Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Do SZ teens go to college?

My SZ daughter is currently a sophomore in high school. She is the most stable she’s ever been - her meds are Clozipine, Clonidine, Latuda & Lamictal. She has average intelligence and since we live in NY she is on track to graduate with a Regents diploma. The thing is she’s very immature, she has stated in therapy she doesn’t want to grow up, though that was awhile ago. She’s very needy and has a learned helplessness that is hard to break her from (and drives me crazy). I keep thinking about the future. Should I start looking at colleges (I tried looking online for ones that have mental health support, but most are geared toward ADHD or depression) or should I keep her home and send her to community college? She wants to sign up for drivers ed and enroll in the early childhood course next year (there’s a universal pre-k program in the HS that the students work with). She has very little motivation and can sit for hours watching tv if not pushed to do something, so I’m glad at least that she’s showing some interest in something. Last year she skipped her meds for a week or so until I caught on, so I’m worried about what could happen if she went away to school. Sometimes worrying about my daughter’s future just seems to consume me - everything is so unknown.


Instead of looking online at what colleges offer for support, I would give them a call. They may not put schizophrenia on their website, but I think they would offer help. In fact, they might be legally obligated to do so, and they should be educated about the disorder because college is where very many young people first experience symptoms.

I understand you wanting her to go away for school, but I would look at community college. They should offer the same type of support, but it’s also nice that they are smaller and closer to home.

Many of the same professors at 4-year schools also teach at community colleges, the curriculum is just as challenging, and they should have programs that will transfer to a 4-year school. Our state encourages kids to go to community college first because the 4-year schools are so crowded. They will guarantee you a place in a state college if you finish your first 2 years at community.

Plus, it’s much, much cheaper. I wish I had known it was an option myself when I was that age.

And, we all worry about our kids, no matter how old they are. My son had his first break at 15, and he’s 27 now. Lots of things have changed, but not how much I worry about him.

The not wanting to grow up & learned helplessness might mean she’s worried about the future too?


First of all so sorry that you and your daughter have to contend with schizophrenia. I am glad she has been stable and set to graduate from high school. That is good news and a remarkable achievement in itself. The immaturity is often common with schizophrenics. It was explained to me by an exceptional psychiatrist my son once had that emotional development halts at whatever age the onset of schizophrenia begins, for my son it was about 15…he is 32 now and while is also stable and does fairly well at all basic life skills, his maturity is still that of a teenager. Another common negative trait of sz is lack of personal drive, direction, and motivation. That trait sticks around it seems.

My son does better when I accompany him places or do activities with him. Occasionally on really good days he will have a day on his own, maybe go to the gym and a local starbucks and maybe stop at a nearby sandwich shop for lunch, but that is not often. We have tried part time work and continuing ed classes and he unravels quickly because to him it is very stressful to maintain. He likes TV more than most things. I realize that every sz patient is different and unique and some can achieve quite a lot with the right support. Others can just achieve stability with all the support in the world and that has to be okay in those instances…Another thing to consider where college is concerned is that on campus college can be extremely stressful for even a non sz individual and for sz folks stress is an enemy of stability. The only times my son relapses or becomes noticeably delusional is when he is under stress. I would encourage you and your daughter to explore whatever you see fit and whatever interests her in developing her future endeavors, Consider the possible effects of stress and adherence to deadlines and expectations that would be required. Social interaction is often difficult with strangers.

Perhaps an online school would be a possibility. Or maybe she has some interests that would allow her to explore another occupation that doesn’t necessarily require a college degree. I am sure some folks can do it, and that is fantastic if they can… I would just look at all the possibilities and consider the pros and cons before going forward.

Maybe there is a COVA where you live? COVA=Center for Vocational Rehabilitation We have one here and they offer sound advice for educational endeavors (how to best achieve them) and have resources galore when it comes to helping people with mental illness in a variety of ways. I don’t know if you have her signed up for disability yet, but having that in place helps a lot because if she suffers a setback at anytime and I certainly hope she does not, she would have a modest income and medical insurance established to back her up if work is not possible for a period of time. Also as a young adult once she reaches 18 no doctors or medical staff will speak to you directly about your daughter’s care anymore without direct permission from your daughter…due to the HIPPA laws…so POA or guardianship in case of a medical crisis is a consideration as well. Best of luck in everything, I apologize for the large amount of information but I could have used this info when my son was first diagnosed and no one offered it to me so I offer it up when I can. I hope all of your the plans you decide on go very well.

