For the college vs. just for family

I’m in social—and social media—circles with a lot of parents who, like me, have young kids. And some of those parents don’t quite understand that not everything about their kids is necessarily share-worthy. I know that parents are wired to think everything our kids do is a wonderful combination of brilliant, hilarious, and adorable. But while I am confident that Grandma and Grandpa will happily view any photo or video we share, our unconditional love for our own kids does not necessarily translate into everyone else’s unconditional fascination with the same children. It’s easy to spot those parents who haven’t yet learned to curate their toddler tales, who don’t consider whether or not each share is legitimately interesting to people outside their closest circles.

Parents, are you making the college application version of that mistake with your teens?

Are you insisting that they send copies of awards, articles, or other evidence of their accomplishments?

Are you preparing video or audio recordings of them on the field, in the orchestra, or on the stage?

Are you gathering multiple outside letters of recommendation from sources that know you or the school better than they know your student?

And most importantly, are you doing these things when a college’s application instructions don’t specifically invite or outright require those extra materials?

If so—and I know this is hard to hear—you’re sharing information that is likely far less interesting to the admissions reader than it is to you.

Nobody can possibly appreciate the depths and complexities of all that is wonderful about your kids like you can. But colleges spend a lot of time honing their applications, the questions, and their requests (or lack thereof) of supplemental materials to give them the information they want in exactly the format they prefer. Ignoring those instructions and sending materials that they did not request doesn’t just water down the information they did want; it also runs the risk of annoying the person your student is trying to impress.

I’ll always cheer for parents who celebrate their kids. But the potential penalties of celebration inundation are much higher during the college application process than they are in your social media circles. Give the colleges what they want, but keep everything else just for the family.