Auntie SparkNotes: I Yearn For A Far-Away Education, But My Parents Want Me To Stay In-State.
I'm starting my senior year this fall, which pretty much means that I'm filling out a million applications this fall. I've got a nice, trimmed list of colleges to apply to, but there's one problem: only one of those colleges is in-state.
Money's not really the issue though, it's family stuff. I've lived in the same town my entire life, and the only time I've ever left it is to go to the same Florida beach or the same other small town one state away. I don't particularly like the state I'm living in either, and I (as cliched as it sounds) just want to go somewhere else, somewhere new and different.
My parents are discouraging me from applying to the colleges I really like, even though academics-wise, they're top notch. They have all of the go-to reasons for why it wouldn't work out (mostly having to do with money), but the places I want to apply to have awesome financial aid to the point where I wouldn't have to worry about that. Then their reasons get less grounded as time goes on. I'm the first in my family going to college, and I know they just want to keep me close. And I love them too, I just don't know how to articulate my reasons for wanting to move away without them yelling and freaking out. I don't want to hurt their feelings or make them feel like I'm trying to get away from them because I'm really not, but I want to move on from the place I'm in. Should I just do what they want and go to school here, or try to tell them how I feel about it?
Oooh, story time! Because funnily enough, I have a relevant anecdote for this situation from the Annals of Auntie SparkNoteitude! Namely: earlier this year, Mr. Auntie SparkNotes and I began considering a move to the lovely city of Richmond, Virginia—where, among other things, we wouldn't have to dig a tunnel from our front door to the car every time a Nor'easterner blows through. But there was just one problem: it would put us exponentially further away from Auntie's parents—an idea which Auntie's mom predictably hated, and to which she reacted by offering up increasingly inventive reasons why it was a terrible idea, until, and I am not making this up, she turned to me and said, "You wouldn't want to move to Richmond! That's the capital of the Confederacy!"
Which is technically true, but which also makes about as much sense as telling someone not to move to London because the English were such jerks to us during the Revolutionary War.
All of which is to say that what you're experiencing is not uncommon—and that sometimes, when someone who loves you sees you on the verge of making a decision that's well-thought-out and perfectly legitimate but which they nonetheless do not like, they will say just about anything to talk you out of it.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. And in fact, in your case, you've got a million great reasons why you should. You've done your homework, you know what you want, and you're prepared to do what's necessary to get there. You've got a built-in expiration date on your out-of-state experiment that makes it the perfect way to test drive a life lived elsewhere. And, most importantly, whatever college you choose, you—and not your parents—are the one who has to be happy there.
And when you're making a deeply personal decision (which you are), and making it like (say it with me now!) a motherfranking adult, it's so, so important to listen to your own heart above all else—even, and maybe even especially, when someone else is trying to shout over whatever it's saying.
So, what should you do? Stop asking, and start telling. There's no point in continuing to lobby for permission that you don't need and they won't give; just make your choice, and let your confidence in its rightness speak for itself, with an in-your-own-words version of the following:
"If I were choosing a school based solely on its proximity to family, I'd go to the closest college available. But that's not the kind of brave and responsible decision you raised me to make. I have to consider the big picture, and even though I'll miss you, I feel strongly that an out-of-state school is the best place for me. So while I understand you wishing I would stay closer, I hope you can support and be happy for me that I've found a college I can't wait to attend."
Will this news be well-received the first time you deliver it? I'll be honest: probably not.
And that's okay.
Because the flipside to choosing your choices is accepting that some people won't like them—and in this case, it means accepting the parental freakout as an unpleasant but inevitable stop on the way to the life you know you want.
But with just a little luck, it'll also be a stop for them, too—one that comes with accepting, and respecting, your decision as the best one for you. Because much as your parents' guilt-tripping and pressure stinks, it also can only last as long as it takes for your out-of-state college to become a fait accompli; the sooner you make your mind up, the sooner any attempts to influence it become pointless. And once you've made your choice, your folks will just have to make theirs: either ruin your relationship by refusing to respect your decision, or accept it, embrace it, and be glad you're doing what makes you happy.
Which, for people who love you, usually ends up being the biggest no-brainer there is.
Did you choose a college your parents didn't approve of? Tell us what happened! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.