How to tell your Parents you want to take some Time off before Entering College

I just finished High School, I’m 18 (or really close) so I’m ready to start making my own decisions.  And one of my first major decisions is…

I don’t want to go “straight into College.”

Perhaps Mom and Dad have done all the right things, and the money is ready and the loans and grants applied for (and approved), the College tours are done and we’ve all chosen a place my parents hope I’ll attend.  This makes it even harder for me to decide to “take a year off” and not go directly from one educational institution to another.

Perhaps I’m not happy with “our” decision as to exactly where I’ll be living and learning for the beginning of my adult life.  It may be that I have friends and plans and I’m simply not ready to move on to College.  Or I’m simply not sure I want to commit, and need more time to think about it.

How to explain this to Mom and Dad?

To some extent, it depends on how communication has been going so far.  Are your parents patient but persistent about their opinion of your life choices?  It’s not whether you make mistakes (we all do), it’s how you react afterward that makes you “mature.”  Or do your parents smile and nod when you express your opinion, but proceed to ignore it?  Hopefully they don’t react with anger and disappointment, but at least they are being honest.

Therein lies the key.  Honesty is your best friend in all situations, so you must make an honest assessment of your relationship with your parents, and how you think they’ll react.  Then seek out someone else you trust (grandparents, favorite teacher, church leader?) and practice your “speech” about delaying your “higher education.”  Since you already have faith in the opinion of these advisors, you will be ready to hear the truth in their recommendations.

And the truth is that it’s OK for you to not want to, and for your parents to want you to go straight from High School graduation to freshman year at your future alma mater.  Be prepared for “life stories” about relatives and acquaintances that made the same decision, and suffered consequences as a result.  But also be prepared for “success stories” about people who (gently!) defied the authority of their parents, and were able to share their subsequent success with those who advised against your chosen path.

Make sure you are clear about whether your decision is to delay matriculation because you need time to live life (or whatever), or because you have no intention of further education in the near future at all.  Your parents are definitely hearing “I’m never going to College” when you say you are delaying it, so be honest with yourself, and them, about whether it’s about waiting a year or more to re-enter the educational system, or whether you’ve decided to try life with a High School diploma.

Bear in mind that recent studies show that a College degree is well worth the investment, even if you have significant debt when you graduate.  And don’t forget to ask as many people as you can when they had the best time of their lives, and many will tell you “My College years!”

And good luck no matter what you do, the world needs new 18-year-olds to get ready to take over for the mess we’ve left behind!

Tons of resources for College-bound young adults, no matter how many years they’ve waited, available at