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What if your teen wants to skip college?

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By GreatSchools Staff

Do your homework if you're considering a technical school

Technical schools can be expensive, and they may not offer the training your student needs to get a job. Some questions to ask before investing time and money:

  • How good is the program?
  • How much does it cost, including books, equipment, uniforms, lab fees?
  • Is there financial aid?
  • Is it accredited? What are the names and phone number of the licensing organizations? Which state agency handles the licensing for graduates of this school? Your child's counselor can help you research which accrediting organizations are reputable in this field.
  • Check with the state attorney general's office and Better Business Bureau and your county's consumer protection agency to see if the school has a record of complaints that indicate questionable business practices.
  • Is the equipment up to date?
  • Sit in on some classes. Are the teachers engaging and knowledgeable?
  • How do graduates of the program fare?
  • What percentage of students complete the program?
  • What percentage of students get jobs?
  • Where are they placed, what is their starting wage and how long do they stay in their first jobs?
  • Are credits from the program transferrable to a college program?
  • Can the program refer you to recent graduates?

To learn more, read Choosing a Career or Vocational School on the Federal Trade Commission's Web site.

Consider a gap year

It may be hard for parents who grew up in a less competitive era to understand, but an increasing number of students who've spent years building their academic credentials with AP classes are asking for a breather before going to college. Your child may have the academic preparation for college but feel too burned out to take advantage of it right now. A gap year may be just the thing to get him recharged and focused on what he wants out of an education.

More and more colleges are allowing students to apply, then defer enrollment while they gain life experience and perhaps, a more international perspective. There are programs for students to help villagers build homes in Latin America or work in health clinics in Africa. Princeton University is formalizing the process by offering students financial aid for a gap year. An industry has grown up to place students in overseas programs for a gap year, a concept much more common in Europe than in the United States.

These programs can be a great way to help a student focus on career goals, but they generally cost money rather than providing a means to earn it. It's important for your student - whether she's applied to college or is not ready to do so - to understand the real cost of a gap year program. Talk to your child's college counselor for ideas about researching financial aid options for a gap year.

Finally, try to encourage your child to keep his options open. He may change his mind -many times. The global marketplace will change even more. There will be jobs in 2020 that most of us haven't imagined yet and careers that now look like lifelong paths may simply be first steps into an unknown future.

If your child needs some direction, the Occupational Outlook Handbook [] by the Bureau of Labor Statistics has a wealth of information about jobs, including the training and education needed, earnings, job prospects, what workers do on the job and working conditions.

Encourage your child to pursue his interests. The kid who loves playing games online may indeed grow up to invent them. But he'll also need to focus on school so he can learn how to think analytically, solve problems and become a lifelong learner.

Comments from readers

"Clearly the person who wrote this either didn't go to college at all, or went a really long time ago. These days it is not considered appropriate to use all male pronouns. Girls do go (or not go) to college also. Men are no longer considered the default human being-- get with the times. "
"Why would you not mention the militiary?"
"Excellent article!"
"Thanks for this article. I have a granddaughter who is beginning to shy away from college, and the article gives me some hope that she'll still have some earning potential. If you know of any websites that would be helpful in identifying where her 'career interests' lie, I'd be so grateful if you'd send me an e mail or post them on 'Great Schools.'. "
"It is time to change the focus of K-12 education from No Child Left Behind's emphasis on preparing all students for college--to preparing all students for LIFE. Actual graduation rates from K-Bachelors degree is about 26% according to the USED statistics. If the state goal of professional educators is college degrees--then the system is failing 3 out of four students. We need students who are educable after HS with strong foundations in reading, writing, and basic math, thing the majority of today's grads are sadly deficient in."

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