HomeArticlesIs a Four-Year College Degree for Everyone?

Question. Our son is immature, lazy and unmotivated. His interest in attending college a year from now is minimal. We think he’s intelligent but academics have never been his interest. He loves to hang out with his friends, however and spends an inordinate amount of time working on his car. My husband and I both have college degrees and having an unmotivated child makes us emotional wrecks. By the way he received a 29 composite on the state ACT test this spring.

Answer. Indeed, it is difficult to have an unmotivated child especially when both of you are college-oriented and have high expectations. Judging from the way you describe your son, however, he may be an excellent candidate for some other form of education. There are some excellent, economically sound, alternatives for your son and one of the most popular, yet often maligned, is the community college. This two-year option is beginning to gain popularity among traditional age college students. Previously considered “second-rate” alternatives, community college enrollment today is growing throughout the country because of its “college transfer” or 2 + 2 programs. Technical and career training long considered the mission of the community college has been supplanted in part by the transfer aspect.

Due to increased numbers of traditional-aged college students, many community colleges now provide competitive athletics, clubs, student activities and even travel opportunities. Many are trying to build a sense of community between their diverse populations.

The vocational/career building aspect of the community college is still very evident on most campuses. Many train the student for a career in a specific vocation and the student is much sought after upon graduation your son’s interest in cars coupled with strong academics may make him a candidate for an elite automotive program. The open admissions policy prevails at most community colleges and the cost is considerably less than its 4-year counterparts.

Another viable option to a 4-year college is the numerous “for-profit ” career oriented colleges, which provide career and vocational training with a demanding academic core. Schools like Johnson and Wales, which is fairly new in Denver, call their programs “top down” whereby a student will take 2 years in culinary arts, for example, followed by two academic years. Although costly, these schools have excellent success in the job placement area.

Your son has numerous options besides a 4-year baccalaureate degree but it might be necessary to overcome the prejudice you have regarding some of these options.

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