How do you deal with overbearing parents during the college process?

As part our College Q & A guide, we decided to ask your questions to the experts. Here are their answers.

Helen H. Choi, Owner, Admissions Mavens

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 you 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!

Erin Avery, Certified Educational Planner, Avery Educational Resources, LLC

As a parent myself, I do not fault parents for the tendency to want to be the dominant force in the college search and application process. In my work, I invite parents to the initial consultation, the meeting when a student has decided on the final list of colleges to which he or she will apply as well as the initial brainstorming session for essays. The latter allows parents to chime in on the all of the proud moments and accomplishments their child has achieved. Ultimately parents should have a say in the college list as they will likely be bankrolling the child’s education to the extent that they are able. In the event of a stalemate, I suggest that the student have permission to apply to one school of the student’s choosing and one school of the parents’ choosing. Compromise goes a long way in this regard. In setting the tone that there are meetings in which parental feedback is welcome and invaluable as well as meetings that the applicant need attend only, parents are given implicit permission to take a step back and allow the student to take the lead. If the student cannot own the process, they cannot own the outcomes.

Andrea Shupert

As a parent, I understand the desire to be involved in the college process. And yes, your parents’ input might be valuable. However, you and your parents need to establish boundaries during the process. You are the one going to college and thus you need to have a big part in determining where you will go. However, hopefully, your parents have some idea of who you are, who you are becoming, and the type of school where you will flourish. If you are the first in your family to go to college, your parents may be “hovering” because college is an unknown and unknowns are often scary. So, what can you do? First of all, try to figure out why they are hovering. Have they asked you to fill out applications and you haven’t? Are you not returning phone calls? Are your grades slipping? Or, is it their pattern to hover? If you can’t figure it out, ask them – what are you scared of? Learning to have a mature conversation with your parents may be the first step toward them starting to let go more. Secondly, become more responsible. If you are exhibiting foolish or immature behavior, your parents may have good reason to be hovering. Offer to take more responsibility at home or complete assignments and tasks in a timely manner. Finally, realize that hovering is often born out of love. If your parents are hanging on, they are showing interest in your future. Soon, you will be at school and perhaps wishing they were around more! So, do what you can to alleviate their concerns, become more responsible in the college process, and relax. The next step is almost here!

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