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Advice for Daughter Ill-Suited for Faraway College

Question: What is the best advice to give a student who is dead set on going ‘as far away from home as possible’ knowing she doesn’t have the personality for that?

I’ve found from eons in college counseling that “Location” is the most difficult and emotionally charged of all of the college-selection issues … even more so (perhaps surprisingly) than money matters. So your question is a toughie and … like its companion situation (“I want to go to college where my boyfriend goes”) … parents are between a rock and a hard place. You can always say, “This is the wrong choice for you and we won’t spend our money on bad choices.” But, typically, this plan will backfire. You’ll get stuck with a sullen teen who may even torpedo her own college career just to spite you.

So instead, I suggest that you start by asking your daughter why she wants to go away, if you haven’t done so already. And, even if you have, try to revisit the topic as calmly as possible and in a serious sit-down environment during a time block you’ve scheduled for this purpose, when your daughter won’t be distracted by incoming texts or by the theme from The Walking Dead starting up in the next room. Try to bite your tongue and refute her responses only when you feel that they’re truly unreasonable. Last year, for instance, I worked with a young woman from New York City who told me that she needed to go to California for college because she was in a “long-term relationship” with someone there. Later I learned that “long-term” meant six months and that the love interest was an older man she’d “met” only on the Internet. Yikes! So there are indeed some truly terrible reasons, like this one, for choosing colleges far from home, but there are actually some good ones, too. My own son, who is 16, claims that he wants to go to college in a region where he might like to remain after graduation. He grew up in New England and insists that he wants a warmer climate for his adult life. (I don’t blame him!) So we are investigating southern and West Coast colleges. I would still prefer him to remain within a couple hours of home, but I understand his preference and will encourage him to create a college list that includes colleges in New England and also in balmier climes.

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