College & Workforce Readiness

Colleges to Parents: Step Back and Let Your Children Lead Application Process

By Catherine Gewertz — March 24, 2017 1 min read
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A new survey of college admission officers delivers a bracing suggestion to helicopter parents: Take a big step back and let your children be in charge of the application process.

If there are offended gasps ricocheting through the tony lanes of America, there are also waves of applause from educators who’ve seen the ugly side of “parent involvement” during college application season.

Just take a look at some of the things admissions officers are begging parents not to do:

  • Don’t call us pretending to be your child. (OMG. People really do this?)
  • Don’t speak for your child when you meet with us. (Cringeworthy.)
  • Don’t choose your child’s intended major. (You read that right. Admissions officers said they’ve had parents call and try to change their child’s major.)

Kaplan Test Prep conducted the telephone survey of 354 admissions officers from colleges and universities that top U.S. News & World Report’s annual list.

Responding to the survey, 75 percent of admissions officers said parents should be only “somewhat involved” in the college application process, and should step in only when their child requests it.

Only 18 percent said it’s good for parents to be “very involved,” guiding their children at each step in the process. One percent suggested parents get “extremely involved,” which pretty much means doing it all themselves. (Am I the only one surprised that even one admissions officer suggested this?)

Accompanying children on campus visits, helping them meet application deadlines, and helping with financial-aid paperwork are all great things parents can do to support the application process, according to the admissions officers.

As one told Kaplan Test Prep:

“Students need to make the transition into college, where they’re going to need to be independent, so we appreciate when students take ownership.”

“Parents should be very involved in coaching and advising in the actual decision-making, but it’s also important for students to be the ones most engaged in the process and in contact with the admissions officers,” said another survey participant.

A short video on the results concludes this way:

“On the road to college, it’s best to let the kids drive.”

Photo: Getty Images

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.