Five Parent Pitfalls During College Selection

Written by on November 29, 2022

Parents Know Best Until They Don’t.

Below are some of the most common pitfalls parents may want to look out for as they go through this process.

In a recent report from Inside Higher Ed, a survey of roughly 5,000 high school graduates showed an increase in parental influence on college decisions. Almost certainly caused by the pandemic, parents’ opinions and influence on college decision has become a much more important factor for high school students.

In this survey, nearly 50 percent of students put parental influence in the top 5 main factors of their college decision. There were disparities amongst demographics on where parental influence fell on the priority list, but I think the most important piece of information is that it seemed to rise in every demographic.

Parents have always had some level of influence when it comes to college choices, and I think it is important for them to be a part of the conversation.

Most of the time, they know their children incredibly well and have their best interests at heart. That makes for a great combination when investigating college options. There are some pitfalls, however, that parents can fall into during this process.


The Alumni Pitfall

Everyone knows someone who’s heard the phrase “our son/daughter is going to X school because our family goes to X school”.

While I appreciate and respect the school pride that families have over their alma maters, creating an expectation that your child should attend the school you attended decades before can create an unhealthy evaluation process for him or her.

It may end up being the perfect fit for your child, but they should reach that conclusion without a parent pushing it from the sidelines because it’s not the parent’s turn to go to college.

The Rankings Pitfall

I go on college tours for a living. It’s one of my principal responsibilities as an independent college consultant, so I hear a LOT of pitches from schools.

I have yet to attend a campus tour where a school was not ranked #1 in something, from somewhere, by some publication. Rankings can be earned, bought, or created in a multitude of ways and your college decision should not weigh solely on that ranking.

Do I recommend ignoring rankings outright? Not at all.

There should be a balance between using earned, vetted ranking systems to explore college options and the holistic evaluation of a school as it pertains to your specific needs.

The Helicopter Parent Pitfall

This won’t apply to all parents, but sometimes mom and dad have a hard time letting go. Moreover, some parents don’t quite trust their children to go out into the world just yet.

Regardless of the reason, some parents might find themselves encouraging their child to look at schools close to home, and this is really for the sole benefit of the parent in question.

If your child ends up close to home because they found a college that fits their needs, then great! If they have to go four states away to find that right-fit school, let them go!

Whether it’s fear or heartache, pinning your child close to your chest will never let them grow into the person they’re supposed to be. After all, college is where people go to find out who they really are.

The Transitive Property Pitfall

When people think of options for baby names, usually they start by eliminating a list of names. What are the reasons people use to eliminate names?

Famous global antagonists are one reason. First names that can be turned into crude jokes because of the last name are another.

Another common reason is to exclude names of people who you know if your own life and don’t like. You can’t name your child Travis because your co-worker Travis never does his work on group presentations.

Sometimes, parents will use that same logic with colleges when it comes to their own children.

People in your life who you don’t like may have gone to a different college than you did, but it does not mean they went to a bad college. It means you don’t like that person.

Try your best not to discourage certain schools because of specific individuals in your life who attended particular colleges, as that really has nothing to do with the quality of their past university.

The Recruiting Pitfall

Lastly, the pitfall can apply to any student-athlete parent. The Recruiting Pitfall.

Athletic recruiting is a wild ride of emotions. It can cause the highest joy, along with the toughest disappointment.

For most athletes pursuing college athletics, you’re going to run into scenarios where a college pursues your child, and that attention can feel like a drug. The blatant expression that a coach WANTS your child to play for them or work out for them is an adrenaline rush, and it can endear you to a program without knowing anything about it.

It’s similar to someone professing their love to you as a teenager when you don’t have enough emotional intelligence to process the rush of emotions that stem from that sort of interaction.

At this moment, it’s important to bring the heart rate back down to normal before making any decisions. That school may be a great fit for your child, but it shouldn’t get blindly pushed to the top of the list simply because a coach showed interest.

Help your child determine if that school is a great fit for their college needs, and then determine where it should land on the college list.

This article was written by Athletes to Athletes (A2A), which is the leading college counseling program for high school student-athletes. With a program that combines traditional college recruiting assistance with holistic college counseling, A2A is empowering student-athletes to find their best-fit college both on AND off the field. For more information, and to book your FREE session with an A2A advisor, go to today.

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