How can growing up with strict parents affect my college life?

Hello Everyone,

I am excited to attend college next year as a first generation college student majoring in chemical engineering. To make a long story short, I had a rough childhood, especially my teen years because my strict parents ruined “the best years of my life” due to their undeniably strict rules and standards they’ve set for me. I never had a childhood, I mean there were some good parts once in a while but it was still trash. I can’t believe it went to waste. Now, since I’ll be in college next year majoring in chemical engineering, I’ve found out that STEM majors don’t really gain the college experience or have fun during their adult years because of studying and doing homework everyday, summer internships, and being extremely occupied with schoolwork/ career paths until they graduate. If those assumptions were true, then how can I control myself mentally so I won’t end up switching my major, flunking out of school, or expulsion of doing something crazy due to being extremely sheltered and suffering from my strict parents rules for the past 18 years?

Here are my strict parents rules/standards:

  • can’t have a girlfriend until I leave their house (no prom or homecoming date too)
  • can’t go out with my friends until I leave their house
  • can’t have a job until I leave their house
  • constantly checking my phone even if I’m not doing anything wrong
  • can’t have one a healthy conversation with my friends in public
  • always walk near/into my room to see if I’m doing anything illegal even if I never do those things
  • can’t listen to rap/r&b music in the house because they’ll think I’m gangbanging or dealing with drugs
  • can’t wear dreadlocks, twists, waves, or huge afros because they think it’s gang affiliation and gay (I am an African American male btw)
  • cant have a healthy conversation with my own family members because they think I’m more loyal to them more than my parents
  • it feels illegal to do nothing at home but relax because my parents think I’m lazy even if I do my chores or do what I’m suppose to do at home
  • I only got to celebrate Halloween TWICE in my childhood
  • my parents forced me to go to church every wednesday and sunday when I was a kids, I am no longer a christian because of this trauma and many blatant major red flags regarding the Christianity religion
  • I was never allowed to express my emotions or be myself at home because my parents are ashamed of my personality (I am good kid, gets good grades in school, do exactly what my parents tell me to do around the house, and I don’t cause any problems at school)
  • killed my dream of becoming an airline pilot when I was in elementary school so I’m majoring in chemical engineering now because of my family’s validation… I like ChemE but I’ll still choose it as a lucrative career path
  • mentally traumatized me throughout my teen years in a bunch of ways (caused PTSD, suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety)

I think thats it for right now… There might be more but this is all I have for today… Next year will be my first time experiencing the freedom of adulthood, I know I have bills and more responsibilities now but I’m happy to finally be myself for once. Again,what can I do to make up the 18 years of lost time and make sure I don’t do anything stupid in college once I get that first taste of freedom?

I know this thread was a bit long but thank you for reading anyway. Any inspiration or words of encouragement or any advice is deeply appreciated. Thank you :slightly_smiling_face:

This is not really true.

  • “don’t really gain the college experience or have fun during their adult years” – as long as you keep up with school, there is not reason that you cannot have fun.
  • “studying and doing homework everyday” – applies to all majors, although chemical engineering majors probably do have somewhat higher volumes of work than most other majors.
  • “summer internships” – applies to all majors.
  • “being extremely occupied with schoolwork/ career paths until they graduate” – applies to all majors; those who are not concerned about that may find that graduating with 2.1 GPA (or not graduating due to flunking out) and no work experience makes it difficult to get a post-graduation job.

Once you are 18, you are an adult and do not have to abide by your parent’s rules. May not get any financial support, but that is your choice. I think there are plenty of engineering majors (Chem included) who have a great time during college (my husband was in a fraternity and ROTC). Sounds like you need to find scholarships that will allow you to attend a school far away from your parents. Assuming you are a good student, as a black male, you should be very competitive for scholarships.


First of all you can have a great four year college expereince as an engineer. It will be a matter of managing your time in a mature manner. Yes, schoolwork will be difficult and should always be a priority. But there are plenty of hours in a week – if you use you time well you can certainly be with friends, join a frat or another extracurricular activity if you like, etc. The idea is to not think “I’m in college and free so I can go crazy doing whatever I like” – that logic will find you flunking out and back at home before you know it. Instead think “I’m a mature adult who can plan/organize my time to get work done and still enjoy myself.”

