If your parents are too involved, can they hurt your chances?
Students should absolutely be the primary movers in the process. Whenever a family wants to contact a college, I suggest that the contact is initiated by the student. The student should demonstrate his/her maturity as well as his interest in a particular school by being responsible for the process. Parents should be aware that too much interference might reflect badly on their son/daughter at this stage, whereas the demonstration of independence could help the student’s candidacy.
Parents who hover above their children have earned the name “helicopter parents” and it isn’t a compliment. Some parents have taken control of the search and application process–so much so that they raise red flags with admissions offices. Parents who start to refer to “our application” or call admissions offices too often can hurt their child’s chance of admission. If there are questions to be asked, it should be the student who asks them. Parents should not fill out their child’s college application and should stay out of the essay as well. Admissions officers want to hear the student’s voice in the essay, not anyone else’s. Of course there is a place for parents in the process –to support and encourage their child, to help them discover what is important and meaningful and to be a sounding board. But parents have to learn to let go and let the student own this.
Parents who hover above their children have earned the name “helicopter parents” and it isn’t a compliment. Some parents have taken control of the search and application process–so much so that they raise red flags with admissions offices. Parents have to learn to let go and let the student lead and this is a good time to do it. Some colleges help this process by having one tour for parents and one for students so that the students will feel more comfortable asking questions. Parents should not fill out their child’s college application and should stay out of the essay as well. Admissions officers want to hear the student’s voice in the essay, not anyone else’s. Of course there is a place for parents in the process –to support and encourage their child, to help them discover what is important and meaningful and to be a sounding board.
I have heard of actual cases where the parents were SO annoying: constantly calling the colleges, butting in on interviews etc that the admissions office decided that accepting that student would only mean future problems for the college! Also, if a parent does write a students admissions essay and it clearly does have the parent’s “voice” and not that of a 17 year old ( especially if the essay is much stronger then the student’s average grade in English) that could really backfire!
Yes. it depends on how they are being too involved. Are they bugging you, or are they bugging the college? If they are calling the colleges you are applying to, if they are upstaging you and treating you like a child on campus visits or interview situations, then yes, it can hurt. Colleges want to see independent students, not hovering helicopter parents who handle everything for their child.
students feel great pressure from their parents during the application process. for those that highly involved with the school selection and test preps, I suggest the student taking steps to learn how to work with your parents the rigth way.
most parents are willing to help with good intention and normally does nothing to hurt the student for admissions.
How can overbearing parents negatively affect one’s admissions chances? 1. Badgering the admissions office with question after question. (Would want to deal with this parent for next 4 years?) 2. Attending (overtly or secretly) the applicant’s interview. (I have been in situations where parents have insisted on sitting in on the interview! However, that pales in comparison to the parents who pretend not to know the student, sit closely to us, and eavesdrop! Oh — and don’t forget the parents who incessantly text the student during the interview. Rest assured, when I was an interview, I noted all of this down in my interview report to the Admissions Committee.) 3. Too much help with the essay. (I don’t have to elaborate too much on this point. Let’s just say that there is a big difference between a 17 year old writer and a 40-50 year old writer.) You don’t want to be the applicant whose essay is subject to suspicion.
How can overbearing parents negatively affect one’s admissions chances? 1. Badgering the admissions office with question after question. (Who would want to deal with this parent for next 4 years?) 2. Attending (overtly or secretly) the applicant’s interview. (I have been in situations where parents have insisted on sitting in on the interview! However, that pales in comparison to the parents who pretend not to know the student, sit closely to us, and eavesdrop! Oh — and don’t forget the parents who incessantly text the student during the interview. Rest assured, when I was an interviewer, I noted all of this down in my interview report to the Admissions Committee.) 3. Too much help with the essay. (I don’t have to elaborate too much on this point. Let’s just say that there is a big difference between a 17 year old writer and a 40-50 year old writer.) You don’t want to be the applicant whose essay is subject to suspicion.
Sometimes good intentions can be misguided. Parents REALLY need to understand that this whole application process needs to belong to the student. It is not about mom and dad’s bragging rights at the water cooler. Part of the admissions experience is preparation for being on their own the following year. There is no time like the present to step back and let Buffy take the lead. If mom participates in the interview, if dad writes the essay, if dad ask all the questions, the admissions office is going to wonder just who it is that is applying. Yes, college comes with a hefty price tag so parents have a right to be involved. Please just remember, everything in moderation.
Here is my video response to the question.
