What role do parents play in the admissions game?


Dear Dr. LaScala,

Everything my husband and I do seems to cause a battle now that my son is applying to colleges.

Any tips on the role parents should play in college applications? If you respond, I will show

your answer to my son and maybe it will help.

~Battle Zone Parent

Dear Battle Zone Parent,

As the college admissions season goes into full swing for seniors and their parents, your question

typifies one of the hardest and most common challenges parents face in the process. While

selecting and applying to colleges should involve the entire family, it seems that parents often

find themselves wondering exactly what is the appropriate level of involvement.

The best overall is advice is to stay involved as a cheerleader, but let your son or daughter take

the lead role. Here are some dos and don'ts:

1. Do sit with your child to research and sort out the college list, but really listen to his thoughts on specific schools. Try to realistic as well as ambitious in your expectations. It can be

overwhelming for a teenager to apply to too many highly selective schools, but a list of safety

colleges may seem disheartening. Let your child give you insights into what is the appropriate

level of reach. Students usually know what feels right to them.

2. Don't call colleges on your child's behalf. If you and your child have questions about

admissions, financial aid, early applications or whatever, try writing the questions down. Then

let your child take the lead and call. Your student will build self-confidence and colleges prefer to hear from the students rather than the parents.

3. Do talk to your child about what teachers might be asked to write letters of recommendations. Offer sensible advice on how to politely approach teachers. Teach consideration and advise your student to ask early and give teachers time to prepare a good letter.

4. Do brainstorm ideas with your child about appropriate essays and what qualities he wants to

convey to the college. If a student wants the college to know he is trustworthy, a hard worker

and intellectually curious, help select topics to write about that demonstrate those attributes. If

your student simply wants you to stay out of essay development, you should comply. Often

working with another trusted adult is a better idea.

6. Don't be tempted to write your student's college essay. College admissions officers are wise enough to know when the writing comes from a teenager or from an adult. Find positive ways to

assist that will reinforce the message that you have confidence in your student's ability to write a good personal statement.

7. Do go over appropriate interview strategies. Your child will most likely be nervous before the

first interview. Go over common questions and appropriate etiquette to calm nerves. A little bit

of practice goes a long way.

8. Don't accompany your child to the actual interview and definitely don't sit in on the interview. Interviewers don't want to talk to parents; they want to get to know the applicant and how he or she will contribute to the campus.

9. Do remember there is a ton of information out about every step of the college admissions

process. Your son would benefit from reading about it himself and applying the plethora of good

and free advice!

10. Finally, remember that the best ways to support your student involving building up

confidence. Your teen is about to step out into the world as a young adult in college. Be

supportive and give guidance, but also hand over the reins to his future.

Students that fully engage in the college admissions process tend to enjoy better outcomes and are stronger and more confident. Don't be so afraid to let your child experience failure that you smother the process with good intentions.

[ Elizabeth LaScala Ph.D.] offers personalized interview and essay coaching and tools and strategies to help students tackle each step of the admissions process with confidence and success.


Like this comment
Posted by Alamo mom
a resident of Alamo
on Sep 20, 2011 at 7:37 am

Good practical article from Dr.La Scala - This article provides sound guidance. It can become very difficult when you deal with the emotions and moods of a teenager. Their life is changing and they will be leaving behind life as they know it, along with boyfriends and/or girlfriends and friendships.

The college application process can put a huge strain on parents, as they attempt to provide their student with guidance and the required college application timeline.

My son and I flew to Oregon to visit Oregon State and University of Oregon. After flying into Portland and driving to Corvallis, he decides he doesn't want to go on the campus tour ? Upon threatening him with his life, he joined me for the tour. He wanted to attend an out of state college, just because a couple high school friends are going there ? That was a good enough reason, not to send him to an out of state college.

At 17 years old, he didn't want to take a U.C. campus tour and was grouchy/moody the entire time. As it turns out, he now attends that U.C. campus and loves it.

Buckle up parents for short ride. Try to enjoy the process and by the Spring, your high school student will have found a new college home.

Like this comment
Posted by gabe
a resident of Diablo
on Dec 5, 2011 at 11:04 am

this sucks

Like this comment
Posted by lazy student
a resident of Danville
on Dec 5, 2011 at 11:14 am

I think this article is leading parents in the wrong direction. I believe that parents should do everything for their children. It's just better if the parents do everything and let the kids go do whatever they want while the parents do everything for them.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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