College or a Job for a High School Graduate?

Submitted by PeterAKenny on September 8, 2020

My 18-year-old adopted son will be graduating from high school in the Spring. I want him to apply to college and receive an education.  He wants to get a job.  Help.

The fact that he is adopted should make no difference.  You should respond the same way you would if he were your birth child.  But before you do, here are a few things you might consider.

First of all, at age 18, he is legally an adult. You can try to persuade him, but ultimately the final choice belongs to him.  It is his life.

Second, college is not the only place people learn how to succeed in life.  The work world offers many opportunities to learn important life skills at all levels, from getting along with others to specific technical expertise.

And third, he can do both.  He can begin with a full-time job and later go back to school to learn what he has found that he needed.  He can begin college while working nights, weekends, or in the summer.  Or he can postpone a job and devote himself full time to academics. 

Let’s focus on his getting a job since that is his choice for now. Don’t be disappointed if he wants to start in a service industry.  Many successful adults began their careers there.  What did they learn?  Basic human skills like how to get along with others and how to settle disputes.  They also learned they did not want to remain at the bottom of the work force forever.

What about an entry level position in a field of his choice?  Not a bad idea.  That is a good way to learn what is involved before committing himself more fully through four years of college. If he likes what he is doing, his company may advance him over time and help with further training.  An apprenticeship might represent an ideal place to begin.  As he searches for employment, he may be motivated to learn how to prepare a resume, how to dress for success and otherwise present himself in the best light, and how to compromise.

College is not the only place to prepare for a career. On-the- job training provides a more practical approach and the chance for earlier advancement. 

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