Parents More Involved In College Admissions Process, But Schools Philosophically Divided About How To Manage Them

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NEW YORK, N.Y. — A new Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions survey of admissions officers at 387 of the nation’s top colleges and universities reveals that the phenomenon of the helicopter parent – a term given to parents who “hover” over their children – may be more prevalent than ever, but that schools are divided on how to address it.

Seventy-seven percent report that parental involvement in the college admissions process is increasing and because of this, 61% say that their school has been prompted to develop new initiatives for parents. But while a majority of schools are setting up special websites, seminars and tours just for parents, some schools are cutting parents out of the admissions process entirely.

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“Parents are more involved because the college admissions process is extremely competitive and increasingly expensive. They want to make sure that they are helping their children make smart decisions and that they are making smart investments in their children’s education,” said Justin Serrano, president, pre-college programs, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions.

“These concerns may cause some parents to do a lot more than they have in the past or in many instances, a lot more than they should, from filling out applications for their children to calling the admissions offices with questions, to even writing their children’s personal essays.  Many schools are trying to remedy the situation in creative ways.”

To address the growing role parents have in the college admissions process, many schools are now holding information sessions just for parents of interested students. Some schools reported holding two separate campus tours: one exclusively for students (no “embarrassing” questions from mom or dad allowed) and one for parents.  Many have also added parent-specific sections to their web pages.

Another said they have a “how not to hover” workshop for parents during campus visits.  Other popular initiatives are Facebook pages, blogs and e-newsletters addressed specifically to parents.  And some schools said that they now have an office dedicated to parent relations.

Other colleges are taking a different approach by cutting parents out of the picture as soon as possible.

One of the college admissions officers who participated in Kaplan’s annual survey said that once the student is accepted, the school is firm about only interacting with the student, not the parents – a strict policy that has sometimes caused friction with the parents.  Another admissions officer reported that their office will not discuss an applicant with his or her parent unless the student gives permission.  One admissions officer said that when a parent of an applicant calls to ask a question, the school encourages the parent to hand the phone to the student.

Other key Kaplan survey results:

  • Just the Facts, Please: 67% told Kaplan that they have discovered claims on an application to be exaggerated or untrue.
  • Embracing Social Media: 82%% of admissions officers report that their school is using Facebook to recruit students; 56% use Twitter and YouTube to recruit.
  • Can We Be Friends?: 80% report that they or a colleague in their admissions office had received a Facebook friend request from a prospective student – an increase from 71% in Kaplan’s

The survey was conducted by phone in July and August 2010 as part of Kaplan’s annual survey of admissions officers at the nation’s top 500 colleges and universities, as compiled from U.S. News & World Report’s Ultimate College Guide and Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges.  Kaplan also conducts annual surveys of admissions officers at law schools, business schools, graduate schools and medical school to ensure that students are getting the most accurate and up-to-date information on the admissions process and other relevant issues.


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