My stepson lies about applying to college

Help. Please. I have a stepson who is in his mid twenties who also has a gaming addiction. He hides in his bedroom with his gaming computer. He lies to his mom that he has applied to different colleges. There is always some snafu: application must have been lost in the mail, the college responded too slowly and therefore the admission deadline passed, etc. etc. Problem is his mother refuses to see him as lying and she is an accomplice in his cover ups. Her boy would "never lie " because he told her he wants to go to college. Only problem is he’s been lying to her so long that she can’t see it. He wants an excuse to keep living the relatively easy life at home so he keeps insisting that he is going to college. Only problem is it’s been over 3 years with this charade now and still no darkening of a college door. How do I convince his mother that he is continuously lying to us?

Forget about lying or not. I’d set a hard and fast deadline. Either he’s in college by x date or he gets a job and starts paying rent…or whatever makes sense for your family.

You may also want to consider getting him help for his gaming addiction. He’s not going to succeed in college if he doesn’t get that addressed first.


Sorry sounds like a horrible situation.

I don’t believe attending college can serve as a cure for an addiction (gaming or others). Compulsive lying, addictive behavior, likely adverse financial consequences, etc can’t magically be fixed by attending an institution of higher learning.

I would suggest (or if the parent demand) accountability and professional help for the addiction before even attempting to attend (and finance) a college education.

I don’t know how this person is financing their addiction but I would certainly not enable it by financing their current lifestyle in any way. Mid 20s is an adult with what should be adult accountabilities and responsibilities.

Good luck.


This is your step son. Really his parents should be dealing with this issue.

Is your spouse providing this kid any support? If so, perhaps there needs to be a warning about when that will end.

Does he have a job?

If not…job, school by a certain date for any monetary support to continue. With regard to housing…that’s up to the parent with whom he resides.


Before anything college-related can happen, he needs to recognize that he has an addiction and needs help.
Perhaps, disconnect the wifi and remove the cables. (He could play on his phone using his dataplan but it’s a totally different, less immersive environment than on a big screen.)

Once he’s cured, he can try and apply to a college that has a esport team in the game he plays best.
But college isn’t possible as long as he’s addicted so treatment is the #1 priority.

Finally, know that you’re not alone. There’s an entire generation of young men doing the exact same thing.


His mom and dad should probably stop enabling the behavior. If gaming is all he wants, he can pay for it (rent and internet bill at a minimum at mom’s house I assume). Sometimes practical issues can be a wake up call. It’s hard to pay for an addiction with a minimum wage job.

You don’t have a parenting problem - you have a marital problem. I’m assuming that you live with your wife and her leech son, and you don’t want the leech there anymore. Unfortunately, since you cannot do anything about the leech, you’re going to have to discuss with your wife that you don’t want to live with the leech anymore. You’re going to have to decide whether you want to continue living with your wife under these circumstances.


So it comes down to “either he goes or I go”. This is an Army medic who didn’t re-opt after his 4 years and returned home… To his mom he’s a hero for serving in the military and can do no wrong. To me he is a manipulative liar who struts about the house knowing he has his mother in his back pocket. The condition for coming home was that he attend college. Hence the continuous charades of these phantom application submissions. My wife has a shrewd eye for spotting liars but can’t spot his lies.

Unfortunately, yes. Make an appointment with a marriage counselor and ask your wife to come with you. If she won’t, then go by yourself. But the only solution is telling this young man that it’s time to leave the nest, and if she won’t agree to that, then it really does come down to “either he leaves or I do”. Or you could just continue to live with him in your home indefinitely. Clearly, he doesn’t want to go to college.


No, I dont think it’s you or him.
First, have your wife see his son as one who needs help and in a way that makes sense for her and the way she sees him: always in his room, playing video games, is he depressed? Has he become addicted to videogames after what happened during his tour?
Be sympathetic but make sure she sees he needs help.
If you use terms like “leech” or sound hostile rather than like you want to help, she’ll shut you down.

In addition, perhaps this young man doesn’t want to go to college. In a recent discussion about the many young men who don’t go to college and dont do anything (this has become a generational phenomenom), many pointed out that you can make an excellent living working a trade. It’s a dynamic, active lifestyle that might appeal to him more than college.

Btw, online programs (social media, MMPGs) are DESIGNED to be addictive. Think of them as tobacco or weed. Your stepson spends hours smoking in his room and doesn’t do anything : he needs help.

Also, if really the problem were college, you could just enroll him at the nearest CC. But you know that, in his current frame of mind, he wouldn’t go.


So wait….he was in the army for four years as a medic? That’s a tough job. How long has he been home since discharge?

He is eligible for veterans benefits and this includes counseling…for him.


Maybe the stepson could be encouraged to pursue a career as an air traffic controller or other work which can utilize gaming skills. (Meant to be a bit humorous.)

Incessant gaming in this case is clearly a harmful addiction which calls for professional counseling.

