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Talking to Your Parents About College

The fall of your senior year in high school is exciting for many reasons: Homecoming, finally attaining senior status, and fighting incessantly with your parents about college. These days, parents are more involved in their children's college application process than ever before and there's a lot more tension when it comes to college applications. Below are a few tips that can help make the college journey easier for both you and your parents:

The best way to resolve a college-related conflict with your parents is to tell them directly how you're feeling. Your parents can't guess what you're thinking -- it's your job to be up front and honest with them. If you find your parents tuning you out, then try to arrange some alone time with them. Whether it's going out to dinner, taking a drive, or bungee jumping (hey, you never know!), arranging some activity where you can be alone with your parent or parents is a great opportunity to convey how you feel without any distractions.

While it may seem like your parents are dictating how and where you apply to school, listen to what they have to say. Rather than tell them to back off, consider their suggestions, the essay topics they bring up, and the try not to visibly cringe when they accost that admissions officer at your high school's college fair. The mere act of listening to your parents and not automatically dismissing what they say will go a long way when you tell them that you have a different take on things. It's much easier to have a college dialogue when both parties are open to the other's ideas.

Establish what type of school you want to attend early in the process. Whether it's a Big 10 school in the Midwest or a tiny liberal arts school in a town nobody's heard of, let your parents know early on what kind of school you're setting your sights on. This will avoid confusion and conflict later down the road.

Understand if financial constraints limit your choices. Not everyone has $160,000 or more to shell out for a four-year education. If your parents can't afford to send you to certain schools, try and come up with lower-cost alternatives that will make you just as happy. An expensive school is not necessarily a better school. Have a frank talk with your parents about schools that lie within their financial range. If you still desire a school outside your parents' financial reach, consider options such as student loans, grants, and merit-based scholarships.

When you feel that you can't resolve a college issue with your parents, bring in a neutral third party. Perhaps a school counselor or social worker can help resolve a conflict. A neutral third party may help put things in a new perspective. In cases where you feel that you're coming up against a brick wall, family therapy may be a good solution.

Sometimes all it takes is simple communication. Be clear with your parents, respect their input, but don't be afraid to stand up for yourself. Unfortunately, there's always the remote possibility that your parents might make sense. If this happens, remember that since we've been able to clone sheep, anything is possible.