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?

Nancy Smith

How should I deal with my parents stressing me out?

School rankings and programs are constantly changing, and a college that was considered the best in the nation for a certain field 20 years ago might have a lot more (or less) to offer now. Parents sometimes don’t realize that it’s more than twice as hard to get into Harvard now as it was when they were applying, simply because there are a lot more qualified high school seniors these days getting degrees. What your parents might once have considered “backup schools” are now as selective as the Ivies. However, this means there are also several schools out there with English professors as good as Harvard’s. Sit them down by the computer and make a case for your top choice.

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.

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.