Thinking about your college options should be a time of excitement; but, negotiating your college list with your parents can, in some families, be a source of stress. Yes, you are the one who is going to college; however, in most families, it’s your parents who will be footing a large part (or all) of the bill. If that is your case, it’s important to ask these questions in order to have a productive – not destructive – conversation.
- What do you think the goal of college is?
Getting a job, building your social network, pursuing your sport and learning how to think critically are all valid reasons to go to college. Which goal you prioritize will impact the colleges you put on your list. It’s easy to assume that your parents’ goals for college are the same as your own but they may very well not be. So, ask.
- What do you think is the most important factors in selecting a college?
It is important that your future college check both your boxes, as well as those of your parents. While you may need a college that has a great football team and your intended major, your parents might care about things such as safety and learning support. Talk to your parents about what is important to them and why. Who knows? Their answers may help you get some perspective and make a more thoughtful and mature decision when the time comes.
- Are there any schools you think I should definitely apply to or definitely stay away from? Why?
Your parents have known you longer than anyone else on this planet. As a result, they probably know you better than you might think and have clear ideas of the environments in which you may or may not be successful. Sure, they may want you to apply to “College U” because that’s where they went; but, they may also offer up some great schools that weren’t previously on your radar.
- Is there any reason you think I should stay close to or far from home?
Some parents may have a hard time letting go and will try to convince you to go to school down the street, while they do your laundry and make your meals. Others may think that this is a time for you to gain independence far from home. There is no one-size-fits-all decision; but, understanding your parents’ perspective can help you diffuse conflict and ease the transition to college – on them — when the time inevitably comes.
- What is our college budget?
Although most parents are uncomfortable discussing finances with their children, it is critical for children to understand what type of financial support they can expect throughout college. Without this knowledge up front, children may make unrealistic college choices, may fail to plan ahead, or may misinterpret parent’s refusal to consider more expensive colleges as simply being stubborn or overly controlling.
Choosing a college is the first adult decision most high school seniors make. It is a decision that carries with it considerable cost, in terms of money, time and effort; so, it’s wise to think through your decision thoughtfully and consider different perspectives. Remember, your parents love you and want the best for you. They also do have a level of experience and maturity that you lack only because of your young age. So, instead of rolling your eyes, try to listen to them with your full attention and consider their advice with an open mind.