Divorced Parents? How to Involve Both in the Application Process

“Over fifty percent of marriages end in divorce.”

That statistic has been repeated to me numerous times throughout my life, yet I’m shocked every time I hear it. And since my parents’ failed marriage contributes to this figure, I’ve joined the ranks of the many children affected by divorce.

Looking back, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking it would be difficult to manage the college application process and what I wanted out of college while struggling to juggle the needs and wants of both of my parents, miles apart from each other (one in Chicago, one in New York City).

  • What if each parent wants me to attend school close by?
  • What if their financial situations are different?
  • What if one shows a preference to one school, but the other to a different one?

These questions swam around my mind as I prepared myself for the college research phase, but I eventually realized I needed to come up with a game plan:

  • Keep the Line of Communication Open

My parents, along with many other divorced couples, tend to communicate as little as possible. But during this important time in my life, I needed their communication to be fluid. I spoke with both my parents separately, and then together, about my anxieties about the application process. We also discussed what I wanted out of a potential university, and how we were going to handle financial aid. The discussion, although a little bit awkward, was completely necessary. Since both of my parents were on the same page from the get-go, it guaranteed that I wouldn’t be the “middle-man,” bouncing between them with important messages.

  •  Involve Both Parents in the College Hunt

My parents haven’t lived in the same state since I was five (as a result, I’ve attained “Gold” status on multiple airlines). While you may see one parent more than the other, it’s important to keep them both as involved as possible from the first application to the final acceptance letter. After writing my admissions essays, I would send them to both my parents for feedback. I scheduled college visits with my dad in the East and with my mom in the Midwest. I also called and e-mailed my dad often to let him know how I was doing with my applications, what colleges I was considering, and what scholarships each university offered so I could get his input. We were all on the same page, and each parent contributed to the process.

  •  Apply with Your Goals in Mind

As a child of a divorced couple, I’ve tried almost my whole life to impress both of them. Applying to college was no different. My dad wanted me to apply to prestigious schools, such as Yale or Northwestern. My mom mentioned once or twice that it wouldn’t hurt to check out the community college to save money. But in the end, I realized that I had a vision of what I wanted in a school, and the only person who knew what was best for me was me. And while I did check out my parents’ suggestions, I applied to and decided on a four-year college in the Big Ten. Now, I’m exactly where I thought I would be, and am perfectly happy there.

While my parents don’t have much in common anymore, I was lucky that they both insisted on a higher education for their daughter. They came together to support me as I researched and applied to colleges. As a result, the process was relatively painless. As I mentioned earlier, my life, as well as that of thousands of other college-bound students, has been affected by divorce. Fortunately, applying to and choosing a college didn’t have to be.

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Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in News-Editorial Journalism with an interdisciplinary minor in Leadership Studies. Emma enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and snuggling up on the couch with her cat, “Louie.” She also spends her time volunteering and hanging out with family and friends.
Emma Weissmann

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