If your child is applying to college, there is no doubt a lot of excitement (and other emotions!) in your home. You may be excited for your son or daughter to experience the world on his or her own next year, to learn from a great college or university. Or you may be excited that your child will have an opportunity that perhaps you did not get to experience when you were younger. While it is perfectly normal to be interested and involved during your child’s admissions process, some parents cross the line and create unnecessary stress for their youngster who is already experiencing a ton of it.
Everyone has heard the horror stories of overbearing parents trying to take the reins on their children’s futures. These are the parents that admissions officers, teachers, and school counselors get to know on a first name basis. It may seem like these stories are baseless, but this happens in every high school, every year. Remember that college is an experience that your child will have on his or her own; you won’t be making them dinner, you won’t be making their bed, and you surely won’t be making their day-to-day decisions. The application process is meant for students to learn about themselves and to tell admissions officers about their academic interests, their passions, their future — not your academic interests or passions or future.
Parents today are very invested in where their child goes to school, and rightfully so, as many of them will be paying for the vast majority of tuition costs. But recent studies suggest that intense parents can cause heightened levels of depression in their children during college application season. Be supportive but not too forceful with your children’s decisions. It is totally fine for them to go to a school that isn’t your alma mater. Perhaps they want to create a new network for themselves and become their own individuals.
High school students today have enough to worry about. Between high school academics, athletics, hobbies, jobs, community service, and college preparation, they do not need any undue stress. Try to let your child make the application process his or her own.
With the application season getting into full swing, remember how much you love your son or daughter and how much it would hurt them if you put too much weight on their shoulders regarding college selection. The final decision and the experience should always be up to them, and they will thank you for that freedom in the long run.
Stephen is the co-founder and COO of AcceptU. He received a BA from Cornell University, an MA from Columbia University Teachers College, and a Ph.D. from Rice University. Prior to founding AcceptU, Stephen was an Assistant Dean of admissions at Cornell for four years and an Associate Dean of graduate admissions at Princeton University for six years. Stephen is an IECA Associate Member.