Parents behaving badly – it happens all the time in the college admissions process. Moms and dads on both ends of the parental spectrum often make a mess of things.
Hovering parents try to control every step of the process, simultaneously sheltering and smothering their children. At the other extreme, you find the “You’re on your own, figure it out” parent. Plenty of evidence demonstrates the damage caused by helicopter parents (next week’s column), but what I’m seeing more frequently is a pendulum swing to the other side, with parents choosing not to be involved.
Here’s a fairly typical scenario: I receive a phone call from a parent who briefly describes the child’s academic standing. I’m told, “We haven’t done a thing about college. We’re lost. Please help us.”
But then they walk away, absolving themselves of any responsibility in their child’s college research and selection. The child, who hasn’t thought much about college, often feels overburdened and stressed. The parents think they’re empowering their children, but all too often their children aren’t ready to tackle this assignment on their own.
Parents need to understand the complexities of the college admissions process. There are colleges to research, campuses to visit, applications to complete, essays to write, letters of recommendation to request. And don’t forget the pressure of standardized tests. This is not the time to tell students who have been coddled since preschool to fly on their own. They need parental guidance, support and, most of all, encouragement.
Parents should evaluate where their child needs assistance. If you haven’t had this conversation with your child, ask what areas they’re anxious about and how they’d like you to help. Don’t assume your experience is irrelevant because it has been a few decades since you applied to college. It’s a learning process for everyone.