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How to tell your parents you don’t want to go to college?

How to tell your parents you don’t want to go to college?

Going to college is no longer the only way to get the education you need in order to have a successful career. With the evolution of technology, we have today more access to educational resources and opportunities than ever before and it’s all at the tip of our fingers. 

However, old people or very traditional families might not be familiar with this concept and that could include our parents too. Our parents are from a different generation and they may be a little stuck in their ways. They want their children to go to college and follow a more traditional path because it seems more secure and the right thing to do. However, if that’s not what you want to do then you have to be honest about it.

That means you need to have a potentially difficult talk with your parents and you should prepare for it to go as smoothly as possible. To help with that, here are a few helpful tips!

5 Tips to tell your parents you don’t want to go to college:

1. Prepare for the conversation:

Talking to your parents about not wanting to go to college can be quite difficult, so you need to prepare for it. In other words, you should have a plan before you bring up the topic. What is it that you hope to accomplish instead? Do you have a career path you want to pursue instead? How can you get there without a degree? What is the best attitude to take during the conversation considering your parents’ personalities? etc. 

Moreover, you should think about how your parents might react and all the possible outcomes. The goal is to stick to the topic, so you have to remain centered and calm even if your parent’s first reaction is to freak out and panic or ask a million questions. Ask them to listen to you first and be respectful, they can have the floor when you’re done and you’ll answer all their questions.  

2. Explain why you’ve made this decision:

So, you’ve chosen not to go to college, but why is that? It’s the first thing your parents will want to know. Everyone has a different answer to that, but the most common reason is that college is expensive. This is an outdated one as your parents will probably not want to hear about why college is a no-go but will be more interested to know if you can still make it in life without a degree.

So you may want to focus on proving to them that college is not the only path to success and that self-directed learning is a better option. So do your research and prepare a list of successful people that didn’t go to college or dropped out of it and still made it big in life. This way you will stand a chance at proving that there are plenty of opportunities out there for people without formal qualifications, provided that they have enough determination and ambition. 

So reassure them and show them that you know why you’re taking such a decision and that you just need enough time and support to prove your point and make it big. Help them understand why you’re taking a different path and why that’s not a mistake but a golden opportunity to do something different. You know why it may seem scary for them, but you also know what you want for yourself so try to make this point too, if you get a chance. 

3. Let them know what you’ll do instead:

Again: if you’re not going to college, let your parents know what you’ll be doing instead and what your plan is. They may not be super receptive at first, but showing them that you know what you want to do will make it a bit easier for them to understand and accept your choice. 

There are so many great college alternatives and your parents want to know that you’ll be okay, so make sure to explain what you’ve decided to do instead. Of course, your parents will be extremely disappointed if you have no plan and just plan on spending your days on the living room couch instead of studying for a degree.

So prove yourself and explain your plan in detail. Whether that’s an apprenticeship, joining an accelerated program, starting your own business, accepting a job offer you got, etc., tell them all about it. Your excitement may be contagious.

4. Have a backup plan:

Parents can be pessimistic and it often doesn’t have anything to do with you. They wanted you to go to college so they can feel less nervous about your future. For them, even if life turned cruel to you after their death then you’ll still have a degree you can use to apply for a job rather than starve. So they will surely ask: what if your main plan doesn’t work? It’s a valid question and you should have a valid answer to offer. 

Life doesn’t always go the way we like, but failure is not a bad thing, it can be an opportunity for growth and personal development. Preparing for the worst and having a backup plan shows that you’re aware of the risks and you’re mature enough to be trusted to make your own decision. 

5. Try to anticipate what they’ll say:

You know your parents quite a bit, so you will qualify more than anyone else to anticipate how they’ll react and to know what to expect. In other words, you have a clear idea about the way they think and the values they have. That means you can prepare in advance for the things you think they’ll say and the arguments they’ll have against you. Use that knowledge to your advantage and make a list of answers to all their possible questions. 

Most parents have the same arguments about not going to college. They think you’ll have a hard time finding a job, securing your financial future, or becoming successful. They also think that you’ll miss out on an important life experience because going to college is what everyone does.  


Breaking the news to your parents about not wanting to go to college can be nerve-racking, but the sooner you do it, the better. Remember, most parents just want to know that you will be okay. And if you find a way to prove yourself to your parents in other ways then they’ll be ready to listen to you and encourage you.

They want to see you succeed and have all the opportunities you deserve. You just have to show them that there isn’t only one path to success and you’re confident you will do well enough, even if it’s not always easy. 

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