What should you with your parents while you have your college interview? Simple. Leave them at home. Or send them to dinner. Or send them to Jupiter. Interviewers are far more interested in what kids have to say about themselves (after all, it's the kids–not the parents–who will ultimately be attending college). So we tell our Collegewise students not to bring their parents unless the interviewer explicitly asks you to do so (or if it's just an informative interview taking place at a college you haven't actually applied to yet).
So, what if the interviewer does specifically ask you to bring your parents?
We've started to see this happen occasionally at some schools, and our Collegewise parents (wisely) ask us if they should take the colleges up on the offer. A college who asks parents to attend the interview is likely doing so not only to get to know even more about the applicant, but also to get a sense whether or not you have the support of your parents in applying to this particular school. That's a good opportunity to show colleges that your family is engaged in a thoughtful college search together . So for parents who are specifically invited to attend college interviews, here are a few tips.
Our first tip for parents is the same tip we give to students–relax. Very few students (or parents) have single-handedly torpedoed the chances of admission with one less-than-stellar answer. College interviews are usually a relaxed affair. Kids should treat them as a legitimate opportunity to make a good impression, but they shouldn't worry about this like they do the SAT or the calculus final. The same holds true for parents. So relax. Smile. Enjoy the experience.
2. Resist all urges to jump in and answer for your student.
Just because you were invited does not necessarily mean it's a good idea for a parent to jump in and answer questions directed at the student. Believe us, we understand why you'd want to do so; part of a parent's job feels like you should be a publicist for your kids. But budding in and answering for them just makes kids nervous and makes the interviewer wish she could hear more from the student. We recommend you wait to answer questions until one is directed at you.
3. When asked to comment about your student, answer candidly.
You are allowed–encouraged, actually–to brag about your student when asked. Be specific about which accomplishments made you the most proud. Don't hold back when asked what his strengths are. Let your pride show. Just remember not to take over the interview with an answer that takes up the allotted time.
4. Consider how excited you would be for your student to attend this particular college.
Colleges know that while many students might apply to schools without outright approval from their parents, they won't get to attend unless Mom and Dad support the choice. A parent who's invited to attend a college interview should expect to be asked how you see this school for your student, whether or not you think it would be a good match. There's no need to lie. In fact, if you have concerns about the fit, be honest. Express your concerns, but let the interviewer know that you trust your student to make good decisions and that you'll support her choices (if that is actually the case). An interviewer would be impressed by evidence that the student and parent have had some thoughtful dialog about the college even if they disagree.
5. If you're already butting heads about college choices, consider letting your student interview by him or herself.
The teenage years can be stressful on parent/teen relationships. And the pressures of the college admission process can exacerbate this. If you've found that the subject of college and how to get there seems to cause immediate conflict in your family, rest assured that it is entirely normal and like many of the trials and tribulations parents go through with teens, it won't last. But if that's the case, a parent probably shouldn't attend the interview. Agree to disagree, go to your neutral corners and let your student interview on her own. That's better than risking a parent/teen flare up during a college interview.