Parents of College Applicants: Three Dos and Don’ts

“You will see parents that pressure their student into taking 18 credits in their first semester without really taking into account the social scene, especially that football is a huge part of the fall,” says a University of Michigan admissions director.

walking through a field

Three admissions officers give parents of college applicants some dos and don’ts during college application season.

  • The problem with parents sharing their personal college experiences
  • A Columbia admissions officer’s golden rule for parents guiding college applications
  • Why overly supervisory parents can limit teens interviewing for college

Don’t give your student the wrong information

The families [are] a huge driving point of a lot of that misinformation. The parents are typically college educated and when they applied, a lot of these things were pretty much a given. You had this GPA, you had this test score, you really didn’t need to put much effort into anything else, and you were in. — University of Michigan director of admissions

Parents are typically their children’s biggest supporters. They give well-intentioned advice, but sometimes, their advice backfires.

UMich admissions director reminds us that there are often parents who attended college 20 years ago and say something along the lines of, “Well, I got into UCLA with a 3.2 GPA, so I’m sure your 3.5 will be fine.” Today, average admits to UCLA have above a 4.0.

As a parent supporting your college bound senior, make sure that the information you’re passing along is accurate. Don’t tell your child that a certain GPA or test score or essay length or portfolio piece will be okay unless you have checked with the college. Many colleges have changed their admissions procedures, including requirements for GPA, coursework, recommendations, test scores, as recently as last year.

Don’t feel bad about not being up-to-date, but do take the extra step to call the admissions office or department representatives to learn not only about the new requirements, but also profiles of admitted students.

Relax and apply to safety schools

“This is rule number one: You have to have those schools that you’re shooting for and certain schools that you know you can get into… I tell those parents, ‘Relax. There’s always a brighter side.’ Even if their kids don’t get in, that’s okay, they’ll go somewhere else.” — Former Columbia University admissions officer


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