The temptation to help is just too overwhelming. Helicopter parents who “hover” and take control during the college admissions process are well-meaning but are usually motivated, in large part, by fear.
Parents who are concerned about the prospects of their child being accepted to their dream college – or for some parents, “to any college at all” – frequently become über-anxious, overinvolved and end up doing dumb things that actually stymie the process.
As you navigate the college search and applications, here are some things to avoid:
• Talking about college nonstop. Don’t chatter on and on about how difficult it is to get in, where other students are going, who didn’t get in at particular schools, what extracurricular activities someone’s nephew did, etc. STOP – this behavior is the single biggest turnoff for students.
Instead, identify a “college-talk time” – Sunday nights at 8 p.m. or whatever works for your family. Follow-through is really important here. Demonstrate to your child that you want to repair any damage already done.
• Looking for a “back-door” entrance. Stop trying to scheme your child’s entrance into a college where they probably don’t belong. Don’t tell them to all-of-a-sudden become consumed with Greek theater because you heard the classics department was undersubscribed.
Instead, allow them to follow their passions and present themselves accurately in their applications.
• Testing, retesting and testing again. Repeated testing is time-consuming, stress-inducing and expensive.
Instead, by the end of sophomore year or the beginning of junior year, determine the best test for your child. Every college accepts both the SAT and the ACT. I recommend purchasing both an ACT and an SAT test prep book (they have multiple tests so you can share among friends), take benchmark tests, compare results of the two tests and prep for the test that your student says offers the best chance for improvement.
• Counting on connections. Just because your father-in-law plays golf with someone who knows somebody in the administration really doesn’t mean much to the 24-year-old recruiter who is reading the application.
Instead, make sure your child asks for letters of recommendation from teachers, advisers, coaches or others who really know them and can write about what they’ll contribute to the college community.
• Focusing on prestige. Rid yourself of your preconceived notions of what certain colleges used to be like.
Instead, stay open-minded and focus on the fit for your child. Where will he or she thrive?
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com