And I do appreciate that your upbringing was very strict…but take a moment to value and appreciate that you seem to have parents who love you, who want the best for you, and who will support your college aspirations. There are many positives in your imperfect life that others would love to have.


I grew up in a fundamentalist family. Many rules similar to yours. No blue jeans, no movies, no swimming with boys, no dancing, no PG movies, no cutting my hair, etc. etc. Services three times a week, no excuses except for illness.

I majored in engineering. One twist was that my dad was one of my professors. I went a little wild but buckled down and studied hard at the same time. It was just a conscious decision. I wanted to show “the church” that a woman could be successful in engineering. I went on to graduate school where I met my husband, who took me to a healthy church. Wow, it all made sense for the first time! It was hard to break away from my family’s church but I’m so glad I did.

I just kept in mind the saying that we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it. I had to grow up and take responsibility for myself. I couldn’t blame my parents, who really did try their best. Good luck to you. I’m proof that you can do this.

By the way, I graduated with high honors and had an absolute blast in college.


I grew up with pretty strict parents. Wasn’t allowed to do most of the things other teenagers did in the '70’s. They didn’t waste their time supervising me, so I still got away with doing some typical bad teenage things. But I had a fantastic (without drinking or drugging) social life my first year at college at age 17, and didn’t do any schoolwork. I didn’t flunk out, but my parents made me come home and go to the local college for a year, during which I learned to work my tail off, so that I’d get perfect grades, and went back to my Ivy. After that, I did very well academically.

You are in a somewhat different situation. Your parents rightly are terrified of what can happen to an AA young man in the US. Please try very hard to understand that what they have done, they did out of love for you. Obviously, they care about you deeply.

Now, do you still want to become a pilot? You’re only 18! You most definitely still can. Reach out to the Air National Guard, and to the Air Force, and to the Navy. There are ways where they pay for college for you (national guard will pay for state college), and provide you with training. You get trained to fly in the military, and then after you finish your service, you fly private jets or work for the airlines. You can also do research on CC in the military threads, and all over the internet. JUST MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING UNTIL YOU TRULY UNDERSTAND ALL YOUR OPTIONS! If your parents disagree with this, and you don’t think they’ll support you in this, then get some other smart caring adults to help you navigate the recruitment process. Another pro is that the military has so many AA and Hispanic people in it, that there is likely less subtle racism by now in it than there is in the rest of high-achievement American society. I don’t think that you would be denied the chance for advancement in the military because of your race.

However, I can tell you that people I know who have become airline pilots said that it wound up being as boring as being a bus driver. The airlines also tend to look for a very specific personality. Smart, but not too smart - meaning IQs in the 125 - 130 range. High social IQ. High mechanical aptitude, high visual-spatial aptitude. Does this sound like you? People whom I know who have become chemical engineers were not like this. They were usually more introverted, and the ones I knew had higher IQs. Of course, this is stereotyping, but there is some truth in it, and your choice now to become a chemical engineer may not hold past freshman year. You may very well change your mind.

If you decide that you want to give up the idea of becoming a pilot (at least for now), and are worried that you’ll go off the deep end in college, and not do your work, there are supportive fraternal organizations for AA students that are focused on helping each other do well in college. At my Ivy, the black sororities were very active and visible on campus. I didn’t approve of some of the stuff they did, but they marched to the library frequently in paramilitary fashion, wearing a uniform of sorts. I think that they supported each other in the hard work that was necessary to do well there. I’m sure that the same type of fraternal organizations exist for men. There also will be a campus tutoring/support center. You just have to find the right friends who have the same goals that you do, and a track record of working to achieve those goals. We tend to do what our friends do - so make sure you acquire the right group of friends!


The other thing about airline pilots is that it is not always a glorious highly paid job. Many pilots working at regional airlines have relatively low pay.


