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What if your teen wants to skip college?

Your child may want to delay college or skip it altogether. But he still needs an education. Here's how you can help.

By GreatSchools Staff

College is not for everyone. Your child may have reasons to delay it or forgo it altogether. But that doesn't mean he can afford to skip getting the training he needs to succeed.

There are good jobs and salaries available in fields from biotech to 3-D animation. They don't require a bachelor's degree, but they do require a solid academic foundation and technical skills.

Kids who decide not to go straight to a four-year college come in all shapes and sizes: They include the student who is clearly focused on a specific career as an auto mechanic or chef, the student who lacks the academic preparation or confidence in his ability to succeed in college, and the student who may simply need more time to figure out what she wants to do before she sees a reason to pursue a college education.

While the focus in most high schools is on moving kids from high school to a four-year college, vocational education - now called career and technical education - is getting more attention and some funding at the state and federal level. In an economy that requires stronger technical skills, career and technical ed looks a lot different than the vocational ed you might remember. It is more likely to include robotics than wood shop.

Here's how you can help your child prepare to enter the workplace if he's not planning to go to a four-year college:

Make sure your child gets a strong academic education in high school

Your student still needs a strong foundation in core academic subjects. In an economy changing as quickly as ours, all kids will need to learn new skills as their jobs change. After all, today's auto mechanics need to understand how to work on cars with sophisticated computerized systems, and chefs need to have a grasp of the science of cooking.

ACT documented the need for math and reading knowledge in a 2006 study. The study compared the skills needed for college success with the skills needed in entry-level jobs that provide opportunities for advancement and incomes high enough to support a family. It concluded that students need the same reading and math knowledge whether they are headed for college or directly to work.

Investigate community college for high school students

Dual enrollment offers many high school students a way to earn both high school and college credit for classes taken at a community college. Because community colleges have facilities and technical programs not available in high school, this can be a great way to get a head start on a career.

"Middle College" programs offer similar opportunities for high school students to spend their school day at a community college and earn a diploma and up to two years of college credit. You can read more about middle college on GreatSchools in Alternate Routes to High School Success. Talk to your child's counselor to find out about whether any of these options are available near you.

Consider community college after high school

Your child will likely need to look at a community college or technical training program after high school to prepare for the job he wants.

There are lots of reasons to consider community college. It's a far less expensive way to pursue post-high school education than going directly to a technical program or a four-year college, a key consideration for the student who is unsure of his career direction. Community colleges offer technical training programs, and they also typically have smaller classes than four-year colleges. That means that in addition to getting technical training, your child can sample college-level academic classes in a less stressful setting than the typical large state university. You can learn more by reading the College Board's Why Community Colleges?. They Teach That in Community College? A Resource Guide to 70 Interesting College Majors and Programs may help you get your student thinking.

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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