Within the parameters of what a student’s family feels that they can financially support, students should make the decisions and initiate the actions regarding their applications. In considering the above question, I tried to think of some worst-case scenarios, in which too much parental involvement could hurt a student’s chances. This is what I came up with, but it is not intended to be a definitive list. – A parent who insists, for some reason, on his/her child applying to colleges which are not realistically in the student’s range academically may be hurting the student’s chances of acceptance by forcing him/her to apply to institutions to which he/she can not realistically expect to be admitted. It’s okay to include a couple of “reaches” among the applications, but even those should be realistic “reaches”. The student might luck out, but there’s a much greater chance for the success of applications if the student’s abilities and skills fit the expectations of the schools to which he/she is applying.
– Parents calling Admissions Offices with various sorts of bribes, veiled threats, accusations, and other manipulative behaviors would most likely negatively affect a student’s chances for admission.
– A parent who decides that he/she would do a better job of writing the student’s applications essays than the student him-/herself and proceeds to do just that is making a big mistake. Colleges want to hear the applicant’s “voice”, and the words chosen and ways of expressing ideas would differ greatly between the parent and the student. This could have a negative effect. (A student once brought me “his” essay to look over. It had clearly been written by his father and sending it to the college would have been a disaster! That potential problem was nipped in the bud, however, and the essay that the student ultimately sent, written by himself, was powerful and emotionally compelling.)
– On a campus visit, if a parent takes an overly dominant role, overriding the student every time he/she wants to ask a question of an admissions officer, it could leave the admissions officer with a negative impression of the student’s self-confidence or assertiveness. In short, parents should be available to support their children through what is essentially a stressful rite of passage, but should resist urges to take over.
Yes. Colleges frown upon over involved parents–they call them helicopter parents (hovering over their students). If a parent is pushy, controlling, or speaks for the student, colleges could get the impression that the student is not independent and would not do well in an environment where they need to act as an adult.
Prospective college students are on the brink of legal adulthood and therefore most institutions expect students to be the primary point of contact from the admissions process onward. No one expects that parents will be completely hands off with the admissions process. In my years of working with highly involved parents, I can’t recall any behavior egregious enough to negatively impact a student’s admission.
Not directly as the schools are going be reviewing your record, not your parents, and while admitting you does open the door to further contact with your parents, once you matriculate, under privacy laws the school does not really have to deal with your parents. That being said, excessive parental contact with the admissions office won’t help. Human nature being what it is, a meddlesome or overbearing parent cannot help but have at least some impact on a very human admissions officer. As well meaning as they are, and as much legitimate help as they can offer, parents do need to recognize that this process is about their children and not them. Admittedly, that can be easier said than done..
It is important for the student to develop some independence, since this is an important milestone and step into adulthood. I am not certain if it will hurt your chances, but it won’t help too much, either. It is important that the parent does not write the college essay for the student or do anything that might jeopardize a student’s admission to college. Colleges are seeing more and more helicopter parents.
I have heard from countless admissions officers requesting that I pass on the message that the student is the one who needs to contact admissions offices, not the parent. Positive points in your student’s admissions file if they call. Negative points in your student’s admissions file if you call! Many admissions officers worry about parents writing the application and essays for the child. Please do not do this. Admissions officers can tell the difference between a teenager’s essay and a 48 year old journalist’s essay!
Almost all of the time students are admitted based on academic or talent assessment. It is not really the involvement of the student, the parents or others that will determine if someone gets into a college or not. I have dealt with a number of overly involved and aggressive parents over the years. Are they annoying…yes! Did I go back and make notes in the students folder indicating that they should not be admitted because of their parents…NEVER! Admission is based on your academic ability to handle the rigors of the school to which you are apply and whether or not your academic interests match the schools program. Not how excited you are to be there. So, if your parents are overly “involved” relax, it could be worse. You could have parents who don’t care whether you go or not. If you are a parent reading this….you relax also. We understand your interests are to get your son/daughter into the best school possible but it will be their merits that will gain them access and not your involvement. Help them to make the wisest choice from those schools which are interesting to them and are the best fit to help them be successful in life and in their careers.
