When Parents and Kids Disagree on Schools or Majors

angry mature man arguing with woman in cafe
Kristen Seikaly
Kristen Seikaly

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

Sometimes, parents and kids disagree about college in major ways. Kids and parents alike have a vision of what college will be like for the graduate. This can include general expectations, such as what kinds of friends they’ll make and how they’ll do in their classes. It can also include more specific and larger scale expectations, such as what school they’ll go to and what they’ll study when they get there. Sometimes these visions and expectations differ, and it can be difficult to know how to navigate the waters of disagreement, especially when the stakes are so high. So we’d like to take a moment to explore what happens when parents and kids don’t agree on schools or majors, and how they can navigate the murky waters of disagreement.

For the Parents

Parents, we know you want the best for your kids, and it can be nerve wracking for them to make such important decisions about their future at such a young age. So when they approach you saying they want to pursue a major notorious for its instability, or they want to attend an expensive and prestigious school, avoid the urge to automatically say, “no”. While your concerns may be sincere and valid, all your child will hear is, “I don’t support you”.

Instead, take a moment to consider where your concerns come from. Do you worry about their job prospects? About their ability in a given field? Do you have concerns about their odds of gaining acceptance to a certain school, or what it would cost to attend? By addressing your underlying concern and not rushing to make this a black or white issue, it’s a lot more likely that your child will hear your concerns and be able to form a thoughtful response. This kind of dialogue will help you both reach a better conclusion, which will do more to set your child on the right path.

For the Kids

No matter where you want to go to college or what you want to study when you get there, the best thing you can do for yourself is to form clear and concise reasoning for your decisions. It’ll help you immensely on your applications, but it’ll also be helpful when talking to your parents about your goals and dreams. If you have any anxiety about them saying yes or no to a decision you’ve made, you’re already aware that they’ll have concerns about it. Therefore, addressing these concerns from the get-go will take you far.

While it can be tempting to simply write off your parents if they still don’t understand your reasoning, parents can be vital to your college experience. For many students, parents offer financial help to their kids, and while your decision shouldn’t be based on what they’re willing to pay for, recognize that they may have a stake in your decision, too. Furthermore, college can be a difficult time emotionally and financially, and if you’re at odds from the beginning, it’ll be harder for you down the road.

It’s All About Communication

Kids and parents don’t need to agree 100% on what the college experience should look like, but having everyone on the same page is vital to having a positive experience overall. In the end, the best thing kids and parents can do for each other is to communicate their hopes and fears to arrive at options that leave the child looking forward to college rather than dreading it.

If you’re still having problems balancing choices with your parent or child, a college counselor can be a good third party to help you settle disputes. Just because parents and kids disagree at first, doesn’t mean you can’t reach a truce with a college counselor to mediate. They’ll be able to present the facts without any bias, and help to mediate arguments or disagreements. Everyone can use help when it comes to making big decisions, and for parents and kids alike, college can be one of the biggest decisions of all.

Questions? Let us know!