How should I deal with my parents stressing me out?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How should I deal with my parents stressing me out?

Richard Smith

How should I deal with my parents stressing me out?

If your parents are popping their head into your room more and more around decision time, assign them simple but tedious tasks that will keep them busy. They’re itching to feel involved, so why not ease your stress by putting some of the scheduling on their shoulders? While your parents should never write your admission essays (feel free to let them proofread) or contact admissions offices for you, they can serve as your research and planning interns. They can make a calendar with application deadlines, request financial aid information from each school, and find out the dates of college tours.

Make them do research on how much travel, food and entertainment will cost each month. It might feel weird discussing how much spending money you’ll need, but at least they’ll stop assuming that you can get by on that $100 a month (kudos to you if you can, though). Whatever you do, make sure to discourage them from calling and harassing admissions offices and your guidance counselors. This can seriously hurt your chances of acceptance. Your college counselor might have hundreds of students to take care of, but they often forge close bonds with college administrations and can put in a good word for you. Pissing them off won’t do any good. If your parents insist on consulting with an admissions officer to get general information about the college, remember to explain to them that it’s only useful until December, when they get swamped with applications—the ideal time to contact an admissions officer is September - November.

Sharon Smith

How should I deal with my parents stressing me out?

If your parents are really extreme and try to threaten you by playing the “I’m going to cut you off and not do your laundry anymore” card, you can be really obnoxious and quote Andrew Allen, author of College Admissions Trade Secrets and renowned private college counselor: “Your parents should help you weigh the pros and cons of each college, but they should not actually choose a college for you.” Let’s face it, if you go to a college because your parents bribed you with a new car, you’ll probably be parking it somewhere else just a year later. While tricking your parents might seem like a great idea now, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble first by doing thorough research, then following your heart.

David Smith

How should I deal with my parents stressing me out?

Don’t completely write off what your parents say, no matter how annoying they seem. It’s true, sometimes it’s in your best interest to look further than first impressions. That uptight college that gives you the creeps might very well have a smaller department that you’re going to love and get lots of personal attention. For example, someone who majors in journalism at a predominantly business school gets great choices when it comes to internships and jobs from the department secretary and the career center.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Parental Involvement

So often parents mean well, but just don't know how to direct their intentions. If you can demonstrate that you are organized, sticking to a timeline, and are enjoying the process; they should relax. Don't hesitate to throw them some crumbs every once in a while, though. Maybe they could start filling out the FAFSA, let them play cruise director when you hit the road for visits, share websites you come across (!) so they realize you know what you're doing. Bottom line, you know they just want what is best for you. This is a stressful time for them too as they anticipate you leaving the nest. If everyone can maintain a sense of humor, your family will be the better for it.

Helen Cella

How should I deal with my parents stressing me out?

Keep in mind they have your best interests at heart

Nicholas Umphrey

The bigger issue...

A lot of times, when a parent is very gung ho, and in your face about this process it has some deeper psychological meanings. It is only natural for parents to want the best for their children, and the more opportunities that come your way, the more some parents tend to be around. This can be for a variety of reasons, but it is usually because your parents love you, and can sometimes get carried away living vicariously through your success. First, it is important that you try and understand your parents and why they are stressing you out. It usually has nothing to do with you personally. It is their anxious desire to make sure you don't miss the opportunities ahead of you. Nonetheless, getting into a bickering war with your parents will leave you with frustration and hurt feelings. You should attempt to set solid boundaries with your parents. Your counselor can be a good mediator in this process. However, boundaries are always important in relationships, even with those closest to you. An example of a boundary might be for you to only have your parents review your application if you ask them to. In this instance, if they insist on it, then it they are not respecting your boundaries. Also keep in mind that this process is only temporary, and you can only control where you apply, not what they say.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

How should I deal with my parents stressing me out?

Do what you need to do in a timely manner. Your parents are stressing you out because you are stressing them out. If you do your school work and applications early (no procrastination) then they will have more confidence in you and back off. If you are doing this already, sit them down and talk with them. Ask them "Why they are so stresed out?" then work on a solution together. Always remember, your parents want the best for you and are trying to help you, they just sometimes have a frustrating way of showing it.

Dustin Giesenhagen
Counselor Grand Junction High School

How should I deal with my parents stressing me out?

Parents can be very stressful when looking at sending you off to college. First off, they're sending their baby away! Both sad and exciting for all parties involved! First ask yourself, who is this whole process is really about? It is important for them to push you and it is also important for them to realize that this is YOUR future that everyone is dealing with here and your opinion needs to be heard. Also remember that they have been alongside you on this ride of life and they are probably just as nervous as you are about your future journey to college. By you supporting them, they can then support you back and hopefully everyone can then work as a team and relax a bit. Have some fun! There is so much to get done when applying to schools and finishing up your senior year, its important for you to not forget to set aside some time for self care. I know that after a stressful day of work, I always feel relieved after I get at least an hour mountain bike ride in. So during this time busy time be sure to have some fun; you will feel rejuvenated and in turn, produce better work!

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

How should I deal with my parents stressing me out?

In most cases, your parents' interest in your college planning are because they love you so much and want things to work out well for you. Nevertheless, parental over-involvement can be a cause of stress for both you and them. If it is financially possible, you might ask your parents to arrange to have you work with an independent college advisor - someone whom your parents will trust and who will be able to help you through the college search and application process without being part of all the family stress issues. If this is not possible, another option would be to sit down with your parents - when no one is upset about anything, explain to them what you're doing with regard to your pre-college plans, what options you're considering, how you have your time organized, how you're taking care of all of the necessary requirements (both high school and college-related), and anything else that would be of concern to them. Very important: Have a plan! Anticipate your parents' questions and concerns and be ready to address them. The last thing you want to do in this scenario is have them ask an important question to which your answer is, "I dunno." If your parents are stressing you out, and you actually don't HAVE a plan, think about making one - right away!

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

How should I deal with my parents stressing me out?

This is a good question and not one easily answered, for much of the stress comes from the best of intentions and nothing more than a desire to see one’s children happy. At the same time overly involved parents are usually those who have forgotten a fundamental aspect of the process--that it is about their children and not them. Admittedly, that can be advice more easily offered than followed, and for a child to say it to their parents can be awkward and does little for family relations. But at the same time, it is a message that needs to be conveyed. The best messengers are usually another adult—perhaps a family friend who has been through it with their kids--or the school counselor.