Short Answer: Not really. Detailed Answer: There is usually an underlying reason that drives parents to be ove-rinvolved, and that reason is usually low grades in general, or decent grades and a determination to get their child into an elite college. So it will be the grades that will hurt your chances, not your parents’ over-involvement. The over-involvement generally becomes acutely apparent to us after a student has been denied. I have dealt with some extremely pushy, borderline abusive parents. I’ve been hung up on. I’ve been threatened with lawsuits. One time I even felt as though the parent might lunge at me from across the desk. This incident caused us to install a security system in the lobby. Students can be very shy, and often the parents push and push their student to take action on their own behalf, but the student won’t budge. For some reason, this generation has had difficulty learning to advocate for – and speak for — themselves. The parent is the one that calls with questions about completing or submitting the application. Or perhaps the high school guidance counselor reveals that their umpteenth call to us is at the parent’s continued urging. And we can always tell when the parent has written the essay. My sympathy is always for the student, who usually is kept in the background while the parent won’t stop pushing. Who knows what hidden fears are preventing a young person from acting on his/her own behalf? I know from teaching first-year seminar how intensely anxiety-laden the idea of college is for every single student. There is an element of the college application process that is terrifying for these kids. My advice to students is to begin taking responsibility. That’s what colleges are looking for: Students who can enter the hallowed halls, hit the ground running, and handle their own issues. If you can’t or simply don’t feel you are ready, then it’s time to consider a gap year – do something fabulous and meaningful, then go to college. It will always be there. Your parents want you out of the house and thriving on your own. It’s your life, not your parents. Be purposeful. This is your opportunity to grab your dreams and run with them. If they don’t want to pay for you to do what you want to do, then figure out a way to pay for it yourself. If you want your parents to be less involved, if you feel they may be hurting your chances, then step up and start taking action yourself. If you don’t do that, then you must expect that they will continue to interfere, and you will deserve it. Make an action plan with timelines and stick to it. If you approach everything in your life in this manner, you will have a greater chance at getting where you want to be, not where someone else thinks you should be. A word to the wise: What really gives me pause is when I see a student has adopted the bullying techniques of the parent(s). That is when I begin to imagine what it will be like for the college’s staff, faculty, student body, roommates, resident hall directors, etc., if this student (and his/her parent) is allowed to be part of the community.
I never denied a student because of this. But I wanted to. Which means someone out there has done exactly that.
This can occur, however, colleges are accustomed to dealing with many overly involved parents and this isn’t usually a major deterrent. Parents should be careful not to appear too pushy. They certainly don’t want to make a negative impression. The focus should be on the prospective student.
Yes. Colleges feel that if the parent is overly involved now then the parent will be overly involved even when the student is in college. Why would they knowingly bring in a student/family that is going to be high maintenance? This is especially true of the colleges that have far more applicants than spots in the class, they have the luxury of being selective. Colleges expect their students to be mature, independent young adults who can advocate for themselves.
Yes, helicopter parenting can hurt your chances. The colleges and universities are looking at YOU, not your parents. They want to know that you have the academic, social, and intellectual skills to handle their program. There are too many college applicants who have been hand-held throughout their schooling experience and do not really know how to work independently. Their expectation is that the college or university faculty will take over where Mom and Dad left off. Colleges and universities want their students to succeed, that is the whole point of the application process. You need to show them that you are able to handle everything that will be coming your way through your tenure at their school. So, once they have given you their best advice, politely tell Mom and Dad to butt out. This is your first big step toward becoming a fully participating member of adulthood. Now, roll up your sleeves and show them what YOU can do.
In short, yes! An overly involved parent may send the wrong message to the admission office because they don’t allow their student the opportunity to speak up! Parents who run the show by researching/selecting colleges, registering for tours, emailing the admissions rep with questions, filling out applications, etc, only prove to the admissions office that the PARENT is interested! When mom and/or dad are willing to step to the forefront and do all the grunt work, it also makes it easy for the student to be less involved in making the decision of where is the right place for them! Bottom line – the STUDENT should be in the driver’s seat. If they are lucky enough to have a supportive parent to join them in the process, this is wonderful. But an overeager parent may actually hurt, not help.
Yes! Colleges are looking to accept or reject the student not the parents.
A parent who is too involved can hinder your chances for admission and success at a college. The classic example is re-writing or even writing application essays for their son or daughter. This is always a bad idea, ethically of course, but also because it will not work. It is fairly easy to tell the difference between an essay that has been written or re-written by a parent, even if trying to sound like their child, and an essay with an authentic voice. Parents who are too involved in selecting the schools the student applies to may also hurt a student’s chances. Beyond match and fit, the student’s passion for the school is an important factor. And finally, a parent who tries to intervene on a student’s behalf by talking to admissions staff or others at a school will not be helpful. Especially if they are rude. Students or counselors should make any inquiries except in very special circumstances. If a parent is prepared to be involved in making a substantial financial contribution or can contribute to the goals of the university in other meaningful ways, this could be a big help.
