The 4 Types of Parents Ruining College Admissions

October 20, 2015

What kind of parent are you? In a recent Washington Post article, a former Stanford dean argued that helicopter parenting is ruining an entire generation. We here at AdmitSee have sourced thousands of application essays and advice responses from successful college students (which you can browse here). Many refer to their parents in their essays as major sources of inspiration but also sources of stress. Here are the four types of parents you don’t want to be!

1. The Astronaut Parent: These parents are literally never around, like they’re out in space. While some students thrive in this environment, many will falter from complete lack of support. We advocate parents being mostly hands-off in the admissions process, but showing a complete lack of interest in your children’s future can also be a blow to their confidence.

2. The Curling Parent: Probably the most common, these types of parents give a gentle push, and then sweep the way for their children to succeed. It may seem innocuous, but the kids get used to how easily everything comes—many times without knowing their parents are the ones helping them brush aside obstacles ahead. When they inevitably stumble, they aren’t able to cope.

3. The Helicopter Parent: The most well-known, this parent is always hovering, arguing with teachers and coaches on behalf of their child. Students never learn to speak for themselves or make decisions without running them by their parents. Without the structure and constant guidance they’ve become accustomed to, once they get to college, these students struggle to succeed on their own.

 

4. The Lawnmower Parent: The most extreme of the bunch, they don’t even leave room for hovering. Instead, they’re on their child, pushing, pushing, pushing… The student never learns to develop a sense of personal drive or motivation. Many even come to resent the parent for never giving them the opportunity to discover their own identities and shine as individuals.

If you’re an astronaut parent, you probably aren’t reading this blog post… but what about you curling, helicopter and lawnmower parents? We recommend taking a step back from the college application process. Your kids will need to learn how to fend for themselves, and you’ll need to learn how to let them go when they head off to college. Start practicing for the transition now and give your child the room to make mistakes and learn from them. Not only will your kids be more resilient, but trusting them to make important decisions on their own will show that you respect them and have confidence in them to thrive independently.

Find a middle ground between micro-managing and being completely distant. Be hands-on in a positive impactful way by teaching them real world, practical skills. Many college graduates complain that they never learned how to prepare and file their taxes or purchase health insurance; these would’ve been great skills for them to learn from their parents! Prepare your child for life beyond just school and higher education. After all, being self reliant in the real world is the actual tough part.

For parents, we recommend using AdmitSee to browse examples of successful application files. It’s a great way to see how your kid compares to previously accepted students if for no other reason than to manage your own expectations. For your kids, suggest that they find a mentor to get the perspective of students at the schools of their choice who are a year or two older. Let’s be honest, your kids are probably more likely to listen to their peers anyway. 

Want more tips about applying to college? Read our blog post featuring 5 tips to conquer the common app essay and our advice on how to narrow down your college search



Browse Successful Application Files

yuzhushi
UMD ‘20


Accepted to UMD, JHU, Duke, Case, Swarthmore, Penn State

I am a recent high school grad about to enter my first year of college at the University of Maryland: College Park with a full Banneker/Key scholarship.
aandinofrydman
Stanford ‘23


Accepted to Stanford, Columbia, UC Berkeley, UMich, UNC, UCSB, NYU, UCLA, Washington, UCSD, UC Davis

Bay Area local studying econ, cs, and human rights, and trying to figure out the world!
longhornlove
UT Austin ‘24


Accepted to UT Austin, Fordham, U of Houston, UBC, Texas A&M

Hey there! I’m Tara, I’m an American born half Colombian, half Persian International Baccalaureate student attending UT Austin in the fall!
aa192002
Stanford ‘24


Accepted to Stanford, Dartmouth, Drexel, Wisconsin, IWU, UChicago

A Boy Having Intrinsically Nuanced Acumen for Vacuity

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