Lee Bierer - Nationally Syndicated Columnist and Independent College Counselor.

The Mistakes Parents Make

We all know that parents mean well, but well, sometimes they just get in the way. Asked whether parents can hurt their children’s chances of admission at the recent Unigo/Wall Street Journal On Campus program entitled, “Inside the Admissions Office”, Seth Allen of Grinnell quipped “I’ve met many parents I’d like to admit!”  


The “Inside the Admissions Office” webcast brought together deans from Bryn Mawr College, Grinnell College, Marquette University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Vermont, Wesleyan College and Williams College for an interactive session where parents and students from across the country submitted questions and received answers directly from the source. 


Parents need to strike a balance of being a good partner but not overstepping over the boundaries. In their zeal to assist their students in achieving their college dreams some parents are contacting the college too frequently, impersonating their sons and/or daughters on the telephone, answering questions for them in meet/greet situations, completing their applications, over-editing or even writing their essays, deciding where to apply and just over-managing the entire process.  Beth Wiser, Dean of Admissions at the University of Vermont said that once they are on campus “students will need to work through issues themselves and the application process is a great place to start to practice that.”


Students that allow mom and/or dad to be over-involved can suffer because they lose their voices in the process. They often end-up at colleges that their parents wanted them to attend or the most prestigious school they were accepted to as opposed to the college that represents the best fit for them academically and socially.


Freshmen with hovering “helicopter parents” have been described by college deans as “crispies” – students who are already burned-out and over-programmed even before stepping foot on campus and “teacups” – students who seem so fragile that they might shatter at the tiniest stress.


Parents are footing the bill for college in most cases so they have a right to be involved but here are some suggestions on how to be part of the process but not take over:

·         Encourage your student’s ownership of the entire college admissions process. It might seem easier for you to do everything from scheduling the campus visits to researching colleges to filling out the applications but it is much more productive for the student and impressive to the admissions office when the student actually takes the initiative.

·         Talk frankly about financial expectations.

·         Allow them to dream but still stay grounded in reality. Support their choices and let them know it is his or her decision and not yours.

·         Manage your own anxiety.

·         Be their cheerleader from the sidelines.

·         Stop talking and actively listen to their needs and wants.



Watch the entire Unigo/Wall Street Journal webcast at: www.unigo.com



1 Response » to “The Mistakes Parents Make”

  1. [...] via College Admissions Strategies » Blog Archive » The Mistakes Parents Make. [...]

Leave a Reply


Lee Visits with The Psych Mom 



• “You took over and did a job that was beginning to create stress and conflict between my daughter and me. Your expertise on unfamiliar ground and excellent organizational skills were invaluable. Your matter-of-fact personality and “no beating around the bush” directness are just what she needed to keep her on her toes. Once we got the process rolling, I rarely felt the need to check up on her to see that she was keeping up with deadlines. I would recommend you to a family that is unfamiliar with the college search and application process because I think that you are very knowledgeable in both. You ask the right questions to pinpoint what the client is looking for (in schools and service needed). You have the right amount of authority to get things done without being intimidating. You are professional and organized and you obviously know your stuff. I would tell them to be prepared to let go of a certain amount of involvement with their child’s application process and let you (and the student) get the work done. This, to me, was the most valuable part of our collaboration. You saved us a lot of time and definitely kept the ball rolling. Your style was a perfect match for our needs and we look forward to working with you again with daughter #2.”
mom of a 2012 graduate


Student | Parent Login 


Get The Countdown To College Column by Email! 

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

When you receive our posts by email simply click on the title to read the full article.




Looking For Something?

Countdown to College Top 40 eBook!

Learn more about the Top 40 eBook!

Learn more about the Top 40 eBook!

Made by: Eleven Mass Media