I think it's important for a kid to learn a trade of some sort, regardless of what their ultimate college goal is. This is also their "plan B" so they don't end up delivering pizzas if the economy does a flip again. When I was in high school, you could learn an honest trade there. We had auto, machine, wood, electric, welding and other hands-on shop classes that we could take. They do not have that luxury now in many schools, since the districts have focused everything around computers and technology. I have a high school friend who just took a job as a toolmaker. He said "I have not done this since high school", and he sure is glad that he learned it. Now, we graduated over 25 years ago and this stuff was way more "important" then, but there is still a market for this experience.
For the OP, as far as a kid today...well, maybe a year at a tech-college to get accustomed to the "college-routine" while learning something that has a life-long value is a good start. The secondary benefit is, a kid will be able to get a job actually making decent money to contribute to their further education. Tell him, I'll pay for 1-2 years of tech school and then 1/2 of whatever you decide to do for college after that. If some of their own money is at stake, they will have a much better chance of taking it seriously, and choosing wisely when it comes to future schools. Suddenly, community college may seem like a better idea instead of Yale...Even if you do plan to pay for it all when it's said and done, it will perpetuate better decisions now. Just don't give him his money back till after he graduates
it would be like a forced savings plan, don't tell him till after the fact though.
I have a friend, with a daughter that is like 20 now. She does not have much of an opportunity to get a college education with her family's financial situation. This said, she wants to be a doctor. So, while she was in 11th-12th grade, she started taking classes at the tech college through high school in cooking and restaraunt work. Now that she is out of school, she is continuing her degree as a gourmet chef, through grants, student loans and a scholarship. Her plan is to put herself through medical school, while working as a chef, making good money. She doesn't care if it takes 15 years either. She will do it too, she has the drive and motivation. She is a remarkable young lady with real focus.
a little off-topic, but, all of that said, the importance of English, spelling and punctuation can't be over emphasized. With the social media and so many things being done on-line, not looking like an illiterate person is of paramount importance. There is nothing worse than someone trying to come across as smart while not being able to structure a sentence and punctuate it correctly. Hell, I see it on forums all the time. I won't even buy something online if I see that the seller writes like a fifth grader. In a nutshell, if kids are lacking in that area, work on that more than anything. It's what people see first these days. You know what they say about first impressions:)