Is College Right for Your Teen?

Some teens are ready to go away to school and hit the books. Others may need different options.

A teen wonders, "Should I go to college?"

Going away to college is a rite of passage for some teens. But for others, leaving home is difficult. Some adoptees feel a rekindled sense of loss or rejection about having to leave their families. Others struggle with emotional or learning issues that impact their self-esteem or academic performance. The question isn’t, “What college should I go to?” It is, “Should I go to college?”

Consider the Alternatives

Whatever the degree of challenge, teens need to know that they don’t have to go away to college, even if their friends are doing so. While this notion may be hard for a teen to accept, it can be even harder for parents, who may have built up expectations. Some teens don’t have the desire or capability to go to college. For others, the decision-making process is more complex.

Lisa, a bright girl, was adopted as an infant. At age six, she was diagnosed with ADHD, and, at age nine, with learning disabilities. Her parents enrolled her in a small, private high school, and, with extra academic support, Lisa was able to attain good grades. She earned decent SAT scores and was accepted by several colleges. Her parents felt she would do best in a small school that offered tutoring services, but Lisa wanted to be with friends and enrolled in a large, public university. Although tutoring was available at that school, Lisa was too shy to ask for it.

By the end of her first semester, Lisa was overwhelmed, and she dropped out of school. After a chance to regroup, she decided to transfer to a smaller school that was closer to home and offered academic support. She graduated with a teaching degree.

Community college is another option for teens who are unsure of what direction they want their education to take. These schools are less expensive than four-year colleges, and they often employ professors with practical experience in the field.

Michael, a 17-year-old, struggled through high school and showed little interest in his future. But Michael’s parents believed in his potential. While they supported his decision to get a full-time job after graduation, they encouraged him to try some classes at a community college.

Michael found that he enjoyed taking courses at his own pace while working. Over time, he gained confidence. While it took Michael longer than most of his peers to complete college, he eventually transferred to a four-year school and found his niche in computer programming.

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