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How to tell if child is ready for a 4-yr college?

BfloGalBfloGal Registered User Posts: 310 Member
edited January 2011 in Parents Forum
S is a HS junior with a borderline 3.0 cumulative GPA (we will see in a few weeks when first semester grades come out). I think his GPA through grade 10 is something like 2.92. Anyway, here's my question:

As a parent, how can you tell whether your child is (will be) ready for a 4-yr college? I'm beginning to believe he isn't and won't be. I keep waiting for this "sea change" in motivation and attitude, but it hasn't happened. Just the other day he mentioned to some relatives visiting for the holidays that the only reason he wants a 3.0 is so that he can get his driver's license. No mention of "so that I have a better chance of getting into college." He knows intellectually that he needs an education, but he doesn't seem interested. I'm wondering if I should keep plugging away with suggestions to visit colleges, or just throw in the towel and expect that he will go to the local CC in fall 2012 and hope he kick it into gear there? (He isn't interested in trade school at all.)

What criteria does one use to judge readiness?
Post edited by BfloGal on

Replies to: How to tell if child is ready for a 4-yr college?

  • limabeanslimabeans Registered User Posts: 4,751 Senior Member
    You need to understand that a four year college can represent a whole variety of schools, but in the end, a four year degree is a whole lot different than a 2 year associates degree. Your son may not be the type of kid who has his sights on some super competitive elite school, but I don't suggest you throw in the towel and say he can't make it at a less competitive college. Studies show that 4 year college degree can be a huge advantage.
  • poetgrlpoetgrl Registered User Posts: 13,334 Senior Member
    Have you considered a Post grad year at a boarding school?

    It's a little bit more structured, but a good step towards college. I'm a big fan of the PG year for boys who are not quite 'there' yet, or girls, for that matter, though that seems to be a little bit rarer, just in terms of maturity levels.
  • CHS2011MomCHS2011Mom Registered User Posts: 191 Junior Member
    Keep plugging away. You never know what might click with him, or when a little maturity might settle in. My son grew up quite a lot during the summer between junior and senior year, and I can't attribute it to any "a-ha" moment--just time and the cumulative effect of seeing his friends preparing for life after high school, I guess.

    We had done a junior year campus visit to one of our state's large universities and that's where he was thinking he'd go, but not out of any real love for the school--quite a few kids from his HS go there, and it offers the program he wants to study, and he can probably get in. Last month, though, he visited another state university that's farther away from home and much smaller, and he was surprised to find that this was a place he thought he'd really like. Until then, I don't think he'd really *felt* that college was the right path; he has known it in his head, but not in his heart. He wouldn't have looked at the smaller school if I hadn't scheduled the visit. It's certainly not the only thing I've done to try to help him with his post-HS plans, but it turned out to be something that made a difference.
  • HawkwingsHawkwings Registered User Posts: 1,207 Senior Member
    Does he have any responsibility? As in, roles or duties or a job maybe, where he's got to be accountable? If not, getting something like that may help a lot. You mention the driver's license thing, what if you make him pay for gas and the extra tacked on to your insurance? Do you give him an allowance? If so, now is the time to cut it off and make him work for his own money.

    Harsh? To some, maybe. But I sure know that high school kids are silly and dumb and haven't gotten it figured out yet. Just coasting by is a common strategy, he's got to exert himself and work towards something greater to find some sort of internal motivation.
  • CHS2011MomCHS2011Mom Registered User Posts: 191 Junior Member
    I should add that I did make peace with the idea that he might not have been ready...or that he still isn't. We have a perfectly good community college minutes from home, and if he is not prepared to go away to school after he finishes high school he can either attend CC or find a full-time job so that he can contribute to the household.
  • BfloGalBfloGal Registered User Posts: 310 Member
    Thanks for the posts, everyone. S does have a PT job at a local pizza place and loves it there. He doesn't play sports, so I think the job gives him a sense of being part of a team. Since he started working (Aug '10) I've seen him become somewhat more responsible and more self sufficient, although recently he had a Dr appt late on a school day, which also happened to be a work day, and he was much more concerned with the possibility of missing work than of missing school.

