Quite a few well-off teenage students living in the suburbs are suffering. Unlike students in the inner city whose mothers and fathers may have trouble paying for the basics, these students have depression not because of poverty, but because their parents are far too invested in the college admissions process. These teens often feel pressure to live up to the high expectations of their families and communities.
In a recent article in the New York Times, William R. Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard, said that he’s increasingly worried about the mental and physical health of high school students with parents who exacerbate their stress rather than cushion it during the college admissions process. Fitzsimmons mentioned that he has received credible death threats from over-involved parents and has even been stalked. His office has identified the top five parents from hell and calls it a “hall of fame” of sorts. Some danger signs that guidance counselors see at top high schools include eating disorders and sleep deprivation.
Are you a parent who is heavily invested in the college application process or a student with a parent who you feel is too involved? Here are some tips that parents can follow to keep perspective about college admissions:
- Don’t Do Things Just to Stuff Your Resume- Admissions counselors can see right through it when you try to stuff your resume with activities. For example, if you’re going to do community service, do it out of the spirit of helping and not to improve your resume.
- Plan Family Nights- Spend time together as a family without mentioning SAT scores, essays or anything else related to the college admissions process.
- Avoid Forcing Students to Take Advanced Classes- If a student wants to challenge himself by taking advanced classes, that’s fantastic, but parents should not force their children to take AP and honors courses if they are not up for it.
- Do Not Say “Our” in Your Application- The student is applying to college, not the parent. Applications should never refer to “our” favorite college or “our” application.