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?

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
Counselor

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.

Nina Sculler
Director College Prep

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

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.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

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

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..

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

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

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.

Eric Beers, Ph.D.
College and Career Counselor Air Academy High School

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

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!

Renee Boone
The College Advisor

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

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.

Dr. Bruce Neimeyer
CEO/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

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

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.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

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

Absolutely as their "voice" or opinions can cloud your essays and applications.