Ever since my daughter was born, I have had this fire inside me to make sure that she was involved in an extracurricular activity that she not only loved but could turn into a career later in life. Most people would look at me and say, “That is why you would send her to college.” Well what happens if she decides that she doesn’t want to go to college? When a child decides to buck tradition and deviate from the path you’ve set of getting into a good college and then beginning their career, people are confused and tend to look at them in disbelief. Somehow you and they have failed.

I was that kid. My family did not understand my aversion to college and they weren’t prepared for a child who just wouldn’t follow the plan. Just recently, I made a comment about my daughter getting a job when she is in High School in front of my mother. She looked at me and said, “You didn’t have a job” and I looked at her and said, “Getting a job wasn’t an option for me.” She got a little defensive and I told her, “Nothing against you and how you raised us but you all stressed education at all costs. There wasn’t another option.” I was always told, “School is your job.”

Now let’s get something straight, I am not advocating work over school but I am saying that at some point in a child’s life, a serious assessment should be made. If you can see that a child has no real interest in school, instead of just hoping that a child will turn it around and go to college, begin to look at how they can utilize their talents. Begin the dialogue about how they can make a living with their specific skill set and do some research on areas where they can begin to focus and of course, make the most money.

For my daughter, the conversation began at a young age because I knew that if my gene pool kicked in, there would be a possibility that she may decide she wasn’t interested in pursuing a college career and I didn’t want her to have to settle for or luck up on a good job like I did. Although I managed to find a field that paid well and didn’t mind that I didn’t have a college degree, once they let me go, I was right back to square one and just beginning to work on my “back-up plan.” She is being taught to work on hers now.

Because we began talking about options for my daughter at a young age, she has begun to talk about where she sees herself and she has decided that college is in her future. She is researching different schools and we’ve taken her to the Black College Expo to get her familiar with and begin talking to schools about what to expect and what will be expected of her. She is also fully aware that there are two roads that she can take and I’ve been very open about the road that I chose.

I’ve made sure she understands how my choices have directly effected our finances and how I have struggled to find and implement my own back-up plan. Because of this very open dialogue, she is fully aware that should she make the decision to bypass college, there will be obstacles she will be up against but either way, she knows what she will have to do to find success and I can rest in knowing she has been given the tools and the know how to implement her back-up plan.