A 17-year-old male in our family is desperate to go to college, but he is a senior and failing school. He doesn't appear to see the connection. We're at our wits' end; it's so sad. Have tried everything to motivate him. Do you think that family or individual counseling will help? We're running out of time. Thanks!
From: Junie, Jamaica Plain
You've done what you can, and now it's time for you to back off. Have you considered that the reasons he doesn't see the connection -- or can't or won't acknowledge to you that he does -- may be due to over-involvement on your part? Obviously, I could be way off base.
I suggest supporting his decision to apply to a range of schools of his choice. (Avoid being vindictive or washing your hands of him; tell him simply, "We've done what we can, now it's your hands. We'll support you whatever you decide to do.") Frankly, pulling up his grades in Feb. of senior year probably isn't going to matter a whit in his application.
So he applies. What's the worst that will happen? He'll get rejected. But you know what, that could turn out to be the best thing that could happen, if it forces him to re-consider how desirable an applicant he really is.
If does get rejected, you need to avoid a "We told you so" response. Instead, help him to figure out: what's next. There are many private schools and some colleges that offer a post high school program; some are academic, some are not. Taking a gap year has also become a very popular way to spend a year between high school and college in the hope of widening one's experience and maturity. And some kids benefit from working for a year.
Whatever happens to your son, he needs to own the experience and the consequence. You say you're at your wits' ends, and I can well imagine what you mean. But as you've already discovered, you can't force him to study or to make the connection to grades and acceptances. The motivation has to come from within. It's possible that a guidance counselor, college coach or therapist could be helpful but only if he wants the help.
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