My Son’s Not Going To College After He Graduates, And I’m Thrilled

Mother and teenage son embracing at home
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My oldest son just suffered through his online learning for the day. He hates school, he dreads sitting in a classroom for hours at a time, and it shows. He loves being active, going to the gym and doing hard labor. He’s been working as a plumber’s assistant for a few years now, and has stretches where he’s held down two jobs at a time — all his choice.

As he approaches his senior year of high school, there are no plans for him to go to college and I couldn’t be more thrilled for him.

Yes, I’d be on board with college or tech school if this was what he wanted to do. His father went to college, I went to college, and when we had kids we started saving and planning because we assumed they’d want to go.

You learn very quickly when you have kids to not assume they will reach certain milestones or do things simply because you think they will. And when they hit the teen years, you have to let go of expectations unless you want to climb an uphill battle every damn day.

I could push my son to go to college and take control of his future, even though he’ll soon be an adult and has expressed what he wants to do with his life. Or I could do the right thing for both of us — support his decision and focus on the benefits of not sending your kids to college because it definitely has its perks.

We don’t have to worry about the endless stream of paperwork, his college essay, or dealing with the financial aspect of him going to school.

I’m not only talking about the debt we’d accrue if he went (but so much that). Trying to decipher between which loans are best, how much aid we’d qualify for, and trying to get our hands on scholarships and grants makes my head spin.

He won’t have to add filling out college applications to his already full life. Of course, I’d be there to help, support, and remind him the clock was ticking so he better get on it, if he wanted to go to a traditional college. But since he doesn’t, I’ll happily throw my hands up and ride that freedom wave. After all, they are few and far between when you have kids.

He’s done the research. He wants to go into the plumbing trade and knows he can graduate high school and start his career without debt. It’s a no-brainer for him; he has a plan — and just because he’s not going away to school, let me assure you, that plan does not include graduating and living in my basement until he’s 35 just hoping things will work out for him. He’s determined and knows what he wants. I can’t say I felt the same about my life when I was his age. I went along with what everyone else was doing and hoped things would fall into place.

We are also aware he can go to college at any time should he change his mind. Just because he’s not going to college straight from high school doesn’t mean he’s flushed away his chance.

That’s the beautiful thing about giving him the space to figure this out on his own. It’s 100% his decision and he will never look back and say his parents pushed him to do something he didn’t want, or he felt he had to go to college in order to please us. I couldn’t live with that.

I can, however, live with him doing his thing and having his own thoughts and opinions about it, knowing he has the freedom to change his course if he wants.

We all have hopes and dreams for our children. I decided a few years ago when it was clear school was not for my son and he’d made it very clear college wasn’t something that would make him happy, I let go of that expectation.

Expectations are what get us into deep shit. All I care about is my son’s happiness and while others may think I’m being lazy, or not believing in him, it’s just the opposite.

I believe my son when he tells me he doesn’t want to go to college. I believe him when he says he can’t wait to graduate high school so he can be done with a life that doesn’t feel like his. I believe him when he says he can’t wait to work because I’ve never seen anyone work harder than he has these past few years.

I see how happy his trades job has made him, and who am I to postpone him living his best life because our society tells us going to college is the natural next step after high school graduation?

What is natural to one person isn’t natural to another and I refuse to fight him on what feels right to him. It’s his life to live, not mine, and honestly, I don’t have the energy to try to change his mind. It will be a losing battle all around.

So next year, while many parents and students will be preparing to go to college, my son and I will probably be checking out apartments or condos. He’ll be overjoyed that he gets to wake up every day and go to a job he loves where he feels confident, skilled, and gets to work with his hands.

The biggest perk of letting my son choose his own way is that I know he’s happy. No expectation, scholarship, school, or degree can even come close to measuring up to that.

After all, isn’t being happy what we all want for our kids? How lucky is he if he finds it this early instead of veering off the path because he feels it’s what you “should” do.