Why Do Parents Pick the Wrong Colleges for Their Kids?

When it’s time for high school students to select the colleges that interest them most, many parents step in to help their child choose the right school.

If parents are assisting in the selection of the right school, why do so many of them pick the wrong colleges for their kids?

Smoke and mirrors

Picking the right college and paying for it can be the most daunting of tasks; much of the reported information on colleges does not take all of the college’s characteristics into consideration. For example, universities are ranked on the earning power of their graduates rather than student satisfaction with university performance. Ranking systems can be misleading.

Parents may select schools based on name recognition alone, and their child may be attending a university that is a poor fit for the student’s needs and interests.


Parents pick colleges based on their own outdated viewpoints. The world is not what it once was, but parents have not changed their perspectives. They select schools based on antiquated ideas and a worldview anchored in the past. Outdated advice won’t serve today’s college students.


Demanding parents insist on the right college for their children because they fear their child won’t make a good choice. Narcissistic parents have a history of making choices for their children, and the choices range from what designer clothing to wear to participation in extracurricular activities. They are creating frail adults unable to decide on their own.

College professors call fragile students teacups. They are brought up by their parents to be delicate, and that’s in part why parents are picking the wrong colleges for their children. Parents seek to continue to orchestrate their children’s experiences without letting the child have a say.

Living Vicariously

Some parents continue to live vicariously through their children.

The parents may have wanted to attend a particular university or earn a degree in an unusual field. If their goals were denied, the parents might assume they can resuscitate their hopes and live vicariously through their children in college.

Parents pick colleges and the degrees they would have chosen for themselves.

How do you pick the right college?

You’ve raised your child to adulthood, and now it’s time to let your kid make the choices that will affect his or her future. Here’s what experts recommend as you explore college choices together:

  • Listen more, advise less.
  • Talk honestly about financing college
  • Avoid reliving your past

You’ll be less likely to pick the wrong college for your kid.



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