Applying to College? 4 Mistakes Parents Make


Jon Frank, CEO and Co-Founder of Admissionado

Applying to college is a stressful process, for students and their parents. As deadlines get closer, we’ve been paying close attention to the college admissions blogosphere, specifically looking out for advice for parents.

To be honest, we’re a little bit concerned (and shocked) with all the BAD advice for parents on the Internet. Bad advice is like a bad apple – just one bad piece can spoil the entire process of applying to college. So we’re calling out that bad advice, telling you why it’s bad, and giving you something good instead.

Here are the four most egregiously bad pieces of advice on applying to college that we found:

Tuition – The Cheaper the Better
The cost of college is certainly no joke, and sticker shock is natural when you’re looking at all those tuition zeroes. BUT that doesn’t mean that the cheapest option is your student’s best option. In fact, niney percent of American families would pay the same or less in tuition at a school like Harvard as they would a state school. And actually in the top five of the list of schools with the lowest average student debt: Princeton, Yale, and Harvard. Schools with high tuitions usually means large endowments and hefty financial aid. So when applying to college, make sure to explore your options, and don’t get scared away by sticker price! If a school is a great fit but seems too expensive, apply anyway, and decide once you’ve seen your financial aid offer.

Extracurriculars – More, More, More!
For some reason, people seem to think that the more “stuff” you have in your college application, the better your chances are at getting in. This is not true. In fact, admissions committees can always spot a stuffed resume, and it’s an instant red flag. So stop signing your kid up for extracurricular activities. Pick two or three that your student can really excel at, become a leader, and make an IMPACT. It’s not about breadth of activities, but depth.

Advice – All Hands on Deck
When parents have a student applying to college, there tends to be an “all hand on deck” mentality, where they bring in every counselor, family friend, and distantly related relative who might have gone to the school where little Johnny is applying. This is bad. Too many cooks in the kitchen. The application (and especially the essays) will become muddled, and your student’s unique profile may get lost in the mix. It’s better to stick with one or two experts to keep your application focused.

Forget the Ivy League
When did we start telling kids to “stop reaching for the stars”? “Follow your dreams… realistically” We’ve seen a dozen articles about why you shouldn’t bother with top schools with their brand names, high tuitions, and low acceptance rates. We’ve seen a dozen more articles about why you shouldn’t bother with college altogether. Now we’ve talked about the value of a college education at length, so we won’t go through that again. But we do want to remind everyone to go to the best school you can get into.

Sure, applying to top schools is stressful. It’s a lot of pressure for students AND their parents. But college is the first move in a long game of chess. If you can get that first advantage, shouldn’t you? Yes, apply to a range of schools. Yes, explore ALL your options. But don’t count yourself out until you’re actually out. And go to the best school you can get into.


Jon Frank is the CEO and Co-Founder of Admissionado, an Undergraduate and MBA admissions consulting firm.

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