Dealing with Parents During College Apps

Chances are, if you’re approaching senior year, you’ve had a few college-oriented conversations with your parents that feel somewhat like the following:


And if you’re sitting there thinking, “Nope, I can’t relate to that” … just wait. There is something about the application season that can turn even the most easy-going of parents into half-crazed life-gurus. To help minimize the frustration, here are several pointers in dealing with the family:


1. Coordinate

There’s nothing worse than, after having a fairly overwhelming day, being bombarded with an onslaught of college discussion. What about this school? Have you thought about [insert adventure story here] for a college essay? You know Nancy’s son from down the street got this on his SAT…

Look – there is a lot to go over when it comes to applying for college. And you’re probably going to need your parents to get through certain steps along the way. For efficiency’s sake, try to designate a time of the day where you both can agree to focus on college stuff (maybe that’s over dinner, Mondays after school, before sports practice); as soon as one person isn’t fully invested in the conversation – you are going to be having that conversation again.

And on that note, you may want to set some boundaries of where and when college can’t be brought up. (For me, that was in the car. There’s nothing worse than being trapped in a Honda Pilot on the freeway, forced to acknowledge your future.)


2. Stick with honesty

Depending on your situation, it can be really difficult to voice your unhindered opinion to your parents. But it’s so unbelievably imperative that you do it anyways. This is the next four years of your life that we’re talking about here. (Not to mention a pretty big monetary investment.) I’ve said it before via these blog posts, and I’ll say it again: it is absolutely acceptable to prioritize your own happiness. Whether this is in regards to attending a school or declaring a major, you’re going to want your parents to understand where you’re at emotionally.

And, yes, this goes both ways. Sometimes moms and dads try to do the right thing and hold their tongue. Maybe they just give you that one “look,” but never actually follow it up with verbal admittance to their stark disapproval. Let them be as honest with you as you want to be with them. Overall, the more you and you parents mask your opinions, the less mutual trust you will be able to have moving forward in this process.


3. Reach out to other adults

It’s okay to get second opinions. Third opinions. As many opinions as you feel you can hear without reverting back to the previously included watermelon-explosion gif. Your parents are going to have periods of mass confusion, just like you. They’re not always going to know what the best option is (even if they think that they do). So, if there’s ever any unsettling doubt, be comfortable asking around; college apps teachers, your peers, your peers’ parents, your neighbors, admissions advisors: they’re all great people to turn to.


4. Realize they only mean the best

However short you may get with one another, your parents really are just trying to help. Relationships can get difficult when views don’t align, when money gets involved, when stress run high. But when it comes down to it, everyone is striving for the same end goal. Your parents are on your team. They’re contributing what expertise they can to the situation (and, whether or not you believe me now, a decent amount of the time, they’re right).


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  • Elise Gout

    Elise writes articles for the Magoosh SAT blog to help teenagers during an exciting time in their lives. Despite residing in Southern California, where she attends San Dieguito Academy high school, she has no surfing abilities whatsoever; it’s actually rather sad. She is your typical senior high school girl who sword fights daily, and is pretty much convinced that bananas are a food sent from heaven. Elise will attend Columbia University next fall to study environmental science.

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