We’ve seen it time and time again: our kids are influenced by their peers or another adult they look up to. I notice this with my own children, who’ve taken on the habits of their friends since I can remember—both the good and the bad.
It’s a normal part of growing up and discovering who you are, and it continues into adulthood. At 45, I may not be as impressionable as I was as a teenager, but there are still people I know (or I don’t know) who influence me and some of the things I do.
It’s the same with our kids, where this influence factor is always at play, and it’s something that’s going to come up during the college decision-making process.
When I was in high school in the early ’90s, it was frowned upon if you didn’t go to college. The students who decided to wait a year, travel, work, or went to technical school were talked about by their peers and other parents. I remember because I heard it with my own ears and remember thanking my lucky stars that I got into a college of my choice because that’s just what you did.
Not to mention the fact that your name and the college you were going to were plastered on a big poster outside the career office. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have been celebrated, but it certainly did add to the pressure that going to a four-year school was the way to go.
I even remember that those who were going to a state school were kind of looked at like they just couldn’t get in (or afford) to go anywhere else. And times have not changed much. In fact, I’d say the pressure to get into, and go to, a private out-of-state school has gotten worse.
How can it not with everything else being so competitive? Sports have escalated and the kids these days (so they tell me) feel a lot of pressure.
Honors classes are all the rage too, and high schoolers are feeling the pressure to take courses to earn college credits before they graduate.
But my son has a pretty strong personality and doesn’t enjoy school at all. I’ve seen him waiver back and forth about what he wants to do, depending on who he talks to.
If he’s talking to some kids who aren’t going to college and have decided to work straight out of high school, he likes that idea.
This past year, though, he’s been hanging out with an older boy who graduated high school two years ago and is working while going to a state school part-time. He likes this idea and is considering it for next fall.
My daughter will be a sophomore this year, and she and her friends are already talking about going to college together in New York City, something I don’t think she’d be considering alone.
While she hasn’t encountered the pressure to get into a certain type of school yet, I know it’s coming. She’s definitely more motivated to go to a four-year school than my son, and she cares very much what her friends are doing and wants to fit in.
As a parent, I’ve had to stick to my guns and remind my kids that there are three children in our family, and their father and I work very hard. But we can’t always give them what they want, when they want it, nor do we want to.
I want them to grow up learning the value of hard work. I want them to realize that what is good for someone else might not be good for them. I want them to learn the importance of making a decision based on what they want versus what everyone else seems to be doing.
I know they don’t hear me as loudly and clearly as I want them to right now. But I tell them that, if they are conforming to go along with the crowd while masking what they truly want for their future, they are the only ones who are going to suffer.
On the flip side, I do believe that people come into our lives for a reason. If my daughter wants to go to college in NYC with her girlfriends, that could open up a whole new world for her.
If my son ends up going to college part-time while working next year—because he’s seen how well it works for his friend—I think that’s fantastic.
The ultimate goal is to teach our kids that they have to look out for their happiness, and they have to do it by being honest with themselves.
The more they exercise that muscle when they’re younger and try not to give in to the pressures of doing something solely for show, the stronger that muscle will be when they’re older.
Listening to their inner voice is key in every part of life, and we can’t forget to remind them to pay attention to the long game and their happiness when it comes to what’s next for them after high school.
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Hi, I’m Brad Baldridge, a college funding specialist and the owner of Taming the High Cost of College.
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