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I don’t think all of them do. Mine went for 9 weeks and then dropped out when he was 19. Thinks college is a waste of time and that nobody should ever go. I hope he changes his mind and goes back one day, even if it’s just a certification in something mediocre.

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I get it completely. Our son went to community college and then went to a four year locally but moved out with a friend. That’s when he became very stressed and his first hospitalization. I’d go lower stress and find out about disability understanding at the college before she goes. There is so much discrimination, even if we want to hope there wouldn’t be, it may be easier to get a counselor up-to-speed that she can touch base with as a good support touch-point. What I didn’t do early enough and now we’re paying the price is require structure and chores of our son. So I’d do that differently. Just learn as you go and if you can keep good communication with her that’s huge and the medication compliance too.

Hugs and love

Thank you everyone, I feel so much better. The pressure on kids without any kind of mental illness can be overwhelming, and then to throw SZ in the mix . . . So much of what I’m reading I can relate to. I do plan on applying for guardianship and SSI in the future - she’s only turning 16 this coming spring. I will look into community college, she is especially interested in working with young children (she’s very good with geriatric populations too but they’re not as cute).

The not wanting to grow up/helplessness is related to trauma she experienced as a child (age 9 or 10) so yes, I guess you could call it “arrested development”. The doctors think my daughter was genetically predisposed to SZ but the trauma brought it out at a young age. The doctor is working with a technique called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing to deal with the trauma, and it seems to be helping for now - as long as she takes her meds. I have a CSE meeting at her school today to plan for next year and beyond, which I guess is why this is on my mind so much.

Thank you again everyone. This site is so valuable to me.


Hi Boobear,
I have a 15 year old son who was diagnosed at 14. He is currently a freshmen. He was previously a fantastic student. This semester he was so frightened at school that he had to be withdrawn from regular classes and he does onlne classes. He is on a different med now, Abilify, which is helping him function much better. He is going to try going back to the classroom next year.
This past year has been very tough on him, since he realizes that his abilities have greatly diminished from the schizophrenia, and mental fog from the meds (which is much better since we stopped risperdal). He was very frightened about his future.
I wonder if this is the case for your daughter- that this a very scary diagnosis and has very scary symptoms, and she her amotivation is driven by fear. I can’t imagine how frightening it would be to not be able to trust my senses.
I think that if you let her know that she can stay at home and do community college, and that she is safe and has a home, she will start venturing out more. The preK sounds like a great place to start getting her confidence back. If she lives at home, you can monitor that she takes her meds.
By the way, I completely agree with the previous poster, community colleges can be fantastic! I went to one, then transferred to the 4 year university. I then got into the top doctoral pharmacy program in the nation. They can be wonderful places!
We’ll always worry about our babies. Hug her and love her, momma. You don’t need to put her on the high speed track now. Hugs and loves for you too, this is so tough. She is lucky to have you.


@boobear – I’ve known a couple of women who have schizophrenia and went to college and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree. For my daughter it was too difficult. She left for college at 18 and I thought she was ready but my ex husband thought we were making a mistake sending her off college away from home but I thought different. He was right because it turned out to be so isolating and stressful experience for her that she dropped out right after Thanksgiving of her freshman year. My ex thought a better way to test out her college readiness is to have her attend community college in town and for her to live with us while she’s attending.

I will never know if community college could have been workable because not long after dropping out she had her first major break down. In your shoes and knowing what I know now I would not push my daughter to attend college and suggest maybe one or two classes at community college with the help of a disability aid and I do feel that one class is more than enough for our sz children. Your daughter has sz and stress can trigger episodes easily. I think I had to ask myself later why did I want her to go to college. Was it for her benefit or for me. I was basically in denial as to the severity of my daughter’s developing mental illness and I wanted for her what her two sisters have and that is a college education.

In the big scheme of things I now know college is not important if its going to make my daughter sicker and I wish I was not in denial and accepted that she could have a decent life without a college degree.


I remember years ago hearing that story about how you plan a trip to Italy but wind up in Denmark, and how you planned on seeing all these great things in Italy, but Denmark turns out to be nice too, if unexpected (I’m telling all of this terribly, it’s been at least 10 years since I read it). But this is what that story reminds me of. The expectation in my family was that everyone would naturally go to college, and I have to learn to change my expectations. I’m grateful for all that she has achieved so far, but the thought that she could be with me as an adult is daunting. Thank you for the advice, it really hit home.


