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Is it Wise to Encourage Your Kids to Attend College Right out of High School?

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Several years ago, I went to lunch with a man whose son was finishing Christian high school in six months. I know their son. He’s bright, mature, and loves God – a natural born leader.

But, his parents were alarmed because he announced he didn’t want to go to college immediately after graduation. He wanted to take a year off and either work, or serve in a ministry. While his parents were proud that he wanted to give himself to ministry or work to save up some money, they were afraid he might decide never to go to college. Clare, what should we do? So, I told him our story.

A Personal Story We have six children. All have gone to college right out of high school. Looking back, I’m not sure that was a wise decision. Not every 18-year old teenager is mature enough to take full advantage of the college experience. My wife and I actually talked two of our daughters, who were in Christian college 20 years ago, into dropping out.

The following conversation took place separately with each child, about two years apart. Both were, and are wonderful kids, no discipline issues, got good grades in high school and both my wife and I couldn’t have had a better relationship with them. Great kids!

“Honey, your mother and I have prayed and we talked about it and we think you should drop out of college.”

“Dad, you’re not serious are you? I thought mother and you always wanted us to go to college?”

“Well, that is not exactly true. What we really wanted you to do was to get a great education, not just go to college. The first three semesters you’ve taken 101 courses and have gotten very average grades – well below what you’re capable of. We just don’t think you’re motivated to learn. We know you’re enjoying college and having a good time with your friends. But, until you decide to get serious about learning and what you really want to do with your life, we think you ought to drop out and get a job. $25,000 a year is too much money for you to “find yourself”.”

“If however, after you’ve taken a year or two off and want to go back to college, and are serious about learning, we’ll be happy to pay for it; even after you get married someday. Having to work, save and live on your own will mature you and prepare you better for life far better than just showing up for classes, and having everything provided for you. You’re an amazing daughter, we love you dearly, but you need to grow up first. We hope you’ll understand.”

They were shocked. So were our friends.

Postscript One daughter went to work at a large daycare center and after a year noticed she was passed over twice for a promotion because she wasn’t a college graduate. The next year she returned to that same college, got great grades and became a wonderful elementary school teacher.

Our other daughter went into the real estate business, met her husband, but never went back to college. Today, she homeschools their four children, runs a small business out of her home and we couldn’t be more proud of her.

By the way, the student I talked about at the beginning of this blog didn’t go to college immediately. He served in YWAM (Youth With A Mission) for a semester, worked construction for a time, matured greatly and is now at a wonderful college and doing well.

The idea of taking a year or two off between colleges is so counter-intuitive, because “everyone” goes to college right out of high school. While that’s generally true, pray about whether that’s really wise for your child. Perhaps some of the horror stories I hear about terribly immature choices college students make, might be avoided if they were allowed to mature a bit more before moving from under your roof and rules, directly into the free-for-all college life.

This Thursday, as a follow-up piece, I’ll post a blog entitled “Should Everyone Go to College at all?”

Question: So what do you think? What are the dangers or downsides to waiting a year or two?

Following Jesus in Real Life

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