Chances are, if you make her choose between you and her son, she will choose her son. If she chooses you, she will likely resent you for the rest of your marriage (and you will still need to deal with the son since there will be fallout and she’s still the guy’s mother). She will probably resent you anyway for giving her an ultimatum. I know I would.

While it might be easy for him to do nothing but game for three years, it’s probably not just because he’s a leech. He might be depressed or anxious or he really doesn’t know what to do with his life. Maybe he needs to speak with someone and that could come in the form of career counseling if he’s not immediately up for mental health counseling.

I don’t know how long you’ve been married or how well you know your stepson. There are probably dynamics between your wife and her son that go back a really, really long time. Those patterns are very hard to change. Marriage counseling could be good if it helps the two of you figure out how to navigate this very difficult situation.


Why would you want to convince his mother that he’s lying? Do you want her to kick him out? If you don’t value your marriage go ahead and give your wife an ultimatum. That’s a lose-lose situation for everyone.

Your responsibility as a husband is to make sure your wife isn’t left with any burdens (a kid who fails to launch), and your responsibility as a father is to make sure your son is self sufficient before you die. You already seem to know what he’s doing (avoiding school), but now you need to find out why. This isn’t a kid who never left home. He spent 4 years as an army medic. So why is he settling for living at home? Have you talked to him to find out how he feels and what he wants? If he has no motivation he may be depressed. Professional counseling might help. You and your wife might benefit from counseling too. A therapist might be able to give you the tools to guide him effectively.


I’m sure in her heart she knows he is lying, but she can’t or won’t acknowledge it publicly. Could he be suffering from PTSD? Can he get help through the VA? Maybe let the college thing go for now and work with your wife try to get him into treatment.

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Thank you… I agree that any action on her part must come from her own initiative. I’m not as certain that she will ever get to that point. And yes he is very brilliant. I’m thinking to discontinue on my part any college talk, even if it comes up elsewhere and he stands and spouts lies about the admissions department’s mishandling of his application. Hopefully his mother will see that enough is enough and get tough with him: on her own initiative.


Yes, dropping rhe college talk right now is likely more fruitful.
(Also, remember that trades, apprenticeships… are valuable too).
Really you need her to consider he needs help.
He should have access to a counselor or VA therapist for his addiction and any residual impact of his tour of duty.

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I think dropping the college talk for now is a good start. But I don’t think the goal is for anyone in the household to get tough. It should be to find out why a “very brilliant” former army medic in his mid-twenties is settling for living in his childhood bedroom 24/7.

Young people are struggling emotionally because of the pandemic. Since your son is a vet who was an army medic (at what, 18? 19?) he may have PTSD or depression on top of that. According to my doctor, the suicide rate for that age group has risen since the start of the pandemic. Someone really needs to check in with him to see how he’s feeling. Is he seeing a counselor? If not, the VA is a good place to start.

What does he do besides play video games? Does he see friends? Date? It sounds like he joined the military out of high school. Was that his choice or something that he was guided to by others? If he left home right after high school it’s possible that all of his friends moved on and he’s using video games as a social outlet.

I think you need to approach this from a different angle. Talk to your wife and express concern for his well being. It’s not normal for that age group to hang out in their room all day, we’re in the middle of a pandemic that is causing depression in young people, and he’s a former army medic. I’d recommend contacting the VA to set up counseling.

A 3 year gap is a lot to explain on a college application, especially if it’s been spent at home. And they do ask. Getting a job would help get him into schedule (which is helpful for people with depression) and it would give him something to put on the application. But he may need to work through some issues with a therapist before he’s ready for that.


Did he enjoy being a medic? If so, how about him getting a job as an EMT (and he could later go back to get the coursework for a civilian paramedic)? There is typically a real sense of community within that career, and he might get a lot of positive support from his peers that could be more motivating than help from his parents.


I presume he didn’t see any action but got some good training. The military probably didn’t suit him or provide a skill that he wanted to enlist an extra year or two for. I’ve met some military enrollees who would stay in for another couple years to get aircraft repair certifications and experience. At least now he has lifetime VA benefits and the GI Bill.

“The Post-9/11 GI Bill includes payment of tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance and a stipend for textbooks and supplies. For students attending public colleges and universities, the GI Bill covers all tuition and fees at the in-state rate.”

With the spring semester coming up, he could at least sign up for community college. While he’s brilliant, I know of at least one National Merit Scholar who went off to college and didn’t shake the video game habit. He was used to missing assignments in HS and getting As on tests. That didn’t work in college. Ultimately, he was kicked out and has gotten some small company software development jobs.

Your stepson doesn’t sound openly depressed but can certainly have issues with focus and responsibility. Have any others had a son or daughter that is tied to computer games or YouTube videos at the exclusion of most everything else? Does counseling work? In my experience, you can take away all screens but then the kid is belligerent and the parent at home doesn’t want to deal with that.