Auntie SparkNotes: My Parents Don't Think I'm Ready for College
Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
I graduated from high school in the spring of 2012. Like every young graduate, I was excited for the day I could go off to college and gain both worldly wisdom and independence. Alas, I did not. I was in an accident during my senior year that caused me to become depressed and isolated. I missed a lot of school, and even though I managed to graduate in the top 15% with a handful of academic awards and a GPA greater than 4.0, My parents decided that I was not ready for college and that I should take a semester or two off.
I gotta say, Auntie, I hate not being in college.
I have a job so at least I'm doing something, but I feel like such a loser! I still live in my parents' house, I do literally nothing whenever I'm not working, and I can't help but feel depressed. Whenever I get on Facebook I see all my friends posting pictures and statuses about campus life and other college business. I try and text some of them but they're too busy to keep in touch, and I've become kind of a Debbie Downer since all I can do is complain about how I'm not in school. I know it's only for a short while, but I'm afraid that I'll never be able to leave my house and go off on my own! And I do NOT want to be the 28 year old who still lives their parents.
It seems like the simple solution would be to talk to my parents into letting me go, but they're not buying it. Trust me, I've tried. They don't believe I can handle it. It seems completely unfair that I have no choice in the matter, just because they will be the ones paying for my education, and I hate feeling like everyone is moving forward with their lives except me. I'm also worried that this break is going to make it harder for me to get into college later. Is there anything I can do, or do I just have to suck it up and deal with it?
First things first: there's no need to make quite so large a leap from "I hate not being in college" to "I'm going to die alone in my parents' basement after a lifetime of flipping burgers and eating cat food." (Admit it! You were going there!) Lots of people take a gap year—to save money, or to beef up a resume to make themselves more attractive to colleges, or even just to think really hard about what they want from their lives—and do it without dooming themselves to the life of a career loser. (And if there's any question about your readiness, it is always, always preferable to wait the extra year to enroll than it is to jump in, burn out, fail miserably, and get a $20,000 bill for your wasted time.)
So, before you do anything else, please be reassured: even if you have to wait, you'll be okay, and you'll hardly be the only incoming student who took a year off to regroup.
And honestly, after what you went through, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to give yourself the gift of some time off.
I'm not saying your parents were right to make this choice for you—and particularly not in the way that they did. It's bad enough that you've had to delay your education; the fact that your parents decided as much without your input, and at precisely the moment where you had every expectation of having input, was a total jerk move. It was deeply wrong of them to snatch that last bit of control away from you when you'd already lost so much. And if you talk to them again, the place to focus your discussion isn't on the college question; it's on how helpless and infantilized it makes you feel to be told that this choice isn't yours to make.
BUT. While they're certainly botching the execution, the plan to have you delay college by a semester isn't necessarily a bad one. You overcame an enormous setback in order to graduate at the top of your class and keep your resume in top shape; you clearly have the gift of perseverance; there's no question that you could go to college now and be fine. But just because you can push yourself to the limit, that doesn't mean you should—and especially not when you'd be sacrificing something important (your parents' support) for nothing but your own pride. There's no shame in taking time to breathe, Sparkler. And frankly, it seems like you could use some practice in not being so hard on yourself.
Here's what's next: a plan. Set a near-but-not-immediate date for starting college, and inform your parents of your intent. Your independence should be everyone's goal, and they should respect and support a concrete deadline for achieving it. (If they don't, that's a problem, and your next step should be a meeting with them and your doctor, so that he can confirm your readiness to be out on your own. If that doesn't work, write back and we'll talk.)
Just because this decision was initially made for you, that doesn't mean you can't make it for yourself, too. You can decide to decide. You can weigh the options, and choose to give yourself this time—to select and apply to schools, to enjoy a few months of evenings and weekends without homework, to save enough money to make your freshman year fun and comfortable. It's a good plan, and one you can feel good about. Because when the life you live becomes one of your choosing instead of something that happened to you, making the best of it won't seem so bad.
Did you have to delay your entry to college? Share your stories in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.