Ask a Collegiette: When You & Your Parents Disagree on Schools

Whether it’s crushes, classes or coed bathrooms on your mind, chances are you’ve already started stressing about your freshman year of college. But don’t worry! This collegiette has been there and done that, and she’s passing along her hard-earned wisdom to you lucky pre-collegiettes. Whether you’re daunted by your packing list (you do not need a label maker, promise), college-level classes (Wikipedia is your new best friend), making friends (easier than it sounds) or running into a one-night stand (honestly, just run the other way), Sophie’s likely encountered it all. Just sit back, relax and let her share the best advice she’s picked up along the way.

What should I do if my parents and I have two very different opinions of what is best for me? I feel like I would do better at certain schools, but my parents believe going Ivy League should be my only option. – Tema


Tema,

Ah, the age-old dilemma: what you want versus what your parents think is best. Let me start by saying that you are not alone in this struggle. My own opinions on where to go to college happened to be in line with my parents’, but I have two younger sisters who are constantly butting heads with my parents about where to go to college (and whether to go to college at all!).

I’m sure you already know this, but your parents probably want you to go to an Ivy League school because they think that will set you up best for your life after graduation. They are, essentially, just looking out for you and trying to make your future happiness as secure as possible. With that being said, choosing a college is an incredibly personal decision, and while you should certainly take your parents’ opinions into account (particularly if they’re footing the bill), the final decision should be yours.

So, how can you make your parents understand where you’re coming from? I suggest sitting down with your parents after dinner one night and having a mature conversation. Before you launch into your own opinions on where you should go to college, it’s important to ask your parents, specifically, why they want you to attend an Ivy League school. Their answers may surprise you and give you something to think about when it comes time to fill out those applications!

Acknowledge their point of view by saying something along the lines of, “I know you want me to go to an Ivy League school because you want what’s best for me, and I am extremely appreciative of that, but…” Then calmly explain your point of view.

Instead of saying why you don’t want to go to an Ivy League school, try to stick with why you do want to go to another school. Difficult conversations tend to go better when you focus on positive alternatives rather than tearing down the other person’s ideas. You should also have a mental list of your top reasons for wanting to go elsewhere ready. Your best logical arguments could show them you’ve thought this through and are taking your decision seriously.


If you have a dream school in mind that you think would be a perfect fit, come to the conversation prepared with information about that school. You don’t have to sound like a tour guide, but explaining how amazing the English department is or mentioning the awesome traditions or job opportunities unique to that school can help your case.

Explain what you’re looking to get out of your college experience and what type of schools you think would offer the things that are important to you. You may want to attend a big state school with spirited sports teams, or you may love the idea of an Ivy-level education but prefer the small size of a tiny liberal arts college. Talk to your parents about the schools you want to go to using the language of the Ivy League – this will help them realize that a school doesn’t have to be Ivy to be incredible.

Another thing that I did when I told my parents I was switching my major from pre-med to English (not a fun convo) was roughly outline my plans for my future. Think of it as heading off the question: “So, what will you do after you graduate from that college?” If your parents think an Ivy League school will set you up for a great career, point out how you plan on getting summer internships and using alumni networks to find job openings after graduation. Illustrating that your future is in your hands (for example, YOU have to be the one to get the internships, not the college!) will show your parents that you also have your future in mind and put their minds at ease.

If your parents still won’t back down, compromise by agreeing to apply to one or two Ivy League schools, along with a number of schools you think would be a better fit. It’s a small sacrifice to make your parents feel that they are involved in this important process and it will give your parents months to warm up to the idea of a non-Ivy college.

Try to introduce your parents to your dream school without being annoying by pointing out when your college appears in the news (in a positive light!) or by introducing them to alumni of that college. If your parents hear the same college brought up time and again, and always in a positive way, they’re bound to change their perception of your dream school!


Having fundamentally different opinions on something as important as college can be tricky to navigate, especially if your parents are only looking out for your best interests. Be as mature and logical as possible when explaining yourself to the ‘rents, but be sure to stand your ground. Your choice of college is not the most important decision you’ll ever make, but it will determine your home for four years of your life, and you should live and learn in a place that you love!

Fill out my online form.