How to Inspire Your Teen to Go to College

As your teen works their way to college, you may find that their desire to further their education at college starts to diminish. It’s important to understand that they are not alone. Nearly 30% of recent high school graduates decide to not pursue university after graduation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While this might be scary for you, part of your child becoming an adult means they are responsible for their own decisions. However, as a parent, there are ways you can guide them in the right direction. With that in mind, here’s how you can inspire your teen to go to college:



Talk About Career Options

A large part of the reason why students feel overwhelmed with the idea of college is because they simply cannot choose a major or don’t know where to start. This is completely normal. At a young age of 18, there’s a lot of pressure to choose a career path that you’re expected to stick to for the rest of your life. To help ease the pressure, have a candid conversation about career options, and let them know that it’s okay to be confused or undecided.


College is about exploring those choices and deciding what you like best. If they have two or three ideas about what they’d like to do, try to find local programs or classes they can get involved in to help them explore it further.


Take Them to Visit Campuses

Campus visits are one of the best ways to show students what it’s like to live the college life. Without campus visits, it can be difficult for your teens to understand what to expect. Visiting a college allows them to actually picture themselves being there. Tours and information sessions make it easier to see what the campus is all about. These tours are most often led by current students, so they’ll be able to have ample opportunity to have some of their questions answered by people who have been in their shoes.


Create an Inspiration Wall 

Allowing your teen to create an inspiration wall and helping them in the process can give them a much-needed visual boost they can look at each day. For example, if their goal is to become a fashion designer, take them to a local fabric store to pick out a few textures and prints they like, and put those swatches together on a mood board. Or, pull out pages of stunning photography from renowned travel magazines and add it to the walls. If they love to travel, have them put a large, beautiful map of the world with areas they hope to visit one day marked off.


Personal photos and quotes are also always a great addition. And because some students can’t imagine themselves going through with college, why not have some fun and buy a fake diploma for their wall as an inspiration tactic? There are endless creative ways they have fun with a curated art wall. Remember to help guide them, but be as involved or hands off as they’d like. Check out these mood boards to inspire you.


Encourage a Gap Year

If your child is fairly set on not going to college, encourage them to take a gap year instead of giving up continuing education entirely. Today, gap years are becoming increasingly common, and may even up being benefiting your teen in the long run. A 2015 National Alumni Survey found that the number one reason students took gap years is because they wanted to explore personal growth and gain life experience, as well as travel and volunteer. And according to the Wall Street Journal, 90% of gap year students go on to college afterwards.


Furthermore, they tend to have better academic performance than those students that don’t. Encourage them to take a gap year to volunteer or travel—both which will offer them a fresh perspective on the world around them and help them better figure out what it is they’d like to do for a career.


Don’t Stress Them Out 

There’s a difference between encouraging and inspiring, and nagging and being overbearing. With such a major life decision under way, knowing when to give your teen space is important. Let them know you’re there to help, but don’t ask them every day if they’ve made up their mind. This could deter them further from deciding to go to college. When they’re ready, be patient about sorting through options, finances, and programs. Take on some of the legwork—like ordering catalogs or reading over their personal essays—but not all.