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?

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

How should I deal with my parents stressing me out?

Even for quiet, responsible students, the college application process may induce considerable stress. The last thing a student needs is to have to manage the parent in addition to mounds of schoolwork, lists of target schools, college visits and applications. If your parent is overly involved in the college process, you should remind your him or her that you are trying to plan your future - not that of your parent! I always remind my students how hard it is for a parent to get through this process, but at the same time I insist that the student set reasonable objectives and time frames. A parent will be more likely to back off if you show that your are mature and capable of earning his or her respect by staying on top of the process in an organized and timely manner. For very emotional parents who tend to be too involved, find a role for your parent, such as proofreader of your application.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Be Understanding and Take Care of Business!

Parents of children applying to college these days are called "helicopter" parents, and many admissions officers, counselors, and teachers find that their jobs are made infinitely more difficult because of parental interference. But what do you do if one or both of your parents are of the Blackhawk variety? You can't escape them, and they seem to have their hands in everything from your homework, backpack, phone, web history, and of course your college applications. Here's our two-step process for dealing with hovering parents: 1. Be Understanding: college application time is stressful for everybody in the family. For students -- the pressure is obvious since it is their future on the line. For parents -- this time of their lives is an enormous period of transition as well. They have dedicated so much of the past 2 decades raising children -- and now it's time to say goodbye. And even though they shouldn't feel that their child's college choice is a reflection on their parenting achievements -- many parents do. They feel like they haven't done their "job" well if their child doesn't go to the best school possible. So -- try to be understanding that parents are under enormous stress at this point in their lives. Try to see the good intentions behind the annoying nagging. (You can't change them -- but you can change the way you see them!) 2. Be Responsible. Another great way to deal with parents is to show that YOU are on top of the process. Show them that you are aware of deadlines and are planning accordingly. Show them that you are working on your essays and speaking with teachers about recommendations. Show them that you can handle the process and let them know that you will come to them with any questions. The more you take control of the process and show them that you are capable, the less anxiety and the more PRIDE your parents will experience!

Kiersten Murphy
Executive Director and Founder Murphy College Consultants LLC

Make a plan

At this point in the application process, parents are eager and excited to discuss their child's progress and thoughts, while students often want to pull back as they are getting anxious about deadlines and essay work. If your parents are stressing you out by asking too many questions, you might want to make an arrangement with them, where you set aside a specific time each week when you will answer their questions. Outside of that time, you would ask them to refrain from asking about college.

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.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures


If your parents are stressing you out, you need to talk to them about it. Yes, I said talk to them. Tell them how you are feeling (nicely, don't accuse) and ask them if they realize they are being overbearing? Talk about how everyone can compromise, maybe they will back off if you keep them updated fairly regularly. There is usually a middle road to be found. I believe that it is the student who must be responsible for the college application process. (Of course the parents must be involved in some aspects, don’t go overboard!). Many parents are loath to take a backseat…they believe they know best, and hey, maybe in some areas they do. BUT when it comes to the college choice and application process, a student begins to understand about responsibility by driving the process without mom and dad being too involved. Compromise.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Show and Tell

Show your parents that you have the college application process under control. Be organized. Make your deadlines. If your parents can see that you can handle the many aspects of the college application process, they may give you more space and relax a little. This will cause you less anxiety. Try not to shut them out of the process. Open up the lines of communication. Try to show your parents that you respect their opinions. If your parents know that you are willing to speak with them and if they know what stage you are at in the applications and what you are thinking, you will find that the atmosphere at home will become much more relaxed.

Melanie Hayes
Educational Consultant Gifted/Talented

This is the beginning of your adult life

Parents have their own dreams for you. They have worked hard to parent you and get you to this point in your life. But this is where your separate path begins. They will be a part of your life from here on, but not in the same way. The dynamics change as you move more fully into adulthood. So be adult about this. Don't yell at them or give them the silent treatment. Don't try to avoid them or punish them by acting out. This is your chance to display the maturity it will take to get through your adult life. Sit down with your parents and ask them to list all the things that are stressing them out about the application process. Write them down. Then you list all the things that are stressing you out. Now ask your parents what they want for you. What is it that they are so worried about? Let them know what your goals are for yourself. Then, on paper, compare the lists and see how much you have in common with your parents and where you differ. Those are all talking points for airing all the concerns that are stressing everyone out. If there is a very large discrepancy between their goals and yours, you need to explore why. If they have different hopes and dreams for you, this is the time to let them know why those hopes and dreams differ from your own. You need to present your case without drama. Show them you have thoroughly investigated your options and how you will go about getting what you want out of life. In the end, I think most parents just want their children to be happy and successful. It is your job to show your parents that you are mature enough to make those life changing choices.

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.