Degree/Career for bright but not motivated?

(26 Posts)
Badbadbunny Mon 04-Jul-16 10:11:30

I know it's early but my son (14) is bright (forecast grade 8/9 in GCSE) but unmotivated and disorganised. He can produce excellent work to the highest standard in virtually all subjects, which has already made choosing options difficult, but hasn't the faintest idea what type of career he wants to do. Trouble is, though, that he is currently incapable of pacing himself, planning his homework, etc. When he knows for weeks that a particular project needs to be completed and submitted by a certain date, he leaves it to the last evening and then burns the midnight oil to get it done. We're on top of things generally and have to keep prodding him to do his homework - if we didn't, he'd do it, but it would be an all-nighter virtually all the time. He can lurch from brilliant scores to average scores depending on the type of teacher he has, i.e. whether they set and mark a lot of homework or whether they're more "hands off" and leave the kids to do stuff themselves.

We can keep on top of his organisation and time management whilst he's at home and whilst things are relatively straight forward, i.e. GCSEs, but we're worried about A levels and then his years at Uni, where he'll be expected to motivate himself and we won't be there to prod him.

So, sorry to waffle, but are there any types of degree course which are more modular and "controlled" as opposed to hands-off courses where the students are expected to motivate and organise themselves. I was initially thinking about maths/science/tech based degrees which may be more hands-on working in labs, studios, in teams with other students etc., as opposed to lectures and self-study in their rooms. I know it's early days and he's likely to change over the next few years. Trouble is, we know of a few "bright" kids who got in to good uni's but didn't really come out with much, and the common thread is that they didn't really "engage" with their course and left things too late.

As for careers, he waivers between maths/computing, dentistry and engineering.

Anyone got any pointers?

TinklyLittleLaugh Mon 04-Jul-16 12:09:39

He's only 14; there's a good chance his organisation and self motivation skills will improve as he gets older. I think the most important thing is to choose a course he really loves, that will be the best motivator.

Autumnsky Mon 04-Jul-16 12:26:12

I can't offer any suggestion. My DS1 is a bit similar to you DS, I never get involved with his study since he started secondary school, I only require him to do homework first thing every day. He manages well overall, but I know he doesn't put all his effort in his homework, as he generally has very high scores in his exams, but not so well in his homework. He missed a few things in these few years as he has forgotten. I hoped he had learned his lesson and talked about it with him. I guess you need to let your DS take responsibility himself, but of course, you have to think about how to keep an eye on him, and make sure his GCSE not suffer. So It's better to start earlier, DS will learn it . The school will punish him if he miss his homework, miss his PE kits etc. But do talk with him, and help him to find the best way to manage his time.

PurpleDaisies Mon 04-Jul-16 12:32:03

i was initially thinking about maths/science/tech based degrees which may be more hands-on working in labs, studios, in teams with other students etc., as opposed to lectures and self-study in their rooms.

What makes you think science students don't have lots of lectures and self study? confused. Maths and science degrees are known for being bloody hard-you need to be really dedicated to do well.

Loads of 14 year olds aren't motivated yet-especially at this time of year! Most get down to work when the GCSEs start properly. The key thing is for your son to find something he enjoys doing and wants to do more of. It's very hard to motivate yourself to do anything you find boring.

vitaminC Mon 04-Jul-16 12:32:57

I would suggest a more practical course - maybe a sandwich course with a long-term industrial placement - may be a better fit than a purely academic degree.

I'm not in the UK, but my 22yo stepson has justs finished a Masters in Engineering where he alternated periods of work and study and he really did well and already has a full-time job lined up for September!

He was similar to how you describe your son and I think that avoiding tedium and breaking up the course into shorter chunks made it much more manageable for him.

We're looking into similar programmes for my 17yo DD right now, who is also bright but difficult to motivate... I think having a "job" (placement) with responsibilities and a regular income may be the best motivator for her, too.

ErrolTheDragon Mon 04-Jul-16 12:46:02

Science/eng you need to be able to put in the consistent graft but also be able to work independently.

Most kids really do improve their time management and organisational skills dramatically through gcse and then A level years. You might want to back off now so he either starts to do this or gets a wake-up call in terms of poor grades for a while before he gets to the period of revision and exams.

If he's got some ideas as to what he might want to do eventually, you might be able to find some courses which give a taste (eg for engineering look at the Smallpeice website) - that might stir up some enthusiasm and give some reality to why he needs to study.

As a scientist who writes software, I'd say that computing might be a better choice than the others if he remains of the procrastinate and pull and all-nighter type.

Autumnsky Mon 04-Jul-16 12:47:19

As for career, I think it is common at this stage that DC don't know what they want to do. (My DS1 is the same)I guess it would be nice if you can offer him some opportunities to get to know some jobs. For example, you can let him to attend hospital open day, our local hospital has that. DS1 recently attended a programme called the route to stem courses, which the organisation arranged DC to go to a college to learn all their science courses/qualifications, and then go to an university, and the final day is a big research company.Also, the chances to talk to people who have different careers like your friends, relatives.

My DS1 only know he would like to go down math/science route. He has ruled out medicine, ruled out finance/banking( he take the economy GCSE course and enjoy it , but he doens't want to work on this area).

TrollTheRespawnJeremy Mon 04-Jul-16 12:49:00

I'd suggest that he takes a few years out until he decides that he has the motivation for it.

Will save a lot of heartache

PurpleDaisies Mon 04-Jul-16 12:50:46

troll he has three/four years until he gets to uni!

Coconutty Mon 04-Jul-16 12:52:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

eyebrowsonfleek Mon 04-Jul-16 12:53:03

Have you considered an apprenticeship rather than A-levels? Some apprenticeship qualifications can be used to apply to university and being in the workplace and working might be up his street.

