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Parent-Child Conflict with College Admission Requirements

By Peterson's Staff updated on Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Many parents put pressure on their children to apply to colleges that will increase their own status or self-esteem. If you're one of these, you may be unwittingly setting your kid up for rejection or, at the very least, frustration. The decal on the back of your car doesn't mean squat if your child is miserable.

Put your feelings aside and encourage your child to seek a challenging college experience without attaching unrealistic importance to name schools. Above all, never confuse the kind of student your child is with the kind of person he or she is. There are hundreds of thousands of high school students who are clever, kind, reliable, and remarkable who won't be heading to well-known colleges next fall — but they'll still lead happy and productive lives that will make their parents proud.

College admission requirements disagreements between parents

Everything we've suggested so far assumes that you and your spouse (if applicable) are a united front but perhaps the truth is that you and your mate don't see eye-to-eye on the college admissions requirements at all. That's normal! You can't expect to always agree, but you can pick your battles and respect your child's role as the tiebreaker.

Whether you're still married or have divorced, parents need to work together in their child's best interest regardless of how they may be feeling about each other. This is one of those times when grown-ups need to be grown-ups and treat the situation — and your child — with dignity and respect. Negotiate if there are disagreements over who is paying the bills, attending parents' weekend, and overseeing applications. You must learn compromise in the college admissions process!

With issues of deciding which college to attend and such, your child still needs to be the key player in those decisions, with you and your spouse, or ex-spouse, serving as sounding boards and the voice of reason, if necessary. Don't bring your personal difficulties front and center at a time when the focus should be on your child, not on you.

Children have different needs in the college admission process

The beauty of having more than one child includes the fact that each one of them is a unique individual and during this process, you may need to remind yourself over and over of that fact. Your artistic and poetic child may not have the same needs or college admission requirements as your all-American starting quarterback.

Younger siblings are often afraid of disappointing mom and dad if their superstar older brother or sister attends a big-name school or if all of the other kids in the family went to the same state school — which just happens to be your alma mater. The child that you're sending to college now has his or her own path and you must respect that, rather than trying to squeeze your child into a mold that doesn't necessarily fit.

Even if all of your children do seek similar schools, you can practically count on different approaches to the college admissions process. One may drag you on a dozen campus tours and insist that you read every essay but another child may try to keep you as hands-off as possible. 

So, as you delve into the all-important conversation with your child over conflicts that have arisen, take responsibility if you've unfairly been trying to transfer the accomplishments of a sibling on to this child. Recognize your child for whom he or she is and listen when they tell you what it is they want from college and from you.

Reduce the hyperactivity around college admissions requirements

With advice about the college admission process swelling exponentially each year, a convoluted procedure can become an overwhelming ordeal if you or your child is the type who feels that they somehow have to do it all. Instead, you need to remind yourself (or your child) that there will always be another book to read, another Web site to visit, another college to consider, and more college admissions assistance to find. Neither of you can do everything and, frankly, an overload of information may only serve to cloud the final decision-making capabilities. Keep things as simple as possible and the process will go more smoothly for both of you.

You won't be able to prevent every disagreement or heal every hurt that happens during this process, but you can improve things by going over the items listed here and being honest with yourself about any things you may be a little guilty of. You can also chill out every once in a while by stepping back and not letting college consume your lives. Go out on a date with your spouse or significant other, take your child to a movie and make a list of temporarily off-limit words like "application," "acceptance," and "SAT." See who can get through a day (or a meal or a minute) without saying them.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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