The college experience is for students, but it’s hard not to recognize that parents have a college experience, too. Sending your children off to college is something that most parents have on their mind from the time they start putting away college money — which, for many, is in their baby’s first year. 18 years later comes the culmination of parental hopes and dreams, but after all that time planning and wishing, it’s not always pretty when it comes to parental involvement. Some parents get downright scary when it comes to college planning. Read on to learn about 10 ways some parents have gone a little too far in “helpful” college parenting.
Most parents plan to help move their child into the dorms or a new off campus apartment, and maybe even stay a night or two in a nearby hotel in case of parent orientations or extended moving times. But when parents shack up in the dorm room, it gets a little scary. One mother planned to help her daughter adjust to college life by staying in her dorm room with her. She stayed with her for four nights until her daughter’s roommate complained.
As students choose their major and path in education, independence and free will is key. Perhaps the most important part of this is the ability to choose courses for themselves, and going through the bureaucracy of college registration is part of the experience. But some parents overlook this freedom of choice, instead choosing to “help” by registering classes for their children, sometimes even pushing past barricades set up to prevent them from doing specifically that.
How much is a great college worth to you? Over a student’s lifetime, it could be worth millions. But how many parents are really willing to lay out serious cash for admittance into a good school? It turns out, quite a few. College admissions coach Michele Hernandez charges up to $40,000 per student, and business is running at a brisk pace. For some, it may be a worthwhile investment, but really, doesn’t it just seem a bit crazy to fork out that kind of cash before you’ve even made it to college?
So many well-meaning parents go too far in their effort to help kids succeed in their college preparation efforts. One college counselor recalls parents “signing [students] up for the SATs and still waking up 17-year-olds for school.” Some parents will even manage teacher and coach meetings for their children. In her college counselor wisdom, she points out that by doing this, parents have “robbed them of another opportunity for them to learn how to communicate, self-advocate, critically think and problem solve,” all important skills they’ll ultimately need for themselves in college.
College acceptance season is a time of excitement, and sometimes, heartbreak. Of course, students and parents alike will publicly share their college acceptance emotions on Facebook — it’s just what people do now. Even though it seems to be a normal reaction to exciting news, some parents are taking things a little too far. Parents offering a blow by blow account of acceptance at fifth choices, third, and first, and everything in between go overboard — and can be overbearing, even to the most educationally concerned family and friends on Facebook. “Maggie has been accepted to Barnard, Vassar, Dartmouth, Brown and Yale!!!!!! Woo-hoo. So proud and so excited. But still waiting to hear from her #1 choice!!!!!!” has to leave you wondering — what could possibly be Maggie’s top choice? But don’t worry, “Maggie has been accepted to Harvard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”, emphasis on the exclamation points. Even worse, parents may offend other families by downplaying safety schools-especially if others are alumni or hope to gain acceptance as a first choice.
This one is more on the schools than parents, but we can’t help thinking that parent orientations were born out of the need to quell the fears and answer the millions of questions brought up by well meaning, but annoying parents. Even though students are expected to be responsible for their own education, parents are often advised to sit through orientations created just for them, going over academic advising, career guidance, student life, and even IT issues. Some colleges even offer a parent helpline to call if a student who parents “usually hear from three times a day” suddenly drops off communication. Perhaps the scariest part of parent orientations isn’t that they exist at all, but that they can increase a parent’s anxiety level. Parents who were previously comfortable with the idea of their child going out into the world independent may leave a little frightened after slideshows explaining developmental challenges, campus safety, and the intricacies of moving day.
Whether parents have their own orientation or not, universities often have to employ “parent bouncers,” students trained and enlisted to make sure parents don’t follow their children into orientation sessions. Orientations exist not just to tell students what they’ll need to know about life on campus and excelling as a student, but also to allow students to connect one on one with their future classmates. Parents may be a comforting presence, but answering your mom’s questions can put a serious damper on making friends with the guy sitting next to you.
This college prep nightmare is nothing new, with parents insisting their child go to Harvard, their alma mater, or a campus close to home pretty much as long as there’s been a college to choose. And although for some it’s a time-honored tradition, that doesn’t make it any less crazy. The Princeton Review recently asked parents to fill in a “dream school” for their children, not taking into consideration the cost or possibility of acceptance. Of course, the bigger question here is, why are parents picking out their dream school, when ultimately, it’s the student’s choice? Families often experience resentment and frustration when parents attempt to make this decision for their children, and although parents should be involved and offer insight into good choices, students should be able to have the final word.
Some parents sign their children up for several youth sports activities at a time, hoping to spark interest and skill in a sport that will ultimately land their child a college scholarship. We’re not talking about high schoolers cultivating a talent for the scouts who will be visiting in a few months — we’re talking about kids 5 to 10 years old who don’t even have college on their radar. Parents spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars every school year for teams and lessons, but less than 1% of all kids currently playing youth sports will actually end up with a scholarship. That’s money that could be in a college savings account instead of on the field. If your child enjoys playing the sport, carry on but don’t count on cashing in on it.
Yes. Children are being prepared for college in the first grade, 12 years before they enter college, and right after graduating from the finger painting days of kindergarten. Sure, it can be said that all learning and development will ultimately prepare children for college (and a life beyond college), but willfully shaping your child’s education and interests to align with college goals as early as the start of grade school takes it a bit far.