    There is also a great CC near our house, which is of course an option for him. He has actually expressed interest in going there so that he can keep his job. What do you think-- is that a viable reason for not wanting to go to a 4-yr school right out of high school?

    We will probably take him on some college visits over spring break. Maybe it will have a similar effect as on CHS2011's son??
  • vonlostvonlost Super Moderator Posts: 24,903 Super Moderator
    You can ask teachers and counselors for their opinions, which would be in relation to his peers.
  • HannaHanna Registered User Posts: 14,321 Senior Member
    In California, given the guaranteed transfer arrangements, going to a CC for two years doesn't have to impede/delay the 4-year-degree at all. CC plus Berkeley gets you a Berkeley degree; that is a better credential than one earned in 4 years at Chico State.

    I echo the posters above who think it's important that he see what a 4-year college is like. I think he should go on a few college visits (with or without you -- if he has an older friend or cousin, that person might be an ideal guide). But if he flat-out refuses to visit, or if he sees the campuses and is unimpressed, then I think you have your answer. He may not be ready, or he may not be interested. Either way, he doesn't sound like a good candidate for a 4-year school yet. I haven't seen a lot of success stories where a reluctant, apparently lazy or immature child is shoehorned into a college where he doesn't want to be.

    That being said, if nothing changes, then early senior year, you need to communicate clearly what you expect of him after graduation. Will he need to be a full-time student at the CC? Work 40 hours a week? Pay rent or otherwise contribute to the household? Figure out what the rules are in your house, and enforce them.
  • ordinarylivesordinarylives Registered User Posts: 2,905 Senior Member
    I think a job he likes in a community where he's comfortable is certainly a viable reason to attend the local cc, especially if he hasn't expressed a burning desire to be part of a particular field. It's a reasonably priced place for him to figure out what he wants, whether or not that's a bachelor's. If he's not into school, pushing him to a four year may be a recipe for disaster. Even here amongst the top-school crazed CC-ers, you find the post about the kid floundering at the 4 year school that was supposed to be the golden ticket. Let him move at his own pace.

    Sure, encourage the visits, maybe some nearby LACs or a state college. Take a friend, or have him go with a friend who is interested. But don't push it. In the end, nobody can tell from the degree if the first two years were spent at the community college.
  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 8,223 Senior Member
    What financial responsibilities does your S have? It's great to love the pizza place, but if his earnings are his to spend on his social life, he may not have any idea that he can't support himself without an education. My kids worked, we were always very transparent with them about our finances, but it wasn't until that first real job after college when they were truly self-supporting that the lessons kicked in.

    So if his earnings are his to keep, you may be a long way off from him connecting the dots between $10/hour and actually being able to put food on the table and keep a roof over his head.

    Does he have any hobbies or interests that he's passionate about? That's always a good place to start.....
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 25,295 Senior Member
    Lots of hs juniors are not ready for college. And, many aren't in the early part of senior year. They don't have that vision yet. The real question is, will he be more ready around senior Thanksgiving, when it's time to make decisions and work on apps.

    Sometimes, if you push too hard, it backfires. You take him to visit some great possible matches and he acts disinterested. This may sound odd, but some kids need to see schools that don't meet their interests, schools that are below their qualifications- the places that are a definite "no." They get a picture of what they don't want. Then, when you visit better matches, they have something to compare against. Think about it.

    And, I generally agree- for some kids, there is nothing wrong with starting at a cc.
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Registered User Posts: 15,560 Senior Member
    Have you asked him if he wants to go to college? Is he interested in visiting colleges this spring or summer? If the answer is yes then you need to ask yourself if he gets himself up in the morning, does he do his homework with any nagging, is he self sufficient about taking care of school "business", does he seem happy in school, are his friends heading for college? There's two separate issues: does he want to go and is he self sufficient enough to be successful. But, unless your school is talking to the juniors about colleges it's not totally unusual for kids not to have it top of mind until the first day of senior year when the GCs start "hounding" the kids and scheduling meetings.

