College Admissions and the Overly Involved Parent

Parents are constantly criticized for being overly involved in their child’s college admission process. Some of the criticism may be for a good reason, but some may not. When a college admissions office reports that they received a phone call from someone claiming to be an applicant, they knew for sure it was the parent calling. The voice was definitely not that of a prospective student and the question was the kind that only a parent would ask. Overly involved, yes!

Many parents, however, are going through the college admission process with their child and they realize how dramatically things have changed since they applied to college. They are right. College admissions has become far more competitive than it ever used to be and there are just too many students applying to schools with too few spots available.. Perhaps, for this reason, parents want to help their child be as competitive as possible and think that assisting with the college applications and essays might help. Some parents also realize that most high school students don’t get the college advising or attention they need from the high schools they attend. Thus, the parents take over and offer the best advice they can.

As a college consultant, I find that most of my students’ parents are very supportive of their children and try not to interfere but let their teenager be in charge. They call with their concerns, but this is usually a conversation between the two of us and they simply have questions that need clarification. This is how it should be. The college admission process is a big step for high school students, but it is also a wonderful opportunity for self-assessment and growth. Parents should be involved, but not obsessed.

Now for the parent who is over the top. This is a quote from the Director of Admissions at a well known university. “We always have parents who open the decision letters while their child is still at school. They call and ask, ‘What am I going to tell her when she gets home? She will just be devastated.’ We always reply, ‘Well, you might want to start by explaining why you’re opening her mail.” Overly involved, yes!

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