Wanting the best for your children and their future is natural. Hearing that your 20-year-old dropped out of college can knock the wind out of your sails.
Your dreams of seeing your child walk across the stage at a college graduation ceremony seem to be flying out the window. Allowing your child to make their own life decisions without interfering can be one of the biggest challenges of parenting.
The sudden change of heart can be painful when they decide to choose to do the opposite of what you would prefer. So what should you do if your 20-year-old dropped out of college?
It is important to approach this situation with logic instead of emotion so you and your child don’t blow this out of proportion.
What Will Happen Now?
You are probably feeling upset and even disappointed that your 20-year-old dropped out of college. So much effort and work have gone into getting your son or daughter to this point.
It’s hard for a parent not to feel angry, frustrated, sad, or all three about their child’s decision to quit pursuing a college degree. Years of pickups, drop-offs, help with homework, parent-teacher conferences, planning, and last but not least, the sometimes tremendous financial cost have all led up to this moment.
Your child making the decision to drop out of their college program can make you feel like all of that effort has been wasted.
When your child drops out of college, they will most likely be on their way back to your home if their college was far away. All families handle this differently, but if your child doesn’t have other plans, they will have nowhere else to land.
Some parents decide that once their child reaches 18 years old, it’s time to let them go out on their own. Unless your child is having problems functioning independently or lacking the life skills necessary to thrive, there’s no reason not to push them to be more responsible for themselves.
Others have an open door policy and allow adult children to move back home with no questions asked.
Whichever you decide, help your child form a plan and have them create some short and long-term goals. Figure out a timeline for finding a new job and getting them into their own apartment.
Figure out whether being homesick was a factor in their decision to leave college. Maybe a school that is closer to home could be an option to look into. Examine their choices and observe their behavior.
Have there been certain friends or a love interest that could be driving your child’s choices?
Sometimes the issue is deeper than we realize. Peer pressure and drugs can affect a college student’s decision-making deeply.
You can set a specific deadline for how long your child can be back in the family home, taking time off, before returning to school or finding a job. Eventually, you want to see your son/daughter doing well independently in their own home.
You can’t make their goals for them, but you can make suggestions and offer them resources. Ultimately he/she will have to make a plan of action of their own.
Listen to their feelings about dropping out of college and be calm. Encourage open communication so you find the best ways to help them. Try not to be dismissive or critical about their situation. You don’t want to make the stress even worse.
How Can We Get Through This?
The first thing you should do is find out why your 20-year-old dropped out of college. Ask them what is going on and how you can help. Communication is key, so talk to your child about the reason(s) they don’t want to pursue college.
This will help you understand why this is happening and what you can do to get him/her back on track for success. The goal is for your child to be healthy, happy, and productive no matter what path they choose.
After you get past the initial stages of shock, it’s time to get to the root of the problem.
Launching your son or daughter into independence is important. They will have to live and learn on their own. You can’t always be there to pick up the pieces and fix everything for your children when they become adults.
They need to be prepared for the realities of adult life. He/she will have to learn that they have to find a good way to make money. Your child will have to be able to support their lifestyle and be stable enough to deal with the curves life throws at us.
Ask them about their plans and goals from here, if they have any. See what your child has in mind instead of college, it may not be as bad as you thought.
Your child may have left college to pursue a different career or trade school. They may have had difficulty keeping up with work or finding support and resources.
Emotional or social issues could be taking their toll on your son/daughter, causing stress and anxiety. Academic life can be demanding and maybe your child just wasn’t quite ready for that level of pressure.
Try to be as supportive as possible throughout this process. This happens more often than you may think with just over half of college students obtain the four-year degree they originally signed up for.
How Can I Help My Child Get Back on Track?
Don’t jump to conclusions or do anything irrational. Talk to your child with a level head and be open about what they want for themselves. Remind your son or daughter of the financial consequences of their decision. You don’t want them to regret it in the future.
They need to take ownership of their future and come to a conclusion about what their goals in life are. Student loan payments will be due whether you’re prepared for that or not. You don’t want debt to stand in the way of them making their dreams come true.
Keep an open mind, your child may decide to go back to school eventually and finish what they started. Lots of people take breaks from school and go back more prepared than they first were.
There are internship programs to look for nearby in the areas of study your son/daughter is interested in. Trade schools offer students the opportunity to learn specialized skills that can get them better-paying jobs.
Try not to add pressure on top of what your child is already feeling with accusations and disappointed comments. Offer suggestions for adjustment and future training, education, and career opportunities.
You might have to accept that your child just wasn’t ready for that program. This can be great news because that means they still want to further their education but just aren’t sure which school or degree is right for them yet.
Don’t give up hope that your son/daughter will become productive and successful. Finding a learning environment or online program that they can adapt well to and thrive in is the key. Review their mistakes without reprimanding, let them tell you what went wrong without making an assumption.
Praise your child when they make efforts and let them know when they need to kick into gear and make some decisions. Give them a little bit of a cushion period but ease into promoting your child’s independence.
Maybe talking with a student advisor, a trusted family member, or a close friend can help them get some clarity as well. Your son/daughter may not know all of their options and a little guidance could go a long way.
Finding out your 20-year-old dropped out of college can be heart-dropping. It is one of the phrases that many parents do not want to hear.
Dealing with this issue requires a strong sense of self-awareness and an open mindset. Without using emotions, try to understand why they have chosen to drop out and see if they have a plan for what they want to do and accomplish.
Keep in mind that not all 20-year-olds have it figured out and it will different experiences to really decide what they want to do in this life. Talking to them about creating a plan and taking action would be the key to this conversation because they will eventually have to be on their own.
If they are lazy, you will have to implement motivational techniques.
With that being said, don’t give up hope or let fear and anger take over. Be supportive and patient as your child figures out their education and career plans.
Here are some interesting facts about college dropout rates.