“My son is 15. Why doesn't he want to talk about college?”
(continued)

Dear Annie,

You are right, the anxiety is all mine and I end up transferring a lot of it onto my son. It's become so that we can't even raise a simple "what fields of study interest you most" anymore because he feels it's a prelude to the college discussion :(

I actually thought I was a late starter to the getting ready for college game! I'm from India and my son is the first in my extended family to head towards college in this country, so I don't have any personal experience to rely on. My reading on the subject says that courses selection even during the freshman year should be done with an eye towards which type of college/major you would be interested in.

Wouldn't it be important to know what major he might want to pursue, where he's aiming to go and tailor his course selection to fit that path? Currently he wants to study genetics or computer science in college and wants to do AP US History and AP Spanish in his junior year!! Seems very counter-intuitive to me and I must say anxiety inducing. Am I just completely misguided here?

Thanks!

A Little Stressed

Dear A Little Stressed,

You are not a "late-starter" in the "college game." Perhaps you are feeling this way because you have friends who have started pressuring their children as 8th, 9th or 10th graders. Believe me, starting too early can create none of what parents want. You want your son to be motivated and to keep focused on the goal of acceptance into a good college and ultimately graduation from that college and the acquisition of a fulfilling career. You have seen for yourself that pressuring him to make these decisions at this time is counter-productive AND it is also damaging your relationship with him.

Yes, it is true that college-bound juniors should be on track with their course selections. Sciences, foreign languages, mathematics, English, etc. As for whether these should be AP classes (some, all, none) and/or Honors classes is really a decision that is best made in a conversation between your son and his advisor. Talk to that person and get the reassurance you need that you are not a late-starter.

No college expects their incoming Freshman to declare a major. They don't even give freshman an opportunity to declare a major. That's why it is meaningless to be stressing now. If your son says he wants to study genetics or computer science, he may be absolutely certain. Or he may think that he is. Or he may be telling you what he thinks you want to hear so that you will end this discussion and give him some peace. Bottom line... it is not likely that a 16 year old knows what he wants to major in in college. And he doesn't need to know this yet!

Please back off. Let your son talk with his advisor and together they can discuss the appropriate courses for him for fall semester Junior year. Of course you are entitled to be part of the conversation. But your son's high school education is his responsibility, not yours. Your son's college search is his responsibility as well. Of course you can guide, but when you take it over and make it YOUR project, then you are babying him. He is very likely to resent that. Any self-respecting teen would.

He has plenty of time to make these decisions. Please try to relax. It would greatly benefit you and your son and the rest of the family.

I hope this helps.

Namaste

In friendship,

Annie

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