Parents Should Have Less Control in College Application Process

Mera Seifu, Staff Writer

Picture this. It’s the first week of senior year. Assignments start to pile, your backpack fills with brick-like textbooks, major projects for the year begin to roll in and wait- what’s that thing that you’ve been dreading to get started on? Oh, that’s right. College applications.

There comes a time in many students’ lives when they have to face the terrors of college applications. A period during which teenagers are expected to maintain their grades and manage their extracurricular activities while going through a long and tedious process that will determine where they’ll be attending school the following year. It’s undoubtedly one of the most pressure-filled parts of a student’s educational career.

For many, college applications are one of the first steps to independence. Funny enough, it also happens to be a time where many parents want to hold their child’s hand through the process- completing FAFSA, filling out the common app, and writing essays. To be fair, they just want the best for their kid. But sometimes the support provided by parents can become overwhelming.

Someone once told me that parents are like the salt in soup when it comes to college applications. They are an essential part of the flavoring, but too much can become overbearing. In other words, the student is the one who’s going to be attending the colleges, so they should be the one leading the process. It’s as simple as that.

For example, location. Should parents have a major say in where their child goes? Choosing schools to apply to can be one of the most overwhelming parts that take place at the start of the process. There are a number of elements that can play into this decision, one being where the parents went to college. Say a member of your family wanted you to go to UVA, but you’re someone who is interested in engineering and you think you’ll find better opportunities at Virginia Tech.

Or maybe your parents want you to stay close to home, but you would like to explore a new state instead- or vice versa. These are hard decisions to make considering that students won’t want to disappoint their parents. Many will have high expectations- some kids even have the pressure of becoming legacy students, a person whose family member attended the same college as them. Regardless, it’s important to remember that it is ultimately the applicant’s decision and to respect their choice.

The Woodson College and Career Center board. Photo courtesy of Jada Bromberg.

At times, essays can also be a major point of conflict. It can be tempting for a parent to determine what they think their child’s greatest accomplishment is, or what would best fit their essay, but the student might have a different story that they want to share. Writing college essays is an opportunity for applicants to have their voices be heard and showcase their personality. If they have a personal connection to what they’re writing, it will likely come off a lot more authentic compared to a story that someone else pressured them into writing.

When looking at the bigger picture, there are so many factors that go into applying for and choosing a college. Say you want to attend William and Mary with a Computer Science major. As a resident, you’d have to pay around $50,000 to complete your bachelors degrees which means you’ll probably be applying for some scholarships. You’ve also got to think about the school’s academic support, extracurriculars that are provided, and athletics if that’s something you are interested in. Some parents may play a major role in these decisions depending on the support (financial and other) that they provide, but ultimately, it’s going to be the student’s next four years of life. Hence why they should dominate the process. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that college application season is a stressful time for students, and pressure to do things a certain way is only going to add to the stress. Support on the other hand is what would be most beneficial to an applicant going through the process. Sometimes all a student really needs is someone cheering them on from the sideline.