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

yujin2023
Brown ‘23


Accepted to Brown, Amherst, Duke, Emory, Santa Clara, USC, Pacific, Vanderbilt, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCSB, UCSD, UC Davis, UC Irvine

Nature lover, STEM nerd. Will likely be late because of who I am as a person.
Serena2020
Harvard ‘19


Accepted to Harvard, UChicago, Northwestern, Swarthmore, Emory, Oklahoma U, UKentucky, K College , OU, Alma

Premed on track to graduate a year early. But I love my school! National merit scholar, into surgery, arts & community…
loisvve1
Stanford ‘22


Accepted to Stanford, Yale, Columbia, UGA

Pre-Med, language enthusiast, professional sandwich artiste.
tannar2020
Stanford ‘20


Accepted to Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA

Born in small town, interested in math, science, and literature. Attending Stanford University starting fall of 2016, planning on studying engineering or computer science, with a minor in a foreign language.

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