It’s normal for parents to want to help. And kids need your
support during what can be a stressful process. But make sure you don’t make
these common mistakes (all of which are made with the best of intentions).
1. Don’t get involved with the college essays
Parents think and write differently than kids do. That’s why when a
parent helps too much with a college essay, it is almost always glaringly
apparent to an admissions officer. Let your student take the lead and
write what she wants to write. And while you stay hands-off, encourage
your kids to seek feedback from an English teacher or counselor who knows them
2. Don’t call colleges on your student’s behalf.
When a parent repeatedly calls an admissions office to ask questions, it’s
natural for admissions officers to wonder why the student isn’t mature enough
to call on his own. That’s why we recommend that any communication with
an admissions office come from the student, not the parent. This is the
time for kids to start developing the ability to show initiative and take care
of themselves. The one exception to this rule is when it’s time to discuss
financial aid, as the admissions offices don’t expect kids to carry on
discussions about family finances.
3. Let kids choose and pursue their own activities.
Sure, you might leverage your influence to secure a great internship or
volunteer opportunity for your student, but what happens when a college
interviewer asks, “So, you had a summer internship with NASA? Can you
tell me how you got that opportunity?” Colleges don’t just evaluate the
activity itself. They also evaluate the initiative a student had to show
to locate and secure these opportunities. It’s perfectly OK to help guide
your student, but let her decide what she’d like to do and how she’s going to
4. Be careful who you listen to about
We’re consistently surprised by the amount of inaccurate college information
that parents get from other parents at dinner parties. The truth is that
while many people claim to know a lot about colleges admissions, very few
actually do. So unless the person giving you advice is professional counselor or an
admissions officer, check with your high school counselor before following any
free advice from your friends.
5. Don’t lose perspective
It’s important to remember that your son or daughter’s future success and
happiness are not dependent on the admission to one particular college.
We’re not psychologists, but we’ve watched nearly a two thousand families go
through the college admissions process, and we’ve noticed that the parents who
seem to enjoy the best relationship with their kids during this stressful time
are those who make it clear they will proudly wear the sweatshirt of any
college their kid chooses to attend. Kids today are feeling an enormous
amount of pressure about college admissions. They need you to be the voice
of reason who knows that good kids who work hard and have supportive parents
will always turn out just fine.