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