ErrolTheDragon Mon 04-Jul-16 13:02:27

I really don't think an apprenticeship would be up his street at all (though it might be very good for him!).

TrollTheRespawnJeremy Mon 04-Jul-16 13:35:32

Oh I wouldn't even be thinking about it at that age. You don't even know if he can get through high school exams never mind anything else.

Focus on now.

HippyPottyMouth Mon 04-Jul-16 13:53:20

Law. Every barrister I know has that working pattern, and it works as papers rarely arrive until the day before the hearing. Midnight oil is required. Learn it in a flurry - do it - forget it and learn the next one. Provided that his motivation improves with maturity to get him through the degree and the hellish search for pupillage, the career would suit his working style well.

IDK Mon 04-Jul-16 18:12:12

You are describing a fairly typical boy there (sorry for the sexism). They tend to be disorganised but grow out of it. Unless you believe that he has a severe problem like dyspraxia then I would suggest that you try to chill a little. Easier said than done, I know.
Get him a job or some work experience so he can see what he is aiming for, that might incentivise him.

Degree courses come in all shapes and sizes. There are loads of things to think about when choosing University (campus v town, trad v modern) and the learning style (continuous assessment v exams) can be part of the mix.

Autumnsky Tue 05-Jul-16 10:03:57

Yes, I think some children are like that. And they need to learn it from the experience. It's better to let them to take responsibility and keep an eye now while they are at school.

DS1 once missed his instrument course 2 weeks in a roll, we only knew that after the tutor contacted us. So we had a discussion, he has the reasons, but we talked about the way he can manage it better to avoid these, like talk to the tutor in advance to arrange a different time etc.

thesandwich Tue 05-Jul-16 10:33:29

I would suggest going to something like the skills show at the nec in the autumn or Big Bang science events to give him a chance to explore what excites him and motivates him. My dd is/ was v similar! A gap year has been amazing for her.

LordyMe Tue 05-Jul-16 11:25:18

Sorry but I'm with the poster who thinks you need to chill wink You have to have a long term plan with these things and treating him like a child even if he is one is not going to work.

One of my sons was like this but I handled it differently from you. I stepped back and let him get on with it. I think 14 is much to old to be helping them with their organisation. You have to start shifting your relationship so that he knows he is responsible for himself. He might need to flunk a few things before he understands. You need to encourage and support him but not actually be doing things for him. He is too old.
What type of school is he at? My DCs went to schools where they were very much left to their own devices especially at A'level. It's great preparation for University.

My DS 'underperformed' at GCSE and A'level. - he should have got mostly A* 's but didn't quite, however is absolutely thriving at Uni.

14 is still young to know what they want to do. I'd leave him alone for now and wait until he is older and even then I think it's a mistake for you to be giving it too much thought. Hopefully he will be given some careers advice by school and, when he is older, he will get more interested and motivated when he gets to choose his A'levels and if he doesn't know what he wants to do then he might get inspired by open days and reading up on degree courses.
You could look at HeadStart courses when he is older. My disorganised son found them invaluable. He went on a residential course which really inspired him and helped him pinpoint exactly what he wanted to do at Uni.

It's frustrating when they don't apply themselves properly but it up to them ultimately.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 06-Jul-16 11:29:44

Headstart 'routes into STEM' courses are for yr 10s www.etrust.org.uk/routes-stem so the OP and her DS could be looking into those now.

Stopyourhavering Sun 10-Jul-16 09:52:50

BTECs are a good alternative to A levels, more modular rather than exam based

TaIkinPeace Sun 10-Jul-16 10:25:07

He is 14. Give the lad a chance.
Set him up with a good solid set of GCSEs and some extra curricular and wait three years.
By then he'll be able to make his own mind up.

stonecircle Sun 10-Jul-16 12:23:59

I think you need to let him fail in terms of organisation while he's young enough for it not to matter. The more he relies on you to organise him the harder it will be for him to learn to do it himself. No point in sending him off to uni unable to organise and plan for himself.

I'm not suggesting a total hands off approach but it sounds to me like you are doing far too much for a 14 year old.

TheRoadToRuin Sun 10-Jul-16 15:06:48

Perfectly normal 14 year old boy behaviour.

Both mine were like that and both got seriously organised and hard working by 16. Eldest is doing Maths at a top uni. (Where incidentally he has more hours of lectures than anyone else he knows.)

FoggyBottom Sun 10-Jul-16 22:32:47

He's 14.

If he's not motivated for himself by lower Sixth, then you might start worrying. But why does he have to do a degree?

I get so sick of teaching young people who go to university/study a particular subject to please their parents. It's a waste of my time, and theirs.

Chill. And stop exerting your ambition through your son. He doesn't have to do a degree if he has no aptitude or interest.

whatwouldrondo Tue 12-Jul-16 11:06:38

I would agree with others that the most important thing you can do now is chill rather than try to control. University lecturers will tell you that the biggest cause of failure is not demotivated students but the offspring of helicopter parents who cannot function independently and have expectations of nursemaid services at university. You won't get that on any course, especially STEM courses where it can be brutally demanding.

One proviso, make sure that your son does not have an underlying learning difficulty. Perfectly possible to be getting brilliant marks to GCSE and even beyond but have underlying Dyslexic /dyspraxia traits such as poor processing and working memory that manifest themselves in disorganisation. Your son's disorganisation and procrastination sound exactly like mine, and my daughter's. We were / are bright enough to have coping skills and to have the understanding and ideas to do well but organising that to do what is required to meet the needs of a course remains a challenge because we are dyslexic. It manifests itself differently in those who are bright but you can easily research the manifestations online. However if that is the case then he will need more self reliance not less, but knowing why he finds it hard and perhaps given some coping strategies does make diagnosis worthwhile.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now