College or BOCES?

Dear Dr. Linda,

I was out to lunch with three friends and since we all have kids in high school, the conversation focused on whether to take SATs or ACTs or both and which colleges they were looking at.

I chimed in and said my boys aren’t going to college. They’re going to BOCES. The conversation stopped because I don’t think they knew what to say. Then, Jane, my closest friend said, “Why wouldn’t they go to college? They don’t have to go to Harvard, but at least give them the most education they can get.”

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I told them that my husband was lucky to inherit a business, it’s in the trades, and he built it up to a rather large company. My boys have worked with him since they were little and are part of the company already. They both love it. They’re lucky to have this to walk right into. I went to college, had to pay back loans and after all that, I’m not happy with my job.

Both boys want to go to BOCES so they can learn what they need to know to take over the family business. My husband and I are perfectly happy with that.

At that point, the conversation changed and they stopped talking about colleges. But, I think they thought I was doing the wrong thing. Would appreciate a response.


Dear Lesley,

Your boys are very lucky to have a business to walk into. Most children don’t have that opportunity and even though some do, they don’t want any part of the family business. Their personalities and goals in life don’t match being an entrepreneur. But it sounds like your boys are comfortable in that environment.

Years ago, a boy came to me who grew up in a family-owned restaurant. I remember him telling me that his first job was to make the toast during the morning hours. He was 6 years old and had to stand on a box to reach the toaster. He then shared all the jobs he had until he was finally able to be a waiter. When we talked about his outside activities, he didn’t really have any because he said that when he left school he went straight to the restaurant. He’d played ball there with some of the employees, but that was about it. His parents wanted him to go to college to broaden his life, and so he did. But, he was so homesick that he ended up dropping out and eventually taking business courses at a local college. He is now the owner of that restaurant. Did he need college? Only he would know if any of the courses he took made a difference in his success and happiness.

Then, there was Tony. Tony’s parents also owned a restaurant and he too grew up working in it. He hated it and wanted to do something else with his life. His father was devastated, but his mother encouraged him. He eventually became a history teacher and loves it.

And then there is Larry, who thought he didn’t want any part of his family’s furniture business. His mother thought working in the business was the best thing for him, but his father said that he’d actually never wanted it either, but hadn’t had a choice. He encouraged Larry to go to college, and he did, but in the end, Larry came home. He now owns the family business, which has grown because of his creative ideas. Larry is quite happy now with his decision.

It all boils down to personality and what matters most to you in the end. We all have different passions and are the authors of our lives. The decisions we make steer us in various directions and sometimes back home.

BOCES or college? That’s up to you and your boys.

Dr. Linda

If you have a question to ask Dr. Linda about your child or a school-related situation, she can be reached at

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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