Getting Ready for College: 10 Tips for Parents of Unmotivated Teens

teenage girl

College enrollment is on the decline in the United States, and it has been for the last several years. Kids used to spend years looking forward to going to college. That doesn’t seem to be the case any longer, though.

Is your teen unmotivated to go to college? Are they resisting your pleas to fill out applications or look for scholarships? 

As your kids get older, it can be harder to convince them to do certain things. But, it’s not impossible. 

Here are ten tips that will help you motivate your teen as they go through the process of getting ready for college.

1. Talk to Them About What They Want

This might seem obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many parents skip this step. If your teen is unmotivated or uninterested in going to college, sit down with them and find out why. 

Have an open, honest discussion and don’t try to change their mind. Just listen and find out what they want to do instead.

Maybe they don’t want to go to college because they want to pursue a trade or certification instead of a traditional degree. Or, maybe they want to take a year off before they dive into college life. They might also be insecure about their grades or ability to keep up with college-level coursework.

Opening up communication channels can help you see where your teen is coming from. Then, you can take steps to help them accomplish their goals or get on the right track.

2. Communicate with Their Teachers

If your child’s grades are slipping and they seem as though they might have a hard time getting accepted to college, communicate with their teachers.

Find out what they can do to get their grades up, and find out if their behavior in class has changed recently. 

Communicating with their teachers can also help you learn new ways to motivate your teen and encourage them to pursue a college education.

3. Get Involved in Their Test Prep

If your child is interested in going to college but isn’t confident in their ability to pass the entrance exams, they might feign disinterest as a type of defense mechanism.

Look for ways to help your teen prepare for their entrance exams — hire a tutor, invest in some test prep books, or borrow some from the library. You can also check out this post to help your teen decide which exams they ought to take.

4. Don’t Make Excuses

It’s okay if your teen doesn’t want to go to college. It’s not okay for them to slack off and quit trying altogether.

Don’t make excuses for their behavior. Let them know what you expect from them and explain that there will be consequences if they don’t meet your expectations. 

This isn’t always easy, especially when you’re dealing with a moody teenager. But, remember that you’re the parent. You get the final say.

5. Take Them on a College Tour

Sometimes, teens are unmotivated to go to college because they don’t really know what to expect from it.

Consider taking your teen on a college tour so they can get a feel for what campus life is like. They might return from the tour with a new desire to pursue a degree.

6. Praise Them When They Do Something Well

Your teen might be unmotivated because they think no one notices whether they do something well or not.

Make sure you’re praising your teen when they do something well, whether it’s achieving a high score on a test or performing well in their favorite sport or activity.

If your teen feels that you’re proud of them and impressed with their work, they might be more inclined to try harder in other aspects of their life.

7. Talk Up College Whenever You Can

Be sure to talk up the positive aspects of college for your teen. From the increased independence to a free Amazon Prime membership, there are a lot of benefits that come with being a college student.

Try not to be overbearing — you don’t need to work the benefits of college into every single conversation — but make sure your teen realizes what they’ll miss out on if they don’t go to college. 

8. Help Them Set Achievable Goals

Maybe your teen actually is interested in going to college. But, they might also feel that, academically, they’re too far behind their peers. 

If this is the case for your teen, work with them to help them set small, achievable goals. Maybe they’ll start by just trying to raise all their grades up to a C or better. Then, they can move on to preparing for their entrance exams. 

9. Give Them a Dose of Reality

Your teen might be under the impression that, if they don’t go to college, they’ll still get to live rent-free at your house and play video games all day while they continue eating the groceries you buy.

Make it clear to your teen that, if they don’t go to college, this will not be their reality.

Let them know that they’ll need to get a job and be expected to help out around the house. This reality check might be just what your teen needs to see why they should seek out a college degree. 

10. Don’t Give Up

Finally, remember to never give up on your teen.

Some teens need more motivation and encouragement than others. Sometimes, they need to take a year off and work a minimum wage job to understand why a college degree is valuable. 

Be patient and let your teen learn for themselves. It may take longer than you planned, but they’ll get themselves on the right track eventually.

Does Your Teen Need More Help Getting Ready for College?

When your teen is unmotived or uninterested in higher education, it’s easy to feel helpless.

Remember, though, that there’s a lot you can do to help your teen as they start getting ready for college. Keep these tips in mind and they’ll help your teen get and stay motivated. 

If your teen needs additional help, be sure to check out the back-to-school section of our website today.

It’s full of great articles, as well as information on student discounts that will help them save money when they strike out on their own for the first time. 

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