My son only made it through half of 10th grade and is unmotivated also - it is part of the illness. I would keep her close by or at home,cos staying on the meds is crucial. Stay strong darling.


Our children are human beings and they have the right to experience the same as everybody else. So if they want to go to college, and the college is willing to accept them, let them at least have a go. If it works out, you may just give the world another John Forbes Nash Jr, and if it doesn’t, at least you gave them the opportunity.

UK education system is different, daughter diagnosed at 15 and had to leave school. At 17, she tried a few adult classes to get the same qualifications as school, and managed to pass English, the others she didn’t get the grade. The main problem was the exam stress, she just couldn’t cope on the day. She then tried vocational college, a 2 year course with no exams, all assignment assessed, passed the course with flying colours and managed to get a job with the qualification, which she stuck at for about 3 years.

About a year ago she decided to apply for University, and was accepted. She started about 6 months ago but recently found it too hard, the stress of having to get assignments in by a specific date too much. So she’s quit Uni.

She knows now what her limits are, and that’s going to help her move forwards to whatever she wants to try next. She does get low, she does get frustrated, and sometimes her motivation vanishes. But we tell her over and over that sz doesn’t close the door to having a good life and experiences. Yes, it makes the door harder to push open, but like everybody in life, you have to push the door to open it.


I think it’s called “Welcome to Holland”. I read it when my youngest son was born with a genetic disorder. It totally applies to sz as well, maybe even moreso as people develop sz later in their lives and are often born healthy. I think once your expectations and priorities change, you are more able to move forward with hope for your child’s future.


You will worry way more if she is away

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“Welcome to Holland” is really good.

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I’m 23 and this fall I will be taking my first college class at my local community college. I’m only taking one class at a time-- this time it is going to be Beginning Programming in C#. I don’t intend to get a Bachelor’s degree, just taking some Computer Science classes to get some skills in that area. The first class doesn’t start until late September (this is in Oregon), and I will update this thread as the class progresses. If I do okay, I will consider taking more than one class at a time next time, or if it doesn’t go so well, I will consider taking classes online. We live downtown in Eugene, and everything is within walking distance, which is great, because I don’t drive, and this way I can get back home easily and quickly when I need to.

I’m currently working two part-time jobs-- bussing tables at a restaurant, and working at a movie theatre. And an uncle is also teaching me the electrician trade from time to time.

The main reason I’m even going to college is to have a chance at some higher paying jobs.


My daughter went away to college and within 3 months she experienced a major meltdown. I thought she would be okay and yes I called the school to let them know that she has a mental illness, etc. My daughter is also needy and helpless like yours. She’s not able to plan or make decisions. She came home.

However, I know a young woman with very serious schizophrenia who graduated from college with help of note takers. My friend is not treatment resistant and able to function more independently but she does live and attended college in her home town so it’s not like she went away to college. She also lives alone in an apartment. She’s is one of the fortunate ones where medicine works.

I know exactly how you feel. I remember her wanting to go away to college - my ex suggested to me that she should stay home and attend college in our community but I didn’t listen. He was right.

Good luck to you and I hope your daughter is on medication that works – so yes it’s possible for her to attend college but there is a lot of planning involved.

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We are in Canada, which like England puts a lot of emphasis on vocational training. My daughter, 22 also has problems with deadlines and exam stress. I am looking around for a vocational program which might work. I’m wondering what your daughter went into. The fact she got through 2 years of school and 3 years of working is really impressive!

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Her vocational course was in game design and art at a local college. There was no exam and she did well with the assignments as she was under very little time pressure. After passing the course, the college helped her to find a software engineering apprenticeship. This turned out to be too hard for her, but the experience enabled her to find a part-time job as a games and digital media tester. Unfortunately after 3 years that work dried up when the company lost the contract. Although she enjoyed her time as a tester, she wants to try something different now.

So she’s reassessing her future and is considering doing some further vocational training, in care for disabled people, or animal welfare.


My son developed sz after his 3rd year of college. He left school for a year while recovering and began by taking 1-2 classes at a time once he returned. This semester he is taking 14 credits which is full time. I’m hopeful that it goes well. He seems to have developed better work habits as he’s gotten older (23 now). It would be a big boost to his self image if he graduates💛