Myth #5: Parents Must Pay for College (part 3)

While considering education options, you must also ask yourself: What is best for my child? Doug, a client of mine, had paid a considerable amount of money to send his son to an elite film school. The family took on tremendous debt in order to pay this expense. Doug followed a similar plan for his daughter and made the same level of commitment to her. He and his wife worked to exhaustion to make it happen. They moved her to New York, set her up in an apartment, and registered her for art school.

After one quarter, she dropped out and told them it was torture. She wasn’t able to perform at the college curriculum level. It wasn’t what she wanted to do. After some soul searching, she decided she wants to work as a guide in wilderness education. Years of work and deprivation and emotional stress went toward fulfilling this mandate to send their daughter to college, and it was not what was best for her in the long run.

Sometimes this insistence to pay for our kids’ college education can set them further back than ahead. Duncan’s parents paid for four years of his college. But it was understood that what he was to get out of college was a degree in a “responsible” profession—which meant a money-making profession. This highly creative individual became an accountant and worked years for CPA firms and in the business world before uncovering his true vocation and talent as a writer. For years he ignored his true path out of a deep-rooted desire to please his parents who had paid his way.

His parents meant well. They wanted the best for him. But they were operating from automatic beliefs—that he should go to college, that he should become degreed in a respectable profession, and that they should pay for it. He was never involved in the decision. He was to succeed. He was to achieve.

If Duncan’s parents had allowed him to invest in this decision both psychologically and financially, it might have awakened him sooner to his natural vocation—writing. In his case, a liberal arts degree with time out for some travel would have made much more sense than an accounting degree.

Step back and ask yourself if college is the best place for your children to express themselves at their highest ability and greatest fulfillment. Is your automatic decision to spend a fortune on four or more years of college based on what is truly best for them, or is it based on what you assume is best for them?

Do you really need to fall prey to this automatic decision to pay for four or more years of college? After all, who is this unique individual who is your daughter or son? How can you help them gain the real-world skills that will enhance their strengths and support their interests so they can become fully expressive in their lives? Does that include college or are there other things you should be investigating?

Some kids are better served by going to a junior college or a trade school. Some kids are better served attending school overseas, or entering the Peace Corps, or starting work and gaining some experience first. If your child has always dreamed of making films, then moving to Hollywood and pursuing a specialized one-year film program may be just what she needs.

When they graduate from high school, kids are only seventeen or eighteen years old. Some need a chance to develop a bit more emotionally before committing to a career and a very expensive college. Some need more time or experience to be able to discover more of their true interests. It takes considerable grace and wisdom for parents to promote such development.

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