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When Parents and Students Disagree About College

Original post made by Doing College on Jul 1, 2013

Waiting until college results are in to deal with differences of opinion between students and their parents about what college to attend is not wise. When the college acceptances arrive, many families find it hard to make the final decision about where to enroll. Often the student and parents disagree about what college to attend because of financial, academic, prestige and other considerations. Here are some suggestions about how to weigh these concerns:

First, finances are always a huge consideration. If the parents are simply unable to pay the bill and merit or need-based aid is not sufficient, the choice must be one that is affordable. The student should be made aware of this possibility throughout the application process.

Academics are, of course, an extremely important concern. If the student knows what he or she wants to study, consider whether there is a clearly superior choice among the colleges. For example, if the student wants to go pre-med, look at the medical acceptance rate for each of the schools. Again, the student should work to become aware of differences among colleges long before acceptances arrive.

Safety is another significant consideration. Many parents are understandably concerned about their child's safety. Perhaps the child has been raised in a sheltered community and the campus is on the outskirts of a major metropolis. There are several factors to consider that may help resolve this common worry. One way is to do an objective assessment of crime rates on and off campus. The National Center for Education Statistics [Web Link maintains] a database which contains some of this information. Other sources include the college itself, campus police and the surrounding community police and sheriff departments.

Take care to construct a realistic college list in the first place. In parent-student college choice disputes the student often asks "Why did you let me apply to the schools in the first place, if you knew you wouldn't let me go?" Sometimes parents do this because they weren't sure the student would get into their (the parents') preferred schools; they went along with their child's choices until the results were in. This is always a recipe for trouble. Be sure to consider the construction of a college list carefully and work with your child to apply to schools that you all agree are good options.

In the end, parents need to consider all the important factors, including the fact that it is the student who is going to college. Keep in mind the possible negative consequences of sending a student somewhere that he or she does not want to go. Ideally, students should start college happy, excited and ready to learn. If your child has achieved well throughout high school and the college choices are all places where he or she can get a good education, then the wisest option is to let the student decide.

Elizabeth LaScala Ph.D. guides college, transfer and graduate school applicants through the complex world of admissions. She develops best match college lists, offers personalized interview and essay coaching, and tools and strategies to help students tackle each step of the admissions process with confidence and success. Elizabeth helps students from all backgrounds to maximize merit and financial aid awards. Visit www.doingcollege.com; Call (925) 891-4491 or email at elizabeth@doingcollege.com

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