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Admissions Office Q&A: When Parents and Students Don't Agree

Lisa Meyer, dean of admissions, University of LaVerne (LaVerne, CA)

Q. How can I persuade my parents to let me attend the school I want?

A. The first step is to listen to your parents and to understand their reasons for wanting you to make a different college choice. Once you understand their perspective, you can educate them as to why your choice may be the best one (or, perhaps their perspective will influence your choice). Most often, parents want their children to choose another school because of one of the following reasons: quality, cost, or location.

Your parents have worked throughout your lifetime to prepare you for successful independence. If they are concerned about your college choice, they may think there is another college that can offer you more quality programs. They could be concerned that if you choose a college with a lesser academic reputation you will be closing doors on your future opportunities. While there is certainly something to be said for reputation, it does not make as big of a difference in an individual's future as we often assume. Gather statistics and information from the college that you want to attend regarding placement in graduate programs and careers, and its successful alumni. Present this information to your parents in an objective and reasonable fashion.

Perhaps the concern that is keeping your mom and dad from supporting your college choice is the cost of the school. If you are early in the process, they'll be going by the total cost of tuition without looking at any financial aid offers. It's up to you to inform your parents that you're aware of the tremendous costs affiliated with higher education, but encourage them to wait until you have received offers of financial assistance before they make any final decisions.

To help ensure your financial aid chance, be certain to file all of your forms on time. You might also wish to apply for outside scholarships to alleviate your final college cost. Once you have received your financial aid awards and compare the bottom-line price-tags of the schools, you can better assess the money factor. At that point, perhaps your first choice will be only a little more expensive than the school your parents had in mind. Or, you may see that your choice is a great deal more expensive than you had anticipated. Both you and your parents will have to take a realistic look at what you can afford and how much debt you're willing to assume through student loans.

The third concern for many parents is that you want to attend a school far from home. They may not be certain you are ready to move into a dorm and to face new responsibilities. The best way to persuade them in this case is through your own actions. Demonstrate to them that you are responsible and independent. Assure them of the safety and social structures already in place at the college you like. For example, explain to them that its residence halls are staffed with resident assistants, that there is a strong campus security program, that positive weekend activities planned, etc.

The transition from living at home to living an independent life is often bridged by the college experience. This is a time for you and your parents to reassess your roles in decision making and to take incremental steps toward your adulthood. Remember that communicating, which always begins with listening, is the most important thing you can do during this time.


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