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?

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.

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.

Melanie Hayes
Educational Consultant Gifted/Talented

The Focus is on You

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.

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.

Patricia Krahnke
President/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

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

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.

Jeana Robbins

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

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.