Yes. If they’re too overbearing it can make it a very frustrating experience. Keep them in the background, but don’t hesitate to ask for help when necessary – like reviewing your paperwork for errors.
Yes. The most obvious misstep for parents is practically writing the essay for their kid, which may call into question your authorship. Take a look at a statement the student must check before signing the Common Application: “I certify that all information submitted in the admission process—including the application, the personal essay, any supplements, and any other supporting materials—is my own work, factually true, and honestly presented…” So if your essay sounds like it was written by your parent, the admissions people may doubt your authorship, therefore your integrity. This will hurt your admissions chances. There are other helicopter missteps, such as pestering the admissions department. Neither the applicant nor the parent should not bother admissions ad nauseum (although calling or emailing with legitimate questions is certainly fine). If the parent is calling, it does not project the image of a professional, confidence, grown-up applicant who can self-advocate.
Yes, in a couple of ways. First of all, there are parents who call up schools with numerous questions about applications, deferrals and the student’s chances and attempt to sit in on interviews. If the parent takes over the process to such an extent that the school becomes aware of it, this can hurt the applicant. Secondly, parents who are overly involved with the application itself (i.e., writing the essay, insisting on certain extracurriculars being featured etc.) can sometimes hurt because the application either becomes too stiff, too formulaic or appears to have been prepared by an adult.
Absolutely as their “voice” or opinions can cloud your essays and applications.
Colleges are interested in the student voice. When parents are too involved in the process, they run the risk of obscuring the student’s perspective with their own, which may hinder the admission officer’s ability to draw an accurate picture of the applicant. Over-involvement can prevent a child from taking ownership of his or her process, limiting the opportunity to stand on one’s own feet. When children are allowed to think through the process and proceed with a background of support, they tend to learn about themselves and gain a sense of accomplishment. The more independently students tackle their apps and essays, the better prepared they are to discuss themselves in an interview situation. It is difficult for any of us to defend or expand on the thoughts of others and anxious teens are certainly no exception. Limited parental involvement prepares students for life after high school and gives them the confidence to face new challenges.
Yes. When your child goes to college they will likely be living away from their parents, they will have to take classes and take care of themselves alone. A student whose application too obviously has the mark of over-attentive parents will signal a red flag that the student is not ready to handle college as they are too dependent on their parents for their academic success, and would not be able to maintain the academic caliber the school would desire without parental support. Remember, your child is applying to college, not you. This is not to say you should not help and guide them through the process, as indeed you should help your child, but you should help them, not do it for them.
Yes. In terms of the actual application, intense parental involvement can hijack the process and the student’s voice can be lost in the process. Admissions readers are very experienced and savvy– they can tell when essays have been heavily edited and polished. These readers can detect parent intrusion in the essay by the choice of words used and the sophistication of the overall product. A slightly imperfect essay that is authentic will benefit a student much more than a parent-drive, overly polished essay. In terms of college visits, parents should play a secondary role. They should allow the student the freedom to ask questions in information sessions and tours. In short, stay “behind” the student and allow them to take the lead. When parents dominate discussions or contact admissions on behalf of their student, they send the unintended message that their child is not independent or capable enough of handling matters for himself. Parents expressing strong opinions too early in the process can stifle a student’s exploration. Students want to please their parents in most cases. Parents who express negative opinions about certain colleges (before allowing the student to do his or her own research and formulate his or her own opinions) will prematurely narrow the options that a student should consider.
You don’t want your parents making calls to the admissions office or handling all of your appointments. Show initiative and maturity by contacting admissions officers on your own. When you get to college your parents will hopefully give you the freedom to manage your affairs and it is important that you start now. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your parents read over your essay or ask you sample interview questions to prepare, but when interacting with the schools, it is important that you are doing the bulk of the work.
Narrow down over 1,000,000 scholarships with personalized results.
Get matched to scholarships that are perfect for you!
Disclosure: EducationDynamics receive compensation for the featured schools on our websites (see “Sponsored Schools” or “Sponsored Listings” or “Sponsored Results”). So what does this mean for you? Compensation may impact where the Sponsored Schools appear on our websites, including whether they appear as a match through our education matching services tool, the order in which they appear in a listing, and/or their ranking. Our websites do not provide, nor are they intended to provide, a comprehensive list of all schools (a) in the United States (b) located in a specific geographic area or (c) that offer a particular program of study. By providing information or agreeing to be contacted by a Sponsored School, you are in no way obligated to apply to or enroll with the school.
The sources for school statistics and data is the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. The information on this site is for informational and research purposes only and is not an assurance of financial aid.