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College Talk Blog

Parent and student relationships in the college process

Do you have a holy eye-roller at your house?

Parents sometimes tell me "you have your work cut out for you" when they sign their teen up for college consulting. Often they suggest that I will be working with a difficult student. Sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, I see an eye-roll from the teen who is the subject of that parent observation.

I have rarely worked with a "difficult" student. Students I have had the pleasure of helping are very concerned about being successful in college. They are serious about finding the best fit major and college and candid about their current academic status.

This is really happening

One of my favorite experiences while working with high school seniors in August and September each year is being present when they start their first college application.

The most frequent comment is: "this is really happening!" That excited comment is confirmation that the college process does not seem real at first to many teens.

Part of the reason college seems so far away to teens is that the time perceptions of teens and adults are so different. Teens are more focused on the present while parents take a longer view.

Difficult teenager or bad timing?

Some of the families who visit me for help are arguing among themselves. The parents tell me that their teen is being uncooperative and difficult. The teen tells me that their parents don't understand that it is their life and they should get to make decisions.
After a few visits, it is often clear that the problem lies in timing more than anything else. Often students and parents have similar goals. Both want the best fit for the student. What is different is that parents are on one time table and students are on another.

Dueling Parents = Conflicted Student

College bound high school students whose parents are separated or divorced can feel conflicted and discouraged when the parents fail to agree about where the student should attend college and how to pay for it. A frequent reaction is for the student to give up his own desires to satisfy the parent who makes the most noise or demands. When a student gives up during the college process, his chances of success in college diminish because his enthusiasm and confidence have taken a big hit from his arguing parents.

Talk the talk before they walk

The world is rapidly changing and getting more complex. Education is more important than ever and the best education outcomes happen when students and parents are on the same sheet of music and work together.
Rising high school juniors are considering their college options right now. Have you hadThe Talkwith them? Do they know how much you as a parent are prepared to contribute toward college costs? Have you jointly arrived at an agreement about who is going to do what money-wise?