My Daughter Doesn’t Care To Go To College — Is That Okay?

iStock_000011763147Small“Mom, I don’t really want to go to college,” my 13-year old daughter mentioned casually over hamburgers one night.

“What?  Why not?” I gasped in horror, then I turned to my equally horrified husband.  We have always had the expectation that both of our kids would go to a university.  In fact, both David and I never expected anything less of ourselves when we were growing up, and David even went on to earn a medical degree post-college.  We are higher education people!

So, where did we go wrong?

“What I really want to do is hair and makeup.  Can’t I just get a license to do that and go on with my career?  Besides, I’m just going to get married and become a mom someday.”

Oh, the humanity…!

To Meg and Josh, I have always been a stay-at-home mom, so maybe they’ve come to believe that as the norm and, perhaps, ideal.  They don’t know my former life as a computer professional for which I earned a degree in Information and Computer Science from University of California at Irvine.  Yes, I used to wear pantyhose and dryclean-only clothes and actually get a salary.  I did the 9-to-5 grind and spent the weekends working on my music, dreaming of one day becoming a full-time musician.

Even after David and I got married and he eventually became a physician, it never dawned on me that I wouldn’t be “earning my keep.”  He was supportive of my desire to ditch the computer work to pursue music full time, and I was in the midst of really trying to make it work when we started to have kids.  I tried to continue touring and working in the biz for a while, but it just became too hard to juggle family and a musician’s life.  It just made more sense for me to stay home as David’s income was much more stable than mine.  So, I became a stay-at-home mom and a part-time musician.

Maybe I complained one too many times that my computer science degree was a complete waste in light of what I do now.  Maybe we stressed the importance of character over grades a little too much.  Or perhaps we lamented too often about the cost of higher education and the burden of student loans.  In any case, somehow our daughter — our beautifully smart, highly intelligent young lady — got the idea that college would not be a necessary part of her life.

Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a feminist, I am grateful for the pioneers who opened the way for me to pursue whatever I wanted, never being held back due to my gender.  I wasn’t limited to becoming a stay-at-home mom, although in the ended I chose to become one.

Then I started to think that maybe Meg has a point.  Part of the freedom now afforded to women is the ability to make choices in life.  And if that choice involves doing something she truly enjoys for a number of years before becoming a wife and mom, maybe it’s not such a bad thing…with or without a college diploma.

I do think that this girl would be wasting her high intellect if she doesn’t go to college.  In fact, the academic world would be missing out on a gem of a student if she chooses a trade school instead of a university.  We tried to persuade her into college for its many benefits — speaking and writing more intelligently, being challenged to think outside the box, learning the smarts to run her own business as a makeup artist or stylist, and generally having the respect from society for getting a college degree — but to no avail.  When we brought up the fun she would have in the dorms with other co-eds, however, she became slightly more interested.

Meg is only in 8th grade, so it’s still quite possible that she would change her mind during the next four years.  Although David and I are starting to feel less inclined to push her towards college if that’s not what she wants to do, this is still a bitter pill for us to swallow.

Anyone else facing a similar situation?

4 thoughts on “My Daughter Doesn’t Care To Go To College — Is That Okay?

  1. Yes, definitely. All 3 of our sons have pointed out that in our current culture, unless you go for your M.D., J.D., etc., having a degree does not mean you’re going to get a great job (and we have had attorneys working in our firm as paralegals). Two sons are pursuing their music passion and are doing well without a degree (both started and quit college). Other son has an Associate of Communication and is working at Trader Joe’s while doing freelance photography. We didn’t push them AT ALL to go to college (and definitely encouraged them to take time off between high school and college if they chose to attend). All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. :) They don’t care about money. They want to be happy doing something they are passionate about.

  2. Hi Junko, I am not a parent but would like to comment because one of the hardest lessons I had to learn as a college student and then a college graduate was that what I had always believed and been taught by parents and other important adults in my life about college leading to a better job was not necessarily true. In these days too many people have lots of education but no job. Your daughter is still young, and she will probably change her mind a lot about what she wants to do, so I think you are doing the right thing by listening to her and helping her find out who she is and what would be best for her to do in the future.