Archive for Monday, May 21, 2012


Double Take: Importance of ‘the college experience’

May 21, 2012


Dear Dr. Wes and 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 other 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 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 OK.

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 parent’s job — to get fired by their best customers.

Want to talk more about new high school graduates who are excited by freedom but not so keen yet on independence? Join me Tuesday at 11 a.m. for St. Louis on the Air on St. Louis Public Radio. Click on Listen Live at We’ll take listener’s calls and post the podcast at


canyon_wren 6 years, 1 month ago

An interesting column this time. My college experience including living at home while attending an excellent junior college for a year and a half in CA in the late 50s (at that time CA's junior colleges provided free buses to take us to the college, which was just 30 miles away) and for a brief period at KU when my parents lived in Lawrence. I also finished up at KU after my parents moved back to CA. But even when they lived in Lawrence, I lived in a boarding house and was able to be independent of/from them. Since I paid my essentially ALL of my college costs by working part-time at the Student Union cafeteria (obviously tuition costs, etc., were not at the unbelievable level they are today), it was not a matter of my parents footing the bill.

I can't stress enough how important it is NOT to be living at home when you are in college--that experience is as significant (or more so) as the academic benefits of going to college, I did not find it difficult to be and feel independent even when my parents were in the same town--I went home sometimes for Sunday dinner, etc. but was able to live my own life. Of course, my parents were instrumental in bringing me up to BE independent and neither intruded upon that nor reacted as if I were neglecting them, so I was fortunate in that regard. I realize so much depends upon the personalities, so it is somewhat foolish to generalize. It is nice that the young person concerned doesn't have to worry about the costs of out-of-state tuition if he/she DOES make that choice, but you certainly can't beat the quality of education that KU offers.

Ragingbear 6 years, 1 month ago

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Fossick 6 years, 1 month ago

If by "Money is not an issue," you mean that you have sufficient money of your own to cover the cost of tuition, books, and living expenses, then blessings on ya - do what you like. You're an adult, act like one.

If by "Money is not an issue," you mean that your parents have lots of money and you expect them to spend it on you, then you might be wise to take their wishes, as well as their experience and wisdom, into consideration. Again, you're an adult. As such your parents have no responsibility to give you "the college experience" you think you want.

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