Today’s parents tend to be much (and sometimes, much, much!) more involved in their children’s lives than parents from past generations, and this involvement often extends to the college – or even grad school – application process.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Parents can provide vital support for their kids during the admissions process by offering their life wisdom, as well as by supporting them practically, financially, and emotionally. But I cringe when I see parents overstepping their bounds, attempting to control their children’s decisions, actions, and outcomes. And unfortunately, I see this more often than ever. “Helicopter” parenting actually hurts your relationship with your child. It undermines their confidence and sense of self-sufficiency. It also sends the wrong message to the admissions committees.
As an admissions consultant for nearly 30 years, I offer three tips to help you gauge how much involvement is TOO MUCH when your kids are applying to college or grad school.
Tip #1: Allow your child to be in the driver’s seat.
Welcome the chance to review your child’s choices of college or grad programs with them, but they should be the ones actually doing the research to determine which schools are most appealing, given their career goals and aptitudes. They should also be the ones taking the lead in the overall admissions process. When you do so instead, you’re essentially telling your child, “I don’t think you have what it takes to manage this process yourself.” At the same time, you’re telling the school, “My kid isn’t competent, mature, or ambitious enough to apply on their own.” You can help your child apply, of course, but make sure that’s all you’re doing – HELPING them, and not the other way around.
Tip #2: Your child’s voice should be the sole voice of the operation.
Your child should be the one communicating with their target school(s) – not you. Likewise, your child should write their application essays in their distinct voice. The writing should sound like them, not you. And it should go without saying that this advice applies to their interactions with admissions consultants and preparation for interviews as well. Guide, coach, and edit, but never speak for your child.
Tip #3: Help your child deal with disappointment.
If your child receives a rejection or a poor exam score, understand the role you need to play. First, remind yourself that your child is the one experiencing the distress, not you. One way to help them get over their disappointment is by hiding your own; if you let it show, you will only make your child feel worse. Overtly expressing your disappointment might even discourage your child from continuing to move forward. They could shy away from reapplying or from studying harder or even retaking the exam. Not overreacting to the news also signals to your child that you believe the rejection isn’t a disaster, just a temporary setback.
You can be most helpful by allowing your child time and space to express their frustration, and by then providing the appropriate amount of comfort and encouragement (you know your child best). Encourage them to persevere, and reassure them that they will eventually be accepted to the right program at the right time. When you feel they will be receptive to the message, suggest that they examine the factors that might have led to the rejection and determine what they can do to set the stage for a happier outcome next time. Don’t play the blame game: “I told you not to wait so long before starting to study!” Instead, play the role of motivational coach: “I believe in you. I know that you will achieve your goals, and I’m here to support you.”
Not sure you can effectively guide your child through the grad school admissions process (in a balanced, non-pushy way, of course)? Browse our catalog of services to access professional guidance today!
By Judy Gruen, a former Accepted admissions consultant. Judy holds a Master’s in journalism from Northwestern University and is the co-author of Accepted’s first full-length book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!