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How to Tell Your Parents You Don't Want to Go to a Traditional College

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Choosing to go to college is a big decision. Choosing to forgo a typical college education for a more untraditional path is a bigger one. Check out this blog post for tips on how to bring this topic up with your parents.

A Different Path

Everybody's different. Just because something is right for other people, even a lot of people, doesn't mean it's right for you. After all, you're a unique individual with your own history, personality, dreams, and viewpoints. There's no reason to assume that your life will follow any specific path. However… that's what most parents usually do when they assume their child will attend traditional college after high school. If that sounds like the situation you're in, don't worry. You're not the first, or the last, to deal with this issue. Here's how you should approach it.

Be Prepared

Telling your parents that you don't want to go to a traditional college is no small thing. Depending on your parents and their opinions, you might be in for a difficult conversation. And even if it isn't going to be exceptionally challenging, it certainly is important, with huge implications about you and your future. You don't want to go into a conversation like that unprepared, just saying whatever you want on impulse.

Choose a day and time to have this conversation. Think about exactly what you want to say. Anticipate your parents' potential objections and how you'd respond to them. On top of that, you also want to prepare yourself emotionally. Be ready to be honest and vulnerable about your feelings. Even if you're the type of person who gets itchy when they think about emotions.

A high school student prepares to talk to her parents about untraditional college options

Use Rhetorical Devices

Remember in high school when they taught you about pathos, ethos, and logos? Not everything you learn in school actually ends up applying to reality (trigonometry, anyone?), but this is one thing you can actually use in your life. Quick recap: a good argument appeals to three types of evidence: emotional, logical, and authoritative. Try to touch on each of these things during your conversation with your parents.

For example, you might explain how hard it is for you to focus in a traditional learning environment and the fact that it causes you stress. You could describe the way you feel more comfortable with self-paced learning. That's pathos. Then you could move on to some statistics about the cost of traditional college and how much money you would save by choosing a different option. That covers logos. And finally, you can suggest a few experts on education whose opinions support your point of view that your parents can research. There's your ethos. Just like that, you've built an effective argument.

A high school student uses rhetorical devices to make an argument

Listen to Their Concerns

A word of caution: you have to remember that this conversation isn't just about you doing whatever it takes to convince your parents that you're right. You expect them to respect you enough to really consider your point, so you should do the same for them. Allow your parents to make their own argument. Really listen to what they're saying and any concerns they have. And, finally, be open to having your mind changed. Your parents are wise, they know what they're talking about, and they just want what's best for you. The least you can do is truly consider their opinions. That way, everyone will feel better when you inevitably do whatever you want anyway. (Kidding. Don't do that.)

A high school student who needs to listen to her parents concerns

For a low-cost alternative to traditional college, check out Study.com's College Accelerator, a path toward a self-paced, online degree.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
December 2018
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