If your parents are too involved, can they hurt your chances?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

If your parents are too involved, can they hurt your chances?

Seth Allen
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Grinnell College

If your parents are too involved, can they hurt your chances?

Here is my video response to the question.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection


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!

Janet Rosier
President Janet Rosier's Educational Resources

Yes! Helicopter Parents Raise Red Flags in Admissions

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.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

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.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens


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.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

The Helicopter Parent

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.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

pressure can be deadly sometimes

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.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

Parents over involvement

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.

Jill Karatkewicz
Counselor East Hampton High School

Parents = Supporting Role!

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.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

If your parents are too involved, can they hurt your chances?

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.