Double Take: My Parents Want Me to Stay Local for College

Dear Dr. Wes & Miranda

My parents are pressuring me to go to college locally and live at home. That’s not the college experience I wanted. I’ve been accepted to colleges here and in go big or go homeother places, and I want get out of my hometown. Money is not an issue. I have some scholarships and our family isn’t poor. What can I do to make them understand?

Miranda: Your problem reflects a little issue that many of our local teens face—our parents want us to go to college a few blocks down the road to our very own large Midwestern university. Though I’m headed there myself in the fall, that choice can be a double-edged sword.

I don’t believe in giving parents ultimatums. It’s never worked in my experience, but make sure you clearly express that you aren’t considering a local college. By making your “college experience” expectations clear you may wake them up to the idea of out-of-state school.

While a lot of parents push their kids to do this in part to save money, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Instead, parents sometimes have a hard time letting go of their kids and may pressure them into situations to ease their own separation anxiety. They see it as a compromise. You get to go to college, but they still get to be around you and watch you grow up.

If this holds no interest for you, there is always the option of standing your ground and going out-of-state, without your parents blessing. This may dissolve any funding you were going to get from them and may require you to take out student loans. That’s are not recommended however, unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Be reasonable when you talk to your parents, and try to keep an open mind. But at the end of the day this is your decision and you have to live with it, not your parents.

Dr. Wes: Well, actually your parents have to live with it too. As we’ve said many times before in this column, when you make a decision for yourself you make a decision for everyone. That means that your choices and your parents’ affect one another and you have to work as a team to make everything come out okay.

That said, if money is not an issue and there is no compelling reason why you might not be ready to live on your own, then I agree with Miranda. Having practiced next to that flagship U since 2000, I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of students pass through my office. So, I have a healthy respect for the level of commitment it takes to make it through any kind post-secondary education. In fact, one of the chief critiques of college financing—whether it be through parents, student loans, grants, or scholarships—is that it separates the student from the cost of their education. Some kids take that as a license to party down on someone else’s tab and a fair number fail in the process.

There are many ways get disinvested in your college experience and one is to be resentful of where you’re going to school. If that’s how you feel about going locally and living at home, your parents should reconsider their plan. Some kids don’t care that much about the “college experience” while others thrive on it. Still others wouldn’t make it to graduation with that sense of school spirit, and a fair number go down in flames because of it. So everyone’s experience will vary and you and the folks need to have some serious discussions fast. This is a decision that should already have been made.

If it’s getting contentious, consider a mediator to help you and your parents come to a solution. Many therapists in college towns are good at this, but it could also be a pastor, school counselor, or other trusted adult. The bottom line is that you need to feel energized when you hit the campus this fall, ready to put forth the effort necessary to make the investment in time and money pay off. Your parents need to do all they can, within a reasonable budget, to help you make that happen. That’s a parents job—to get fired by their best customers.

Learn more about new high school graduates who are excited by freedom but not so keen yet on independence. Listen to Dr. Wes’s May 22nd podcast on Don Marsh’s St. Louis on The Air on St. Louis Public Radio. We took some very intelligent phone calls from listeners and discussed many of the pitfalls of college transition, emotional, financial and social.

Wes Crenshaw, PhD is board certified in family and couples psychology (ABPP), and author of the books Dear Dr. Wes: Real Life Advice for Teens and Dear Dr. Wes: Real Life Advice for Parents of Teens. Learn about his writing and practice at Miranda Davis is a Free State High School senior who has co-authored the column since August 2011, and is the eighth in a series of teen co-authors. Send your confidential 200-word question on adolescence and parenting to The column is reprinted from Double Take, published weekly since 2004 in The Lawrence Journal World. Opinions and advice are not a substitute for psychological services.

Dr Wes

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