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Is College Right for My Kids?

Ah, the age-old question. It happens to all parents that have kids who are approaching that age. Maybe for some of us it starts when they are deciding whether or not to take Advanced Placement classes in high school. Maybe you wait until Senior year. But at some point in America, if you’re raising kids into their mid to late teens, the question is bound to come up.

Is college the right path for my child?

Now, some of it may be timing. A poll in 2021 found that nearly 50% of parents with 17+ year-old kids preferred to have their children take 1-2 years off between high school or secondary school and college, in part because they wanted the student to be sure college was right for them.

Another approach that has become popular is to take the first couple of years of college age to only attend college part-time, either via community college or via a greater-than-4-year undergraduate program. In fact, the average bachelor’s degree timeline in the US is nearly 6 years, not the traditional 4-year programs that were the mainstay of college in the 80s and 90s. Some commentators have even accused colleges of purposely extending the average college student’s graduate horizon for the purposes of simply milking them for 2 years of additional revenue via tuition, food and housing fees.

Either way, the question remains. For many parents, the other major reason they hesitate to send their children off to college, especially right out of high school, is the notion that college campuses have simply become indoctrination centers, a concern expressed particularly by more traditionally conservative or religious parents. The concern is that even children raised in households with traditionally conservative values end up leaving college with very different political and/or religious views. (And we’ll leave the political debate on this aside, but feel free to comment on this article, keeping the discussion civil.)

The debate over whether to send children to college or not has become increasingly political, which may be unfortunate in some ways, but parents aren’t just caretakers by way of food and shelter (and college tuition), but also caretakers by way of helping to raise well-rounded human beings, which includes mental and spiritual growth, creative and intellectual curiosity, and critical thinking and reasoning skills. It is both natural and acceptable that parents help to teach their kids a sense of wrong and right, rational vs irrational, and moral vs immoral. In that sort of foundational premise of political, religious or philosophical thought, that isn’t a bad thing, that’s just good parenting.

Of course, there is also both a school of thought and sometimes logistical/financial necessity that a person growing into adulthood ends up on a ‘straight to work’ path. Either it’s necessary financially or there is a career opportunity there. An internship or apprenticeship can lead to a profitable career much sooner than many college degrees could.


An apprenticeship as a welder, plumber, or electrician, for example, could mean your son or daughter is earning a 6-figure income while their high-school friends are still taking on 6-figure debt earning a degree in art history. And no student-loan forgiveness is necessary.

Most importantly, it’s key to remember that you have another person there. A person starting to grow into an independent adult capable of making their own decisions, where you become more of an advisor than a master. And yes, at some point, they will either crawl out of the nest, fly out of their own accord, or you’re going to push them out. There is no right path here, there is only what is right both for you, as a parent, and for them, starting their adulthood journey.

Either way, whatever the right path for your family, it’s OK to talk about it. Just like talking about drugs or sex or any of those topics, it’s almost unavoidable, so it's also important to prepare for it. Share experiences and observations, but don’t be afraid to ask questions too, and listen to what they have to say.

“Do you want to go to college?” just might be a good place to start.

We welcome constructive comments and questions below!

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