What Parents Need To Know To Help A Child Select A College


Kelley Dean Idalene Kessner

Kelley Dean Idalene Kesner

When Idalene Kesner was helping her high school-aged son select colleges, she insisted on one often overlooked factor. The dean of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business wanted to make sure that her son picked a business school with an “assured admit” option.

It was one of several criteria she used to help guide her son’s decision on which college to attend. Kesner’s checklist is a great resource for what parents need to know when looking through college websites and visiting campuses. “You have to ask the right questions,” she advises. “Parents are often confused about the process. I’m in the business and I know it well, but when my kids went through the process, even I found it confusing.”

No wonder, Kesner says that at Kelley’s forthcoming Direct Admit Day later this month, some 1,600 people, including 1,000 prospective students, have reserved seats for the Friday-through-Saturday event on Feb. 28.

Besides picking a college with an assured admit option, she believes parents also need to dig deep on a school’s placement statistics, the career development center’s resources and involvement, as well as faculty engagement with students.


But on the insistence of an assured admit option, she felt so strongly about this that she steered her son away from one of the best undergraduate business programs in the world at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce. Like many other colleges, McIntire requires already enrolled UVA students to apply only after completing at least two years and 54 hours of credits.

The school assesses each applicant by their overall grade point average, grades on pre-requisite courses, the difficulty of the classes they have already taken, as well as demonstrated leadership skills. Of the 577 who applied to McIntire last year, only 330 students got into the business program where the average GPA was 3.71.

“Having a direct admit program is my number one advice to parents sending their children to college because you don’t know how your kid will perform in freshman year,” she says. A single failing grade in one course could keep a student from majoring in business at many schools because the competition to get into many business programs is so severe.


After all for many freshmen, going to college is the first time they’ve lived away from home and their traditional support system. There’s no one to remind them to do their homework, attend classes, and engage in the community. “You just never know when a freshman is going to fall down,” she says.

Applying directly gives a parent a good deal of assurance that their son or daughter will graduate with a business degree–if that’s what they want to do, notes Kesner, whose son ultimately went to Washington University’s Olin School and started his own business upon graduation (she urged both her son and daughter to choose a school outside of Bloomington, IN, so they would experience another part of the country). Even if a student in that difficult transition year pulls lower-than-expected grades, most assured admit programs would put the student on notice before turning him or her away. “At Kelley, we would put a student on probation if he doesn’t do well. So if the person gets a few bad grades, he has time to fix it,” she says.

Parents also need to carefully examine the placement reports of a business school before sending their children to college, believes Kesner. Key questions she suggests asking: “How successful is the school in placing its students? How many companies recruit on-campus? Is career services a voluntary add-on in a student’s senior year or it is integrated into the curriculum of the school?”

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