How to Get an Unmotivated Teen to Get Ready for College

By Kay Ireland
Your teen might need to ditch the books for a bit -- and try some hands-on experiences.
Your teen might need to ditch the books for a bit -- and try some hands-on experiences.

If your teen is happier to hang out on the couch than in a college prep course, you might be understandably concerned about his future. But before you write your teen off as a lifetime couch surfer, consider his needs and goals. What you see as a lack of motivation might actually be a lack of interest or direction when it comes to college. Step in and act as a compass for your teen, helping him prep for a future that actually excites him.

Call the school and arrange an appointment for your teen with his guidance counselor. The counselor can point out career options, college tours, internships and other opportunities to get your teen excited about going to college and gaining more experience. Perhaps your teen feels unmotivated because he doesn't know what he wants to do with his life or how to get there. The guidance office is an ideal place to check out options and get started.

Examine your teen's options together. Talk about what college programs would lead to certain careers -- and slowly create a game plan for your teen to follow. Having some direction can help your teen know what step to take next, especially when it comes to grades, applying to schools or getting work experience. Having a plan can also motivate a teen to take the necessary steps.

Visit various campuses nearby and get your teen excited about the possibility of college life. Going to college isn't an extension of high school, but rather a new chapter and a stepping stone in your teen's progress into adulthood. Focus not only on academics, but on the lifestyle as well. Prepping your slacker teen for things like doing his own laundry, managing his money and arranging his own schedule all play into getting him ready for college, too. If your teen starts to show an interest in attending a school that isn't nearby, plan a trip to visit that campus together as well.

Set short-term goals that lead to the long-term goal of going to college. Depending on your teen's age, those goals can include things like improving his grades during a certain semester, engaging in volunteer work or visiting three college campuses to see what he likes and doesn't like. Setting these easily achievable goals can help motivate your teen to action as he sees his progress -- and starts looking ahead to the future.

Explore other options if your teen is still unmotivated about the prospect of going to college. Taking a year off for work, engaging in an internship or apprenticeship, or traveling can all help your teen realign his priorities. While post-secondary education is important, there's more than one way to gain an education and a college degree. Communicate with your teen to come up with a plan that's right for him.

About the Author

Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.