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.

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.

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.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

Overbearing parents:

Parents' are not overbearing they are freightened that their precious child will wonder into a world without mom and dad's guidance. I provide parents with as much support as possible in the way of insisting that they attend the college tours, confirming that what they have taught their child for 17 or 18 years will not be forgotten when they leave home, and assuring them that they will have full access via the social media outlets, cell phones, and even skype to pretty much have an idea of what is on their child's mind 24x7. Additionally, I always remind them that they can visit and their young student will not want to disappoint their number one cheering squad (their parents). Most parents find comfort from a counselor who has recently experienced the empty next "overbearing" stage and are able to relax a bit knowing that this is the time they have been working for and it has arrived because they did something right in rearing a child that wants to go to college.

Jamie Reich

Dealing with overbearing parents

Understanding parental anxiety is critical. Parents want the best for their children, but often try to live vicariously through them. Gently yet firmly, I try to encourage them to be reality- based. One of the most critical points that I try to drive home with parents relates to their child's success at college. It is not all about getting in, but staying in and graduating as an independent thinker on a path that will lead to a career that will be nourishing in all regards. Aside from academics, becoming a well-rounded, social and non-judgmental person is vital.

Helen Cella

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

I tell them that it's great that they're interested, but ultimately their child has to make the decision about where they go to college or they will be unhappy.

Kathryn Lento

Back off Mom & Dad

Believe or not, most parents would happily take a back seat if they felt their child was in the drivers seat. The most effective way to dial your parents down is to take the lead on your college process. Let your parents know that the timeline and deadlines are under control. Create a plan and share it with them and they should be less freaked out.

Alan Sheptin
Owner Sheptin Tutoring Group, LLC

Alan Sheptin, Sheptin Tutoring Group, LLC

Parents need to be engaged in the process. A child going off to college will signify and very big change in a family dynamic. In some instances, this may be the first time a child will be independent for a stretch. There are two overarching reasons for "overbearing" parents: 1. They are living vicariously through their child: they have wonderful memories of college, and hope that similar ones will be in place for their child. To them, the process is reliving the best years of their lives. 2. They are concerned for their child. They know that, in a few short months, they will not have as much control over their child as they did when their child was in high school. To that end, they must cut the core, to some degree. The parents must be engaged in the process, and be made to feel as though they are an integral part of the process. To do this, I give them important tasks, such as researching schools, finding out about college parent associations, helping them combine the business part of the trip (looking at the colleges), with a pleasure part of the trip (finding a place of interest or a really good restaurant). If parents are accorded the respect they deserve, then the process goes so much more smoothly. If not, it can be a disaster for all involved.