    I know with my boys we took little tiny bites during junior year.... college visit trips and some talking and then we wouldn't talk much about "college" for a long time. Spring brings the ACTs/SATs so no need to do much "talking". Summer after junior year you can grab them and start getting a concrete list together. It seems much more "real" fall of senior year and that's OK.

    I don't know about you but when my boys were 2-3-4 the more I tried to get them to walk faster, dress quicker, the slower they moved. I had to learn patience with them. It's really the identical experience when they hit 15-16-17, the more you push them the slower they move. Come to think of it I can think of more similarities between 2-3-4 year old boys and 15-16-17 LOL.
  • digitalmomdigitalmom Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    BfloGal... psychologically, what you are expressing about your son in many ways mirrors the situation in our house. Even now,as a senior with multiple acceptances and merit scholarship offers in hand we can't seem to rouse much enthusiasm from our son regarding this important decision. I believe that the stress of having so many choices and the constant bombardment of "college conversations" just puts some kids into kind of a "deer in the headlights mode." I have become insanely sensitive to this and try to offer options and discussions in "small doses."

    I totally agree with limabeans that there is a world of choices available between a CC and a prestigious school. All of our children are unique individuals and trying to assess what is at the core of what they want is one of the hardest jobs as a parent. My son has a 3.9 unweighted GPA, a 32 ACT, has had a paying job in his field since he was a 10th grader and has shown incredible community leadership and initiative. He also has a major life-long medical issue that has shaped his social interactions and perspective. He made it clear early on that he "refuses to go anywhere with Ivy on the buildings" and does not want to go to a college where they" sit and talk about things all day." He wants to actually DO what he loves to do. He has applied and been accepted to schools that anyone would consider well below where he could have gotten in and I as a parent accept that for him to be comfortable and succeed he needs to be a big fish in a small pond. Luckily, being near the top of the applicant pool at schools that have good programs for him works with our financial situation.

    There is certainly a huge difference between not being ready for a 4 -year college and not being excited about leaving your family and friends for a competitive environment. I hope that over the course of the next year you can help your son to see that there are options that you can all be excited about.
  • wis75wis75 Registered User Posts: 12,598 Senior Member
    Not everyone should go to a 4 year college. The "B" student who struggles to get that gpa is different than the "slacker" who could do better with more motivation for academics. By now you must have some standardized test scores over the years. Look at where he falls in those, the level of difficulty of his HS courses (remedial-average-honors) and which courses he does best/worst in. For you the CA system with its community colleges that allow easy transfer to some 4 year colleges is great (I don't understand why they let 2 year college students transfer into places like Berkeley but make it hard/impossible for those at 4 year colleges to). His best bet may be to go to the local college, especially if he has some enthusiasm for it. Then, when he is older and knows more about what he wants in life he will be on the path to a possible 4 year degree. Much better than pushing for the 4 year college in your state that doesn't interest him now.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,776 Super Moderator
    Does he want to work instead? My younger brother forwent college for vocational training. He was a very intelligent guy who held an above-average GPA throughout high school, and he was particularly good at science. He just wasn't that into school, and he preferred to work with his hands. He tried community college for a semester and disliked it, so he dropped out and worked for a shipping company for 6 months before he went to a vocational program to train to be an electrical line worker. He's 22 years old and has been working there for 3-4 years now. He makes as much as the average college graduate (about $35-40K per year, which in the South is pretty good) and he just bought a house at age 21. He's considering going back to college part-time to get a bachelor's in engineering, and if he does, his job will pay for it.

    There are a lot of jobs that can be had and done without college, and some of them are relatively recession-proof. Even when the chips are down, we're still going to need electricity, indoor plumbing, construction workers, repair workers, et cetera. Maybe he just wants to work and make money without going to college, or wants to delay college to get some work experience first.
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