Not in Kansas any more

I want to go to college out of state but I know my mom will be sad. Do I have to stay in Kansas?

Our elder has some helpful advice about reaching a compromise.

Dear EWC

Hello, I am an incoming senior in high school. I know I want to go to college. I am going to be applying to 14 schools. Yes, I know that is a lot. They are all spread out across the country. One school I don’t really want to go to but in case I don’t get accepted into any other school then I can go there because it has a 100% acceptance rate. My mom would love for me to go that particular school. It’s in state and 30 minutes away from home. All the other 13 schools are out of state. What I am asking is that you could give me some advice that could make my mom and I both happy. I am the last child and I know she will be sad if I move to North Carolina or California. I just want to get out of Kansas. Help please.

Elder Maia replies

This is a tough one. It can be hard to find a solution to a problem that ends up with both people being totally happy. Sometimes compromise, where each person gives up a little so the other person gets a little, is the way it has to be.

It seems a little premature to reach a final decision now, since you don’t know yet which schools you will be accepted into. But it’s good timing to continue talking with your mother so that you each understand the other’s position.

For starters, it sounds like your mother would be happy to have you close to home. Parents can feel genuine sadness and emptiness when the last of their children leave home. When their lives have been focused on raising their kids, and they identify strongly with the role of parent, it can be hard to forecast what life will be like when things change. You seem to understand this, and that’s a good beginning for your discussions.

On the other hand, you say you want to get out of Kansas. That, too, is natural. All young adults need to find their identities and their way in the world. Sometimes it takes moving far away from home to achieve that, especially if they have been close to their families. It doesn’t mean they don’t love their parents. It just means they need a greater separation to feel like their own individual selves. If this is what’s going on with you, try to gently and compassionately explain this to your mom.

Think about what appeals to you about the 13 out-of-state schools, other than the fact that they are not in Kansas. Do they have good programs in your intended major? Are they in places where you can pursue a particular interest; for example, if you like to ski, are you looking at a school in Colorado? Do these schools seem to have an atmosphere that appeals to you? Are they in big cities, which seem exciting and energizing? Are they in smaller communities that seem friendly and supportive? Are they near the beach or the mountains, something you haven’t been able to experience in Kansas? Really spend some time with this, so you can explain to your mom why you are interested in those schools and why the schools in Kansas don’t provide the same things.

When you actually know which schools are real possibilities for you, then you and your mom can sit down to discuss the actual decision you will make. Ideally, you will have had lots of productive conversations about what you’re each hoping for and you’ll understand each others’ positions. You’ll be ready to discuss the pros and cons of each school and know where you both can make some compromises. Just as one example, if having you close by is a number one priority for your mom, and leaving the state is a number one priority for you, then maybe you can choose a school that is closer than California but which still meets your other important criteria. That way you are out of Kansas and your mother won’t feel quite so alone.

Something else to consider is finances. I’m guessing it’s cheaper to stay in Kansas than to go out of state. You and your mom need to talk about this, so that you both understand the parameters that money places on the decision-making. Do your research and be prepared to demonstrate that you understand the financial implications of choosing a college that is a couple of thousand miles away from home.

This isn’t something that’s going to be resolved overnight. I hope you and your mom will be able to talk about this throughout the school year, so that when the time comes, it will be easier to make the decision that feels the most comfortable for both of you. I’ll be interested to know the outcome, if you want to write back. Til then, I wish you all the best. Take good care.

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