My friends were almost all in my major, so we studied together and partied together. I’m an introvert, but almost all of the rest of the group were extroverts. Just a really fun group. It was definitely not four years of drudgery. :slightly_smiling_face:


Other pilots work in package transportation (FedEX, Amazon) which is also not terribly glamorous.


that’s good to hear :relaxed:

thank you so much… i feel better about myself now

I am loving this advice… I feel like my childhood would be 10x as better if my parents were free range or less strict most of the time… I would’ve been a good kid either way

Wow, thats interesting… Thank you for your response

I know my parents care about me deeply but that’s not a good reason to put me through all of that B.S. throughout my whole childhood…

No, I changed my mind about becoming a pilot… My parents crushed my dreams so hard (especially my dad) that I don’t even wanna think about airplanes, airlines, pilots, or anything that has to do with spacecraft… One day they will regret it

I think that most people would say that teen years were actually pretty tough for them, not the best years at all. Don’t look at social media - what people post is not what is actually going on. For instance, when he was about to go into 11th grade, my kid asked to go to a big teen house party with his summer friends (not his school year friends, who were all nerds). I let him, because I knew he had to experience it for himself, or he might rebel. He let me pick him up after about two hours there. Drinking, drugs going on (and later, drinking and driving). He said it was boring, being around people who were drunk and stoned, and just sat around looking at their phones. The next summer, those same kids had drunk, reckless driving accidents, had a party that got busted by the cops and some kids got arrested, and worst of all, some of the kids who liked to fight when they got drunk BEAT A KID FROM THE NEXT TOWN ALMOST TO DEATH, leaving him with permanent brain damage. This is what the spoiled upper middle class white boys were doing. I’m sure it all looked great from the pictures on social media. And this is romper room (old time TV kindergarten show) compared to what can happen in other groups.

I agree, it sounds like you’ve had a miserable teenagehood, and I can totally understand why you want out. I think your parents were trying to protect you, from early fatherhood, getting arrested, getting shot. I bet you’d be shocked to know that your parents probably talk together all the time about how to safely raise you to manhood, without any of the above happening. Sure, they’re conservative anti-gay dinosaurs, but they love you, and are obviously trying to do their best by you. Someday you will hopefully understand.

If you can start in January at Purdue or IU Bloomington, I do think that it would be the best thing for you. The deadline for Bloomington was yesterday for starting in January - did you submit it? Have you already applied for Purdue for January? If you didn’t already apply for Bloomington for January, I’d call the admissions office tomorrow and ask them if you could still submit it tomorrow (you must have your application all ready, since you needed to submit it to Purdue).

Try to cut your parents some slack. It’s obvious that they’re trying SO hard to raise you right.


Your parents were tough on you, but I’m sure you’ve developed some really good study habits and can interact well with adult.

My kids will tell you I was tough on them (not as tough as yours). I don’t think they knew they could miss class in college until second semester as I never (never) let them miss school in K-12. They just assumed everyone went to class every day. They didn’t play video games much as kids (really their choice but they were too busy), and one did pick up the habit in the dorm, but not too bad.

You haven’t missed anything. The music, jeans, dreadlocks, Halloween are all still there and now you can choose when to listen, wear, or trick-o-treat.

Try not to do it all your first day!

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I am very sorry to hear that you had such a strict and joyless upbringing. While I agree with sentiments expressed by other posters that your parents were probably doing what they thought was best for you, I do think some things were OTT (e.g., “cant have a healthy conversation with my own family members because they think I’m more loyal to them more than my parents”).

As you know, you can’t turn back time but you’re only 17-18 and have DECADES ahead to look forward to. In terms of having fun, it’s about moderation (remember this when you experience your first tastes of freedom in college - “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should”). There are many ways to have fun and explore without getting into trouble or going off the deep end - get deeply involved in a club or activity, do a study abroad program and explore the world (also available and encouraged for STEM majors), etc. Lastly, as parentologist mentioned above, be attentive to the company you keep.

Best of luck to you!

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I applied to both of the schools you’ve mentioned but Purdue is the only school I am most likely to attend. I will never forgive my parents because they could’ve raised me in a different way without causing unnecessary trauma. And you are a good parent for letting your son go to that party and let him learn his lesson on his own.

I’ve missed everything during my 18 years of childhood because that’s the only freedom I’ll never get back. But, whatever I didn’t do during my childhood I will do it in my 20s and 30s.