Parents – Are You Limiting or Empowering Your Student?
Reassessing Parental Influences
Among the several thousand families that I have worked with over the past two decades, I often find that parents limit what their students can achieve by limiting their college options and opportunities.
Parental messages, communicated directly or indirectly, can limit a student’s college opportunities. A sample of the many messages I’ve personally observed include:
- Since graduating from XYZ College worked for your parent(s), then it will work for you. (Another version: If it was good enough for us, then it’s good enough for you.)
- Since your parents and your grandparents (or maybe even three or four family generations) graduated from XYZ College, so should the rest of the family; we want you to uphold that tradition.
- Attending an out-of-state school means being disloyal to our state.
- We are huge fans of XYZ University’s football team (or other sport team); attending another school would be disloyal to our shared experience.
Such expectations limit a student’s opportunities, sometimes severely. My top four reasons not to limit a student’s college options:
- A college degree from almost any college 15 to 20 years ago was of great value. Today, however, a college degree from different college lands different opportunities. A student’s best opportunities result from identifying and applying to their best-fit colleges and attending one of them.
- Resources for most parents were limited compared to their kids. For example, 20 years or more ago, many parents and grandparents limited their college options only to those close to home because they did not have access to the internet, or other means to learn about other college options nationally or internationally. Students who fail to explore and choose their best college options now fall behind their peers who do so.
- The success of a school’s sports team does not indicate the quality of their education. Similarly, a parent’s or family’s attachment to the school’s team does not mean that an education from the school will bring value to the student. A student’s opportunities expand when their choice is based on which school will best prepare them for success for admission to graduate school or employment opportunities.
- With proper planning, a student may be able to attend colleges that at first seem academically or economically out of reach but offer the most opportunities for their education and career success.
How can a parent avoid limiting their student’s opportunities? In my opinion:
- Love them enough to set them free from limiting expectations.
- Encourage them to pursue their passion and to believe that most things are achievable with a proper plan and a strong work-ethic.
- Communicate to your student that they can achieve more than their parents did with the right college education, and that they should try to identify and attend the best college for them, whether that college is 10 miles or 10,000 miles away from home!
A student’s lack of the practical skills necessary to succeed in school and career also limits them. My next post will focus on a parent’s influence over their student’s acquisition of these skills.