How to Talk to Your Parent or Guardian About College: Finding the Right Balance

During high school, your parents or guardians are likely involved with many of your day-to-day and bigger life decisions. As you get older, hopefully these adults will still be there to support and guide you, but you’ll be making more and more decisions on your own. It is likely that your parents/guardians and family will be involved in your decision about whether to go to college and what kind of school to attend. So how should you talk to your parent or guardian about the college process?

Balancing act

The key here is balance. On the one hand, your parents/guardians have more life experience than you do and may have even attended college themselves. They also might be helping to pay for your college education. There could also be particular family situations or needs that impact the college process for you. Your family can help you think through different options.

On the other hand, you are the one who will be attending college. It is your experience and your life, so the school you attend needs to feel like a good fit for you. So what is a good fit? Well, remember that you may not be able to go to a “dream school” for several reasons. It is possible that you won’t get in or it could be that your dream school is not practical or affordable for you. In fact, the college application and admission process for most people involves compromises. The key is to understand what your parents/family think and also consider what is important for you.

Trouble with finding the balance

There may be times when your family seems to be too involved or not involved enough. What should you do if you feel like your parents/guardians are pressuring you to attend a particular college? The first step is to speak to them about your concern. You may be able to help them see that while a certain college is ideal from their perspective, it is not necessarily a great fit for you. As you talk further, you may get a better understanding of their position as well. The more you are able to communicate your thoughts and needs, the more you will understand each other’s positions and be able to find common ground.

If you feel you need more help in the application and decision process, also let them know. If your family cannot help, you can seek out a school counselor or use online resources.

Remember, the more you can all speak openly about your goals and expectations, the more likely you will find ways to meet your needs. Check out our Set to Go resources and tools for more information and insights on the college process.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.