Another senior sits in my office stressed about college. “It’s $50,000 a year,” she says. “I don’t want my parents to have to pay for it. I don’t know if my parents can pay for it and even if they can, what if I’ve chosen the wrong college?”

We can chalk college stress up to the arduous process of college admissions. We can say it’s due to the anxiety of leaving home and starting over or to the intense pressure college students feel to fit in, manage their own schedules, find time to study, etc.

But what can we say about the fact that only 30% of college graduates actually use their degree?  So you’re $200,000 in debt and you don’t use the degree you’ve spent so much time learning how to do get? Why is that?

Enter Corpus Callosum: the part of the brain that connects the right and left side of the brain. The part of the brain that is involved in effective problem solving. The part of the brain that is not developed until the age of 22. Yes, that’s right. We are asking kids without fully developed brains to leave home, choose majors and make good academic (and social) decisions and we wonder why they are confused, overwhelmed and take a 4 year degree and turn it into an 8 year sabbatical or for some, leave college altogether to find a job they don’t need a degree for (i.e. real estate) and realize that college was not for them or at least, they weren’t ready for it. The 4 year college right out of high school was thought up by someone who might not have understood how the teenage brain works or at least, that many kids were not ready to pull off such a feat.

A girl who refused to drive until she was 20 told me recently. “I wasn’t ready. I didn’t care what the law said or that my friends were driving at 16. I knew it wasn’t right for me.” Now she loves driving and feels completely comfortable behind the wheel. She knew herself well enough to know that what society said she was ready for, she was not.

We often push kids to keep up with the status quo when they’re clearly not ready for it. Gap years and volunteer programs right out of high school are becoming more popular as many kids are simply not ready to make lifetime decisions at 17 or 18. They need a year or two to explore different opportunities, find their passion and ultimately, allow their brains to develop enough to be able to really understand what will make them happy. Some never end up in college and others say that if you don’t go in right out of high school, you’ll never find a way to fit in socially. Even so, we can’t speed brain development up and we can’t ignore these staggering statistics:

 41% of college students are anxious

36% have depression

36% complain of relationship problems

Clearly something isn’t working. Keep this in mind when your kids change majors, call incessantly with problems or can’t seem to figure out how to navigate college. Their brains just don’t match up with the the timeline society has set out out for them. If your child is just starting the college process or if he/she is leaving in the next month for freshman year, give your kids room to change their minds, go through emotional ups and downs and lean on you in ways you haven’t seen since they were in diapers.

Have a great week everyone!

 

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