When our oldest son, Jack, set off for college last year (University of North Texas) we prayed he would somehow find a new passion for school that had escaped him the last two years of high school. Surely he’d find college to be the same liberating experience I did, embrace the social aspect and thrive! You know, just as we planned.

Or not. There are kids, probably much more than parents would like to admit, who will receive very little benefit following the path of the traditional college student. It’s not a matter of intelligence or ambition, and sometimes that is tough for a parent to come to grips with – we’re part of the “college is a must” generation passed onto us by the hard working Boomers who wanted a better life for their progeny. Unfortunately, “better life” got confused with “follow your passions.” Minimally interested in a career with a sizable college debt is a tough way to start adulthood.

In retrospect we paid a semester’s tuition for our son to spend the vast majority of his time in his dorm room writing, mixing, and producing music. I think they call that a “passion.” In my day, that would have resulted in the wrath of the Gods, a new life at Junior College and a threat of banishment to family Siberia. Luckily for Jack, we’re not in “my day.” In this day, (thanks to my wife – my initial reaction was to eat him as a male tiger might eat his young) we calibrated our expectations, got him enrolled in a music engineering & production mentorship program and now he’s receiving guidance from a professional music engineer in hopes of having a career in the industry. He’s now 19, shares an apartment, works at Jimmy John’s, and produces pretty amazing music (he created the music for my podcast, fyi.)

Most importantly, he’s happy. Not surprisingly, that makes us happy as parents.

My point is, the new “traditional” path is not for everyone. In fact, the demand for jobs that don’t require a college degree continues to increase at a time when the job market is tightening. And these jobs are providing the cheddar, too. My friends at Possible Finance provided an infographic (below) that tells an encouraging story for those who just don’t fit with the co-ed lifestyle. Looking back at my own college experience, it was a social awakening for me – football games on Saturday, mixers, road-trips, really stupid actions that make for good stories for the kids, but my real education came after college. It took me 15 years to find a role where I was truly happy, and another five years to discover my passion for writing. Now I’m in my 50’s and still discovering new passions that I may have found earlier in life had I not followed the path of my parents’ expectations – it’s not their fault, that was just the way things were expected to go. But who knows?

Now as a parent? My perspective changed quite a bit with Jack. He has a younger brother two years away from the same crossroads, and I’m happy to say we’re ready to adapt to whatever and wherever his passions lead him.

Rock on, Jack – you got this buddy.