We’ve all had those “OMG my parents can be sooo annoying” moments, but nothing can be more annoying than when a parent tries to insert themselves into your college plans. Once those acceptance letters start pouring in, things can get tense pretty quickly. So what’s a pre-collegiette to do when discussions about college plans between you and your parents start to get heated? Check out some of the common scenarios pre-collegiettes frequently run into when you and your parents don’t agree on your future plans.
The problem: Your parents are still in love with their alma mater. Too bad you’re not!
Sidney Madden, a sophomore at Hofstra University said, “My dad really wanted me to go to his alma mater, UMass Amherst, not only because of price but also because he had so much fun during his college years there. The problem was too many people from my high school went to that school… and I wanted to get out of Massachusetts and experience living away from home.”
Even if you’ve been bombarded with stories about how awesome of a time your mom had in school or constantly hear all about the great opportunities available at your dad’s old college, it may not be right for you. Do a little research, and then pick a time to calmly sit down with your parents to show them what you love about your first choice school. Maybe you’re a budding biologist and you’ve found a school that has tons of opportunities for research, or is located right next to great places to intern or work at. Perhaps you want to go to a big university that has a great Greek community, or, contrastingly, would rather go someplace small in order to make connections with professors and other people on campus.
This is exactly what Sidney did. “Ultimately, I chose to go to Hofstra University, which is in New York, and convinced my dad through many long talks, weighing all the factors, that it’s where I would be happiest,” she explained.
Katie Burkholder, a guidance counselor at Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota, stresses the importance of finding the place where you feel most comfortable. “The student has to feel good about seeing herself at this college,” she said. “It’s best not to force a student to go to any particular college.”
Make sure your parents know what’s important to you, and show them why your school of choice is a great fit with whatever it is you value. Explain to them that while they enjoyed their time at their respective schools, you feel there are better opportunities and several significant advantages somewhere else. Remind them that you’re the one who will be spending the next four years at the school, not them, so it’s important you go somewhere that makes you happy. (As an aside, if you can’t think of anything you like about a college other than “They have a really great rec center!” or “I really like the cupcake bar in the dining hall,”your parents might have a point.)
The problem: Your dream school is way too pricey.
This is one argument where your parents have a good point. As the primary income earners in the family, they probably have a much better idea of what’s in the family’s budget and price range when it comes to costly endeavors like college than you do.
“Student loans can be very stressful. If the student can apply for a merit-based scholarship or grants, this will help cover the costs. If not, it’s a tough sell to attend an expensive college,” Burkholder explains.
That doesn’t mean your dream school is out of the question, however. If you haven’t already, work with the school’s financial aid department and see if the school has any more in aid to offer. Sometimes, the first estimate given by the Financial Aid department isn’t always a final offer. If fewer students enroll than expected, more funds may become available. Make sure to ask about any scholarships the school sponsors that you may not have known about or applied for as well.
Don’t forget about outside funding sources as well. Check out great sources for scholarships and check Her Campus for articles containing links to scholarships both collegiettes and pre-collegiettes can apply for. Check with the academic department you’re interested in studying in as well to see if they offer any departmental awards, or have ideas or know where current students go for help with tuition.
Spending a year or two and completing general credits at a community college is becoming a more common path for collegiettes to explore. This can be a great way to cut costs and save up for a pricier school in a year or two. Check out this Her Campus article to learn more about different options community colleges offer that might be just as good a fit for you.
Keep in mind that documents like FAFSA need to be re-completed and submitted every year, so aid could change from year to year, especially if the one you’re currently applying for reflected out-of-the-ordinary financial circumstances (a parent getting laid off and collecting unemployment, or an unexpected inheritance, for example). Even if your dream school is a bit out of reach this year, a transfer could be a possibility down the road.
The problem: Your parents don’t want you to be so far away from home.
This can be a tricky one to deal with. Take time to talk things over with your parents.
One of the first things to consider and discuss is transportation. Will you be able to get home easily? Are you close enough to drive home when need be, or would you have to fly? Will this affect how many times you make the trip home? Is your school close to public transportation, or will you want a car on campus to run errands and make sure you have everything you need? How easy will it be to move in and move out, especially if your school is further from home? All of these are questions you and your parents will want to consider.
Discuss how much you plan to communicate with your family while you’re at school as well. Help them sign up for a family Skype account if they don’t already have one and walk them through signing on and starting a convo. Parents separated or divorced? Think about getting an OoVoo account instead, which lets you talk with both parents simultaneously.
Break out the family calendar and mark down family weekend and any breaks you’ll be spending at home. If you’re within driving distance, throw in an extra weekend or two you’d be willing to spend at home. Hopefully this reassures your parents that they’re not losing you forever.
Although being far away from home does have its benefits, the distance may not be as welcome as you originally think. Erin Nemeth, a student at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut explains, “I’m from Connecticut, and all of my top schools were around Boston. My mom made me look at Quinnipiac, and I really didn’t want to—she literally dragged me there. I hated that it was only 40 minutes from home and didn’t want to go to a school that was so close to me. Turns out listening to her was the best thing I could have done. I fell in love with QU, and their program really was the best for me. Just a small story that listening to your parents every now and then with the college decision process isn’t a bad idea.”
Still set on getting farther away than your parents would like? Remind them of what the school can do for you and why it’s a good fit for what you hope to accomplish and achieve during your four years at school, regardless of the distance.
The problem: Your dream school doesn’t offer as much as another one you’ve applied to.
This is another area where your parents may have a point. Consider what each school you’ve been accepted to is offering in terms of financial aid, academic, social, and extra-curricular opportunities. Ultimately, it’s your decision to decide where you’d be most comfortable and which school feels like the best fit, but consider parental input as well. Take time to discuss and talk about the pros and cons of the schools you both are interested in. Focus on what makes it the right choice for you, and use that to reach a consensus. If possible, make a visit to campus or try and speak with students that currently go there to get more of a feel for the school.
The key with this solution is to keep an open mind. You may have your heart set on one college or university, but your parents might be making a good point. If the university they’ve fallen for is cheaper, it could mean more funds for cool things like study abroad or spring break trips later down the road. Don’t reject a school just because your parents are pulling for it. If it could be just as good of a match, definitely consider it when making your final decision.