wayside. Encourage your non-college student to stay sharp and informed by reading as often as possible. I subscribed my son to some culinary and landscape magazines, which he still receives 4 years later.  For an interesting assortment of good reads, check out the list,Ten Books That Will Change Your Life, on lifehack.org.

#5.  Discover Alternatives

Instead of trying to convince your teen to attend college, talk about alternatives to college. Encourage your child to visit a career center or their guidance counselor to learn about their options, and help your teen gain an understanding of what types of opportunities are available.

Instead of trying to convince your teen to attend college, talk about alternatives to college.

Some of these options are:

Community college: Community colleges are a great option for teens who might need more time to mature, who are afraid to leave home, or who do not have the resources to pay for an expensive university.

Trade or other specialty school: Some teens choose not to go to college because what they want to do needs a different type of education. For example, if your teen wants to be a mechanic or a chef, there are wonderful vocational schools and programs to support their interest.

Internship: While most internships are unpaid, they provide an excellent way to explore career options, make contacts, and develop relationships with mentors. In a year’s time, your teen could possibly participate in two or three internships, helping them to define their true career goals.

Online Universities:  One way to keep your child connected to a college studying experience is for him to enroll in an on-line class.  These are becoming increasingly popular throughout the country and are a great option for a student who might want to get his feet wet with a college curriculum without enrolling in a particular college or university.

Military service: Some teens may want to explore military service as an option.

#6.  Establish Boundaries for Living At Home

If your teen doesn’t want to attend college, but does want to continue living at home, you must talk about your expectations and take steps to help them become self-sufficient.

In My Kid Doesn’t Want to Go to College, New Jersey-based psychotherapist Tom Kerstig says parents need to set firm boundaries: “If a child wants to stay home and not go to school, Kerstig says, it’s time to set some ground rules. Will the child pay rent if he’s working but not in school? Does he need to have some kind of job? How much hanging out in front of the TV is acceptable? Whatever the arrangement you make, if you don’t communicate your expectations and then follow up with consequences, you might end up with a 25-year-old still living at home, going nowhere.”

“Parents are going to have to step up to the plate and get a little firmer with kids,” he says. “As a parent you can’t keep bailing your kid out and enabling them to do what they’re doing.”

This is exactly what we did with our son. We told him how much we loved him and that we were willing to embrace his decision with a positive outlook, but he had to work and begin exploring career options and personal interests that would help lay a solid foundation for his future.  Four years later, he’s working in the culinary field and is learning from professionals with on-the-job training, which because he is a tactile learner has benefited him immensely.

How have you helped your child who has chosen not to attend college?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

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All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.