How do you deal with overbearing parents during the college process?

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Our counselors answered:

How do you deal with overbearing parents during the college process?

Scott White
Director of Guidance Montclair High School

How do you deal with overbearing parents during the college process?

Students should set up one day a week (and ONLY one day a week) that college can be discussed. This brings the stress level way down.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Blackhawk Down!

Parents of children applying to college these days are called "helicopter" parents, and many admissions officers, counselors, and teachers find that their jobs are made infinitely more difficult because of parental interference. But what do you do if one or both of your parents are of the Blackhawk variety? You can't escape them, and they seem to have their hands in everything from your homework, backpack, phone, web history, and of course your college applications. Here's our two-step process for dealing with hovering parents: 1. Be Understanding: college application time is stressful for everybody in the family. For students -- the pressure is obvious since it is their future on the line. For parents -- this time of their lives is an enormous period of transition as well. They have dedicated so much of the past 2 decades raising children -- and now it's time to say goodbye. And even though they shouldn't feel that their child's college choice is a reflection on their parenting achievements -- many parents do. They feel like they haven't done their "job" well if their child doesn't go to the best school possible. So -- try to be understanding that parents are under enormous stress at this point in their lives. Try to see the good intentions behind the annoying nagging. (You can't change them -- but you can change the way you see them!) 2. Be Responsible. Another great way to deal with parents is to show that YOU are on top of the process. Show them that you are aware of deadlines and are planning accordingly. Show them that you are working on your essays and speaking with teachers about recommendations. Show them that you can handle the process and let them know that you will come to them with any questions. The more you take control of the process and show them that you are capable, the less anxiety and the more PRIDE your parents will experience!

Michelle Green
Admissions Consultant My College Admissions Coach

Helicopter parents

It's tough to deal with parents who won't allow their children ownership of the college applications process! The stakes are high and I understand their concern. I have also been a parent who has sent kids off to college, and will do it again, soon. It's an emotional time and I understand how the parents worry that their student does everything right. Most of them mean well, and are simply trying to help manage their child's journey into college. The best thing I can tell them is to enjoy their time with their kids, keep the channels of communication open with their student and their counselor, and to relax. I always ask parents to fill out a questionnaire to help me understand their child when we begin working together. I also ask them for input via email/phone and texting about issues that are of concern. The most difficult parent is the one who has unreasonable expectations about the student's admissions chances. A student who doesn't meet the typical admitted student profile is going to have an uphill challenge if all the schools on his or her list are reaches. The student and I work as a team to come up with reasonable schools in which they will be perfectly happy to attend, if offered admissions. Another difficult challenge is when parents want their students to apply to TOO many colleges. Even with the Common Application, managing the process can be overwhelming if there are too many schools on the student's list. Keeping parents in the loop about what is expected of their child, especially during the crunch time before applications are due is always helpful and tends to put many of my demanding parents at ease through the process.

Catherine McCarthy
College Smart Advising

I try to remember that parents are also facing a time of transition...

Parents just want to help. They're concerned that their children make thoughtful, reasoned, choices when planning their future. But, in many ways, the college application process is irrational, unreasonable, and mystifying. Throw in teenage students who are both eager to step out into the real world and unsure of their future (Will they be accepted? Will they be happy?) and you have the ingredients for stressful communication between parents, children, and college advisors. Given this underlying situation, I encourage open conversations to discuss the expectations of every member of the student's support team. Where can parental support be the most helpful? What parts of the decision will be completely up to the student? What level of financial support will the parents reasonably be able to provide? Every family will find a different balance point that works for them.

Francine Schwartz
Founder/ President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

Overbearing Parents

I try to help parents understand that the student needs to be the center of the process and also must take the responsibility for completing all of the steps. That is not to say parents should not play a role. Taking my own three children on college visits was a bonding experience. We spent long hours in the car and we could laugh about me getting lost in rural VT or even the time my daughter injured her foot while practicing for track and we had to go to the emergency room! Parents can be great sounding boards for listening to final versions of essays. And of course parents and students should sit down very early in the process and have a frank discussion about college finances.

Kim Glenchur
Educational Consultant CollegesGPS

Avoid situations of too much stress

In general social circles, entry into the most competitive universities, where admission rates may fall below 10%, signals success in an uncertain world. In contrast, the individual collegian may discover that a brand name school can diverge from best practices in academic instruction, performance measurement, and connecting with its students. It's best to avoid situations of too much stress in striving for good grades and pre-professional activities, which are important for getting hired or getting into graduate school.

Tyler Burton
President Burton College Tours

Trust your child

I remind parents that this is their child's first journey into adulthood and that their love is guidance. Giving a child the chance to explore campuses on a Burton College Tour or to brainstorm their own essay topics are good places to begin. I make sure that the student has a list of schools that has been generated from both the student's and parent's observations about what will be a good academic, social and financial fit.

Erin Avery
Certified Educational Planner Avery Educational Resources, LLC

Helicopter Parenting 101

As a parent myself, I do not fault parents for the tendency to want to be the dominant force in the college search and application process. In my work, I invite parents to the initial consultation, the meeting when a student has decided on the final list of colleges to which he or she will apply as well as the initial brainstorming session for essays. The latter allows parents to chime in on the all of the proud moments and accomplishments their child has achieved. Ultimately parents should have a say in the college list as they will likely be bankrolling the child's education to the extent that they are able. In the event of a stalemate, I suggest that the student have permission to apply to one school of the student's choosing and one school of the parents' choosing. Compromise goes a long way in this regard. In setting the tone that there are meetings in which parental feedback is welcome and invaluable as well as meetings that the applicant need attend only, parents are given implicit permission to take a step back and allow the student to take the lead. If the student cannot own the process, they cannot own the outcomes.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

How do you deal with overbearing parents during the college process?

I try to help them deal with their anxiety by giving them information, resources and tasks. My parent resources include books and articles about the college application process as well as links to blogs and web resources. I also ask them to organize the college visits with input from the student. I also patiently emphasize that the student must take personal and primary responsibility as they must feel that they own the process.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Overbearing Parent or just Misguided?

I find most parents only want what is best for their student. Still, this can often lead to tension on the home front during the college search process. I find a division of labor can be most productive: one parent is the travel agent for college visits, one parent tackles the financial piece and the student is in charge of all things application related. I try to impress on my clients that we are preparing the student to handle the independence that comes with college. It is important to allow the son/daughter to own the admission experience. As an independent educational consultant, I also keep the parents in the loop with articles tailored just for them. Unigo's website can keep them busy and content for hours! Healthy doses of praise for all they are doing to support their child in this transition from high school to college can also go a long way. Mom and dad are struggling just as much as Junior at the thought of what the future will bring. I find that a sense of humor, along with a checklist of tasks to keep everyone busy and focused, can be the ideal solution for the helicopter parent.