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What Do I Do If My Parents and I Disagree About College?

It's common for students and parents to disagree on which colleges to apply to, but in the end, it should be your choice! Start compromising with this advice.

CX Experts generic imageMitchell Lipton
Dean of Admissions and Records and Registrar
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
It's quite common for students and their parents to disagree about the appropriate college choice. Think carefully about what's most important to you as you start your college search. Have an honest discussion with your family regarding college costs, location, size, programs of study, etc. Parents want to see that their students are making an educated, rational decision. If funding is limiting your options, check with every college you're interested in to explore financial aid. Sometimes parents are initially shocked by the sticker price of a college and may be more open to discussing your college plans after being educated themselves about the complex world of financial aid. In the end, it really should be your choice since it's you who will be going to college—sorry, parents! Again, if you get the difficult questions out in the open before you begin your college search, your choices of where to apply should hopefully be aligned with your parents’ needs.

Rodney MorrisonRodney Morrison
Associate Chancellor for Enrollment Management

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey—Camden

As a parent, it's my job to challenge my kids on their choices, especially when they don’t appear to know what they're talking about or if I'm not familiar with the topic. For many students, this is one of (if not the) biggest decisions they and their families will make. It can be a very stressful time. Lay some ground rules and parameters down with your parents before deciding on a school. Discuss things like college size, major, distance from home, activities, and how much you can afford to pay.

Cyndy McDonaldCyndy McDonald
Higher Educational Consultants Association (HECA)

Going to college is a family affair. Even though you're the one going to college, in most cases, your parents are sending you. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing what your path for college will be. Having an open and frank discussion with your parents will help. Are your parents worried about how to pay for college? About you being too far away? Or about the people you might be going to school with? Discuss these topics openly and often with your parents to let them know you're listening to them, and they should be more open to listening to you as well. In the end, there's not just one perfect school for you; any number of schools will work for you. Sit down as a family and make a priority list of what's important in college choices to you, then use those priorities to create your college list. Don’t wait until just before May 1 of your senior year to have this discussion.

To learn more about the college search and application process from those who know it best, check out our Ask the Experts—College Admission section!

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