In the teenage years, it’s common for parents and kids to argue about everything from school and friends to fashion and curfews. One issue that becomes more common in parent/teen discussions in those later years is graduating high school and college attendance.


Parents know that it’s never too soon to start thinking about college, while teens feel its so far away and there’s plenty of time. Or they may not even have a desire to think about college, because they are currently struggling in high school, not confident they can get into college, or underestimate its importance. Raising your teen to be driven to get into college is no easy talk, but there are several tips that parents can incorporate to ensure their teen receives a high school diploma, whether from a traditional school or an alternative one.

Why College?

When it comes to a teen’s high school efforts, parents can get frustrated easily because they know how important it is. Often, parents have learned the hard way that failure to achieve in high school can translate to future struggles and possible financial or career failures in life. Nowadays, it’s harder than ever to land a high-paying stable job without a college or vocational degree, much less one with just a high school diploma.

When High School is a Challenge

Thousands of teens drop out of high school each year, for a number of reasons. Here are just a few of the scenarios where teens may decide that life outside of high school is their only choice:

  • As an act of rebellion so they can cause parents pain and disappointment.
  • Because they are struggling academically and they don’t want to put in the work to overcome it.
  • They are unaware of the long-term consequences and adopt a “live for today” attitude.
  • Drug or alcohol addiction prohibits them from even caring about school.
  • Issues like depression, social anxiety or other learning disability make school too painful.
  • Bullying or cyberbullying is interfering with their school experience.
  • They are lazy and unmotivated and haven’t been taught the value of hard work or achievement.
  • Teens may mistakenly feel that they have messed up so much already that there is no hope of graduating high school.

Of course, there are many more situations that may be the motivator for teens to fail at school or even drop out. If the teen’s issues require professional help, there are a number of options, such as therapeutic boarding schools, residential treatment centers and other teen help facilities. If the problem is less about serious issues and more about attitude, parents need to step in and instill the desire to graduate high school and attend college in their teens.

What Parents Can Do

There are three things that parents of teens can do to motivate their child to do well in school and seriously consider college. At no point is it too late to address the problems and start over, it just depends on finding the right solution. In other words, teens who struggle with significant issues may need to attend a different school that is more specialized for their needs, teens with negative attitudes can stay in traditional schools and work with parents and teachers to get up to speed and succeed.

Here are a few practical tips to help parents motivate their teenagers to be more active when it comes to success in high school and college:

  • Show teens how good grades and school success will benefit them in the long run. Use real life examples of people who have both succeeded and failed, and observe life lessons as they appear on the news and in the community.
  • Share with teens the cost of living in the real world, Look at the price of apartments, cars, vacations and recreation. When teens start to add up the price tags for the lifestyle they want, it can be very sobering and motivating as well.
  • Capitalize on the teens passion, whether its robotics, animals, astronomy or even money. Then plan to visit a local college with programs in similar areas so the teen can begin to envision a realistic future in that field.
  • Teens need to be taught how to manage their time, set and meet deadlines, pace themselves and other life skills. Parents should give their teens every opportunity to develop them, and guide them toward success.
  • Praise good behavior and habits and reward them as necessary. It’s easy to criticize all the time and ignore progress. Positive reinforcement will help teens get more excited about doing well and working hard.

N matter what challenge is preventing a teen from doing well in high school, there is a solution to overcome it. Parents can be proactive in getting teens the help they need to get a high school diploma, boost their desire to succeed and look beyond the present day to college or vocational studies. It’s never too late for any teen to make up for lost time and get their future back on track, get a diploma and even go to college.