Family Tension Surrounding College Applications

One of the main reasons families decide to work with a coach such as myself is due to the tension that college applications can cause. Parents want to be helpful, but students want to be independent and consider their parents inquiries into the process 'nagging'. I've worked with countless families who all have the same general story - "My kid won't let me help, but I'm worried they're missing their deadlines!" 


In terms of parent-child relationships, college application season can certainly apply a strain to the dynamic. I'm working with a student right now who is incredibly responsive, friendly and happy to work with me, but as soon as we get on a video-chat with her next to her father, it becomes a series of eye-rolls, sighs, boredom and "Dad, don't say that!" It doesn't help that this particular dad is overbearing - he wrote her college application essay for her and sent it to her so she could "make it her own"... I'm sure we can all tell how well that went. Her father trying to help with her college applications resulted in the house being filled with arguments, door slamming and crying, and no one was happy. 


Everything from choosing a major, to choosing a college, to choosing a state that the college is located in, to choosing a topic for an essay, to filling out the applications... the list of things that can cause tension in this process is neverending. 


It's unfortunate that college application season puts this much pressure on to students - they are by no means the only family I've worked with experiencing this, but they are the most pronounced. It is VERY clear that college applications have put a rift between their father-daughter relationship. 


Regarding the parent-parent relationship surrounding college applications, it is common across the country for parents of students applying to college to experience tension in their relationships. Parents always want what's best for their child, but they may not always agree on what that is. 


Parents may have differing views on what they expect for their child's college experience - some parents value the traditional "4-year college experience" over the logical appeal of a community or junior college that will save them money and allow their child to live at home. One parent may want their child close enough to come home on weekends, while the other wants them to fly wherever their heart desires. All of these decisions can increase tensions between parents. 


If you’re experiencing tension and your relationships regarding college applications, there are some actions you can take to reduce it. The first thing you can do is increase communication, both between parents and the student, about expectations, desires and requirements.


This can be hard with teens. They’re not known to be the best communicators. If they feel it’s safe to speak their opinions, they are more likely to be honest and forthcoming with where they are in this college application journey, how they’re feeling and how you, their parents, can help.


I would also talk to them about what they really want out of their college experience, and that if the direction they’re going in is one they truly want to pursue. If you’re finding that they’re not excited work on their applications and are dreading hitting submit, it may be because they are applying for that school or program because its what they think their parents want, and not what they really want.


If you’re feeling tension in your family surrounding college applications, feel free to reach out to me and I can suggest some solutions. College applications really don’t have to be this hard.