Parents: When to Push, and When to Let Go


Going through the college application process can bring out many complicated issues for families. That’s one of the reasons why college counseling experts exist! And two of the more common reasons we hear why families call in the experts is either… “We are feeling too involved and want to back off…” or “Our son/ daughter needs a push.”


Both of these are very common and great reasons to hire a college counselor. However, below, we will clear up some common scenarios where we feel parents should either “push” or “let go”.


If they are dragging their feet… push

Some students, for any number of reasons, hesitate to begin the college research and application process. However, it really is an important process that, when done correctly, takes time. Waiting until winter of senior year to throw together some applications to any old school isn’t a good idea. So, for parents of current juniors, go ahead and push. Encourage them to start now, and take them to visit some schools. Sometimes, teens will be resistant to parents’ pushing. This is when it might make sense to call in the professionals…we can push so you don’t have to.


And remember that college is not for everyone. It’s not uncommon for students to have doubts about whether or not it’s for them. They may not want to leave home, they may have some self-doubts, or they may not be sure what they want to study. By “push” here, we mean “instigate a conversation.” Ask your child why they are reluctant to pursue college. If they won’t open up to you, it may be time to bring in the big guns, meaning a counselor. Trust us, it’s better to get to the bottom of this now rather than later (after you’ve spent several thousands of dollars!).



If they don’t like a college… let go

You’re not going to win this battle, trust us. You may be right, they may be crazy (to quote Billy Joel) but if they have their mind made up, and for whatever reason they don’t like a school, forcing them to “like it” or apply there, or even attend is typically NOT a good idea. Teenagers get gut feelings about a college sometimes that they have trouble explaining. It could be that they love a college, or it could be that they hate it. Trust your teen on this and don’t push.


If they want to write their college essay without your help…let go

It is very common for teenagers to not want their parents to read their college essay. It can be a very personal, reflective piece and they may be worried you will criticize it or not understand. Don’t force it. It’s okay to say, “I’d really like to help you with your essay,” or “please let me read once before you submit but I won’t help you write it.” It IS important that one trusted adult read a student’s essay before they submit it, whether that is a Campus Bound Essay Specialist, a high school counselor, or teacher, but it doesn’t HAVE to be you. It makes sense to let this one go.


If they have unrealistic expectations…push

“Push,” in this scenario, means, be honest and upfront with your child with what they are off the mark about. Can you not afford the colleges they are pursuing? Are they only applying to “reach” schools? It’s best for parents to be realistic and transparent with their kids in these regards. This is another reason why families often call us at Campus Bound. It can be much easier to manage students’ expectations with an expert in your corner.


There are many, many challenges families can face as they navigate the college process. Parents often struggle with, “should I push or back off?” For specific questions, Campus Bound is here to help!