Should I pay for my daughter to go to college no matter what?

My daughter wants to go to college, but she doesn't have any sort of major in mind. She hasn't particularly excelled at any classes in high school, though she's a decent student. I want to support her, but I don't feel comfortable paying that much money for something she may not like or even regret.

Answers

Matthew Clemens, Physics and Math Teacher, Parent, and Tutor

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If you are pushing her to go to college more than she wants to go to college, that could be disastrous emotionally and financially. Some kids just aren't ready for school yet. Could you encourage her to take some classes at the local community college that would easily transfer to most schools (writing, math, psych, etc.). That way she could get the confidence to attend college and/or see if it is for her before you invest thousands of dollars.

M. Erez Kats, Seattle Language Arts Teacher

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Not all students are cut out for college. In general, in today's society, it is definitely much more beneficial to have a college degree than not have one, but that doesn't mean that this is an absolute necessity. Your daughter might have other talents or interests that could take her in other directions such as a vocational or technical school, traveling abroad, or possibly even being an artist,etc. The important thing is to keep talking to your daughter throughout her high school career, and keep checking in with her as to where her interests lie. If college is something she wants, I'm sure she'll find a way to make it happen. If she's not cut out for it, she'll find that out too. But as long as she is aware of all her options, and you continue to monitor her progress, I'm sure you'll both make the right decision when the time is right.

Anonymous, Former graduate student

Knowing what college to major is definitely something that makes college more efficient, especially from a monetary perspective. That being said, having a major in mind is not mandatory when applying. Thousands of students are in the same situation for college each year. Luckily, many college offer students to apply and get in as an undeclared major. This allows your daughter to apply without any specific major in mind, while being able to take classes that she would have to take eventually anyways. During this period, your daughter will be taking classes that are geared toward helping her decide what classes to take. I hope this little piece of advice helps and I wish your daughter the best of luck!

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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I recommend the gap year or community college. I wish more students considered both. Community college offers students plenty of academic options at an affordable cost, the opportunity to exit with an associate degree after two years, and a host of courses that should easily transfer to a four-year school.

Something else to consider is giving your daughter an amount of money that you are willing to contribute towards her education each year that she is in school. She could then take ownership in considering what she is willing to commit to her education. If it covers more than community college and she chooses that track, she could save it for a future pursuit. If it doesn't cover the tuition at her school of choice, she would then need to invest in finding loans and grants. But an option like this might allow you to feel more comfortable with your financial commitment while still being supportive.

Gina Badalaty, Parent of 2 kids with disabilities, Professional Blogger

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I'm going to answer this differently, as someone who went to college back when it was a "must do," and dropped out because of being in too general a field. What would have been best for me would have been the "gap" year that I wanted to take to travel. Attending the required first year college curriculum might not stir up any more interest in her as the subjects are pretty basic - she many not really be exposed to any careers, trades or subjects that do entice her, unless she samples from each major. I did that as well, and it was a huge waste of time and money.

What's important is that she figures out what does interest her. If she took a gap year, she could get a job and see what it feels like to earn a paycheck. While may not be an option for a long term career, it can help kindle a love of working and serious reflection on career choices. Does she have a guidance counselor? She should start doing some research on different industries and fields.

Finally, if you do decide to send her to college, you may want to put a limit on how long you'll finance it. You don't want her to be there 3 years with no clear major, or flip flopping major choices every few months. That will only extend her attendance with no real result and encourage her postponement of making a choice. (I'm speaking from experience.) If she does attend, she should talk to the heads of different major departments to find out what opportunities exist in that field. Many of them are happy to talk about their own passion for their subject. She can also do that without attending by making appointments and attending information nights. I hope this helps!

Lisa Friedman, Inclusive Educator, Religious School Director, writer & speaker

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"No matter what" is a tough one. As parents, we want what is best for our children, but we also need to provide for them in ways that are responsible. The simple answer is "no", you do not have to "pay for college no matter what". You are, after all, the parent.

That said, I agree with the answers above that there is value in your daughter pursuing and obtaining a college degree, even without a major in mind or a specific area of focus. I REALLY like the Gap Year idea to help her grow and learn, but those programs come with a price tag, as well.

One thing I have not seen suggested here is having your daughter begin her studies at a community college. This is much more affordable than a four-year school, and it would allow her to satisfy basic requirements while also beginning to refine her focus, explore new interests and/or determine if college education is right for her.

Good luck!

Brittney Miller, College graduate, current graduate student

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I agree with Colleen and Laura. Going to college introduces a lot of options to your daughter, not only with the classes that she'll take but also in the workforce after she graduates. Not having a major is not unusual, and many students who decide on a major right out of high school often change majors one or more times. Some schools have programs for students who are undecided on a major that will help them navigate what kinds of classes to take and help them figure out what they're interested in.

Paying for college can be a huge burden on you as the parent, but I don't think you should feel obligated to pay for all of your daughter's college costs. If she's serious about going to college, she will find a way to go. This is not to say that you shouldn't help your daughter pay for college, but she does need to understand the financial stake you are making in her future. I like Laura's suggestions of making an agreement with your daughter where should would need to maintain a certain GPA, get a part-time job, or attend a community college first in order for you to contribute to her college expenses.

Laura Burgess Martin, Special needs parent; work in non-profit sector

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I would not be concerned that she does not have a major in mind. I went to college with many people who did not know their major upon entering college but after taking a variety of classes, they discovered a program they loved and now hold successful jobs.

Sometimes high school just isn't for everyone. As you say, she is a decent student. Let her give college a try. Put some ground rules in place before college begins. Maybe she has to maintain a particular GPA in order for you to pay. Maybe she has to work before she leaves for college and have a certain amount of money to apply towards tuition. Maybe she takes a few classes at a local community college for a semester, or even a year, to show you she wants to attend and then transfers to a larger college or university.

I am a huge proponent of going to college straight from high school. Most I know who decided to take a year off after high school never went to college even though they thought they would. They became too involved in the work force to want to take time off to go back to school. There is also a lot to be said for being in college with peers your age.

Best wishes in your decision and best wishes to your daughter!

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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This is a question that has two parts: the parenting part and the education part. I will sum up the education part quickly. Forbes argues that it is still worth it to get a college degree. Your daughter's earning power will be significantly greater if she gets a college degree.

Now, for the parenting part. It sounds like you are concerned about her not having focus. Many of my students are unsure of where their passions lie when they start college. Some find a path. Some don't. Some leave. Some come back. Some don't. So we can't know what path your daughter will take. To me the big question is: is she willing to put some financial skin in the game and pay for some of it? If she really wants to go to college, she should be willing to have a financial stake in the decision. If she isn't willing to accept a small part of the financial burden, that says to me she doesn't really want it all that badly. And that is ok.

Perhaps she needs to take a gap year. Or go out and work and find out that maybe she really doesn't want to have jobs that don't require advanced degrees.

I wish you the best as you negotiate these challenging waters.

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