Q: If there’s one thing movies have taught us about teenagers, what is it?

A: If you try to force them to care about something…. it never ends well.

So what do you do when you’re excited for your teenager’s future (read: college!), but they’re not on board?

Don’t despair! There’s a way to talk to them without being overbearing.

Just remember, they’re teenagers. Balancing schoolwork, friends, athletics, or even a part-time job probably consumes most of their mental energy. And that’s okay!

“How do you convince YOUR teenager to seriously consider going to college?”

But college is serious business. College graduates out-earn people without degrees, 91% of college graduates think it was worth it, and college gives students the tools to succeed in the long run.

Those are some great statistics, but how do you convince YOUR teenager to seriously consider going to college?

After this quick guide, you’ll be better equipped to make the path towards college a bit easier.

1) Start the conversation

Of course, you should start the conversation as early as possible. Even juniors in high school can be preparing for college.

The most important aspect for the college conversation is the realization that it’s ongoing. There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to college and one conversation is not going to cut it. So, it’s crucial that you both feel comfortable talking about this together. Remember, it’s a conversation… not a lecture.

The reality is that your teenager will need some sort of education to help them achieve their goals.

A good way to start is with a question - it requires your teenager to engage. It can be as simple as asking your son or daughter what they’re interested in or passionate about. (Bonus points for sharing that passion.) Follow up with more questions about what particularly they like about it, or what led them to feel that way. Ask if that is something they envision sticking with or pursuing for years to come.

That is a great segue into the discussion of your child’s future. The reality is that your teenager will need some sort of education to help them achieve their goals.

Remember, you’re just beginning an ongoing conversation -- no decisions have to be made this very minute. Hopefully your first talk piques their interest and generates questions that one or the both of you can research.

Key takeaway: Start a low-pressure conversation by asking questions, and then asking more!

2) Get them onboard

You’re probably feeling nervous about your child’s future, but also really excited!

The goal is to share that excitement rather than force it on to them. But, how do you do that?

One of the best ways is get them a little more familiar with the whole college concept. Take away the scary unknowns and make it something familiar. Here’s how.

Have them get to know other people their age planning to go to college. Or better yet, people that have already begun college. Think about cousins, family friends, or even just take them on college visits and info sessions. Your local community college can be a great resource (and it’s always great to dispel myths about community college.)

Bonus tip -- parents can ALSO benefit from a little networking here. Get talking with other parents trying to help their kids through the college process. Share your concerns, hopes, expectations, plans, and failures - because then those parents will share their stories as well. Just like college, the whole point is to LEARN!

Key takeaway: Demystify the college process and let them learn about it straight from the source.

3) Create a game plan

Hopefully you’ve sparked an interest at this point. Now, you need to create a plan that works best for the both of you. There are a lot of things to consider when applying to college - like what will get your child there, the costs, and the best fit.

That’s a lot of research -- but don’t get overwhelmed! You don’t want to snuff out their interest just as it gets started.

Starting the conversation early helps give you plenty of time to build the right plan. If you’ve gone on college visits, you should have plenty of great information to get you started, but it’s okay if you haven’t.

“You don’t want to snuff out their interest just as it gets started.”

You can use plenty of online resources to help you as well (like, ahem… this blog! You can subscribe to our newsletter for regular college guidance delivered right to your inbox.)

Shameless self promotion aside, there are plenty of great college research tools out there to help you plan everything. From picking the right college, to figuring out how to afford it. Spend some time with Google, and you’ll be amazed at what’s out there. Just don’t let yourself, or your teenager, get overwhelmed. A little preliminary research on your part can help them get off on the right foot.

Key takeaway: Make planning less overwhelming for your teenager by doing it with them.

Now that the conversation is going, decisions come next! Learn how parents can help high schoolers make big college decisions.

Authored by Emily Horne

Emily is passionate about higher education. She writes about the excitement of college life and how parents can help their teenagers get into great schools.