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?

Kris Hintz
Founder Position U 4 College LLC

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

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.

Zahir Robb
College Counselor The Right Fit College

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

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.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

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

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.

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

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.

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

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

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.

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

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

Yes! Colleges are looking to accept or reject the student not the parents.

Jessica Brondo
Founder and CEO The Edge in College Prep

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

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.

Suzanne Shaffer
Owner Parents Countdown to College Coach

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

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.

Tira Harpaz
Founder CollegeBound Advice

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

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.

Richard Hazelton
college advisor Connecticut

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

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.