Solving Common Conflict Between College Students and Parents

There are plenty of articles out there that contain tips for parents or tips for new college students, but the best way to approach this big change is together, as a family. By working together, adults and their college age children can better understand one another’s needs and concerns. Issues around paying for school, independence and what the student majors in are all common sources of friction.


Whether you’re the parent or the child, you’re probably worried about money. Even savings may not go far when you’re looking at the high cost of college tuition. However, there are plenty of places to look for money, starting with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. However, even if you are eligible for some federal aid, it probably won’t be enough to cover all the costs associated with college. Another option is to take out a loan from a private lender. This does not always require a cosigner, which means that students can take out independently and parents don’t have to worry about being responsible for their child’s education debts.


Children and their parents are rarely on the same page about just how much independence is appropriate, so you should talk to one another and see if you can get on the same page or at least in the same chapter. If you’re the student and you have a tendency to vanish off your family’s radar whenever you can, try to come to an agreement about making regular contact. This can be especially important if you feel like your parents are overly involved in your life. Having honest conversations and clear boundaries about this part of your life can help improve self-respect and teach your parents how to treat you, by way of observing how you treat yourself.

For example, if you agree to a catch-up video call once a week, this can help them feel included but prevents you from feeling smothered. On the other hand, maybe your parents who want your child to become more independent in their problem solving. You don’t want to tell them to stop texting you, but perhaps you can agree on topics they’ll handle. There might be things you agree that they will handle, such as issues with their professors or roommates, and topics where you’ll step in, such as health problems or landlord issues.


This is another source of potential conflict. Sometimes, parents may have very different ideas about what their children should study in college. This can become particularly fraught if they are paying for their child’s education. Parents and children should try to talk this out, exploring the reasoning behind their positions. One common argument is about how practical a student’s course of study is.

A compromise here might be for the student to major in the subject that interests them but minor in a more practical area and try to get experience that will make them more employable. Students might also show their parents that they have a clear career path in mind. For example, art history might not sound like a practical choice, but if the student has mapped out a plan to get internships at art galleries and make connections throughout college, they might be in a good position to land a job in a museum after graduation.