The Tuesday Q&A: Parental Advice About College

MBA FAQ, MBA frequently asked questions, bschool questions, mba questionsQuestion:

How much should I listen to my parents about my decision of where to go to college?

Answer:

Ah, yes, the age-old question of listening to your parents. No doubt you’ve been grappling with this your whole life, from what your Halloween costume should be to how late you’re allowed to stay up to what’s the best career path for you.

Ultimately, when it comes to what college to attend, you need to make the decision that feels right to you. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least listen to your parents’ opinions. Maybe they went to college and have some insights about the differences between large schools vs. small schools, a rural campus vs. an urban campus, etc. Sure, college is different now than it was “back in their day,” but unless they’ve been living under a rock, they probably have a general idea of what college is like today.

But then again, often they don’t. And you shouldn’t rely on them, or anyone else, be it a friend or a guidance counselor, to tell you what to do. (No one in college is going to hold your hand and guide you along your life path, that’s for sure.) It’s up to you to be proactive and do your research well so that you can make a smart, informed decision based on your academic and professional goals.

Often the disagreement isn’t about what kind of school to attend, but about a difference in opinion about future goals. Your parents may see you going into finance, while you’re more interested in chemical engineering. So your parents may be pushing for Wharton but your dream school is MIT. At that level, you really need to listen to your own instincts because in the end, it’s your life and your career. College is the time to explore what you’re passionate about and build the skills and connections you need to succeed in your field. If you don’t do it now, when will you?

— Jon Frank

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