The stress and anxiety that accompany college application season can cause a lot of friction in the household. It often sets in full force by the end of the summer leading up to senior year.

I've seen it every year.

Students and especially parents, who start with nothing but the best of intentions, often wind up at each other's throats by the time submission deadlines arrive.

But there the thing: everyone wants the same results.

Both parents and students just want to make sure, when the dust settles, that they will have some viable options for the following fall -- ones that are the right academic, social, and financial fit.

So why can the relationship between parents and their kids go so sour so quickly?


  • First, there's a lot of history. Parents know their teens, teens know their parents. Old patterns and dynamics emerge. But...
  • The application process is new territory. Even for parents who have been through it before, it's a different beast with every kid who goes through it, because every individual has their own needs. And third...
  • Expectations are often not as well defined as they should be. Both parties assume things of the other party. Parents expect students to take this work more seriously than anything they've done to date. Students want space, for parents to get off their backs. 

When those expectations are not met, tensions flare on both sides. 

So I have a suggestion: why not spell out your expectations now, while things are still going smoothly?

Below is one version of a contract that can help you do exactly that.

Here are my suggestions for setting up a solid agreement:

Create two copies, and before you sit down to hash out the final details -- the ones that EVERYONE can agree on -- have both the parents and the teenager sit and complete it the way they see fit. Then, when you're sitting down to negotiate, trade copies...and be ready to find reasonable compromise.

I hope you find this helpful! I'll be on vacation for the next few weeks, but look for the next blog on Tuesday, July 25th, when we start the run-up to our first application deadlines of 2017!

1. Make my best effort to complete all college applications by _________.
2. Submit each application at least _____________ before the official deadline.
3. Set aside ____ hours each week until school starts on ___________ for college prep.
4. Set aside these dates & times this summer to work on college prep: ________________________.
5. Provide updates on my progress to _____________ every ________________________.
6. Ask ________________ for writing feedback at least ____________ before I have to submit.
7. Request help (when needed) in the form of _____________________________________________. 8.
Take responsibility for making informed decisions, thorough research & clear communication.
9. Complete each task on the following page by the agreed-to date.

1. When requested, provide these forms of support: ___________________________________.
2. Trust that our student is on top of everything unless _________________________________.
3. Only require progress updates at our agreed-upon times.
4. Provide encouragement & help foster our student's sense of confidence & independence.
5. Be willing to seek outside support if needed.

Student Signature: ____________________________________________________ Date: ___________ Parent Signature: _____________________________________________________ Date: ___________ We'll review these terms every ___________ (days, weeks, months) & make changes accordingly.