Mothers’ Roles in College Admissions Process (UG/MS): Dos & Don’ts and Case Studies
It’s a universal truth – Mother is the Child’s First Teacher (also a Friend & Mentor). A Mother knows her Child best. But, when it comes to the college admissions (or study abroad) process, there are certain elements that need to be considered carefully by a Mother. Mothers (or Parents) need to know where to help and to what extent. Similarly, too much help can actually jeopardize the college application. Hence, they also need to know where to stop in order to improve the college admission outcome.
A Conversation between a Student and a Counselor:
The counselor asks the student when he will be taking the SAT or ACT test. The student replies, “I don’t know, but my mother signed me up for the test.” The counselor says sarcastically, “I didn’t know that your mom was taking the test.”
There are instances where one would think a Parent or the Mother was the applicant rather than the high school student.
Mother’s Role in the College Admissions Process
Dos and Don’ts
College admission is the first major decision a student will make and they may not know how to research and evaluate a college for fit at the outset.
As a Mom, you should let them form and grapple with their own opinions before jumping in to share your own perspectives. You need to support independent thinking rather than forcing your decisions.
Dos: How Mothers (Parents) Can Help Their Kids with the College Admissions
Be Supportive and Let Your Child Take the Lead
In all parts of the process, let your daughter or son take the lead. It’s important that s/he feels empowered to make these difficult decisions, and not like he or she is being forced into liking one college over another.
Help the Child with Organizing Planning and Administrative Tasks
Mothers (or Parents) can be invaluable in helping students register for tests, join the college mailing list, schedule visits, and interviews, and track application deadlines.
“We would create a to-do list together and then plan when to complete the tasks such as booking the visits online tonight and scheduling flights on Tuesday,“ said Amy, a veteran parent going through the admissions process for the second time. “Creating a folder for each school helped my daughter stay organized—after a visit all the material went to one place.”
Be Reasonable and Practically Intervening
When letting your child make the choice you may have to intervene sometimes, and that’s okay!
If your kid only wants to apply to reach schools, you should encourage him or her to balance those with target and likely schools.
Quite often students might also feel like applying to way too many colleges. If your child decides to apply to 20/30 colleges, step in and remind him or her that this decision requires a lot of work and money. Don’t be afraid to encourage your student to re-work on the college list.
Related Article: How to Make a Balanced College List?
Helping the Kid to Keep a Track of the Deadlines
As a mother (or parent), you could create a spreadsheet or set up a chart or calendar for important dates – registration dates for standardized tests, application deadlines, and scholarship deadlines. The parent could prepare the spreadsheet and let the child fill it in with info. It won’t be a good idea if the parent fills out the data.
You should help your son or daughter in researching colleges on what to look for and how to compare information on different university websites.
Assisting the Kids on Essays and Personal Statement or SoP
Remind them to start working on the application essays (college essays) or personal statements during the summer while in Grade 12 or final year of undergraduate studies (i.e. 4 – 6 months before the application deadlines).
When brainstorming and editing your essay, parents are a great resource. It often helps to get a second or third opinion when reading the same words over and over.
However, the actual writing should completely be done by you. If your voice comes through when you’re representing your best self, college admissions will fall in love with you.
Communicating Financial Parameters
If there is a limited budget for college or the need for students to take loans, communicate this at the outset so students can choose affordable options and have a clear understanding of how loans will affect their future lifestyle.
One mother helped her daughter see what it would mean to take out $15,000 in loans per year, a total of $60,000 over four years. Together, they calculated the interest rate and determined her monthly payments and how old she would be by the time she finished paying off the loan. After sleeping on it, the student decided to attend a less expensive college where she could graduate debt-free.
Sometimes this discussion occurs too late in the process. Example: The student applies and gets accepted to several colleges. Great, until April, when the parents let the student know that whatever scholarships and other aid were received, it was not nearly enough. All that work, tears flow, and the student is angry.
For sure, become familiar with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). – Mark Fisher, College and Career Consultant
Manage your own Anxiety and Disappointment
If your child is not admitted to a favored college be there to support and reassure them and hide any personal disappointment you might feel on their behalf. Send the message that there are many good-fit colleges and that disappointment is an inevitable part of the process.
Always know the progress that your student is making in the college admissions process. Know what essays your student has completed, and what materials he or she may need from you, counselors, teachers, etc.
Also, it’s important to stay informed about the changing admissions landscape. Stay up-to-date on admissions and higher education news by following relevant news sites, blogs, and social media accounts.
You are certainly welcome to follow Stoodnt’s blogs and social media channels. Also, feel free to join Stoodnt Webinar on Community Involvement, Online Summer Programs, Test Prep & Tutoring, and College Essay Tips during COVID-19.
Advice by Ruchi Saran, College Admission Counselor and Mother of Two Kids Studying at UC Berkeley
As a mother, I would say that we should act as a mentor to our kids but let them help make their own decisions. We need to help them find their passion and encourage them to spread their wings and move out of their comfort zones. Finally, we need to teach them to be good human beings with strong values and prepare them for life.
It’s also essential that Mothers or Parents start planning as early as Grade 8 or 9 if you really want to send your kid to a top university after Class 12.
If possible, seek the help of an independent college admission counselor to help with specific portions of the College Admissions Process and not necessarily the whole process.
Dont’s: Things to Avoid for Mothers (Parents) During College Applications
Too Many Inputs in the Essays or SoP
When parents write or edit their child’s writing it sends a message that the student’s ideas are not good enough. With too much feedback, the student’s voice gets lost. It is fine to make suggestions or proofread a final essay. “While the essay is an important part of the application, it is not the make or break factor in most cases,” said Jon Korhonen, associate director of admissions at Boston University.
At Stoodnt, we have seen multiple cases where Mothers’ (or Parents’) involvement helped the students to get into their dream universities. But, too much interference can also backfire. Here is a case study.
Sumit’s Admits at Cornell, Georgia Tech & Rice after Multiple Rejections
Sumit had a great profile – high GPA & GRE, an impressive portfolio of national & international internships along with a long list of awards & honors. Sumit had applied to 6 – 7 top universities in the US (fall 2018). But, he got rejections from all the universities.
Sumit’s mother had approached me and asked to help with his applications for the remaining universities in their list. Initially, we were reluctant since the deadlines were 4/5 days away. However, eventually, we agreed as Sumit’s Mother was very keen to have an application review.
After going through his CV and SoP, I was not too surprised that he got rejections from everywhere. The main problem was Sumit’s voice (his motivation, interests, and aspirations) were completely missing on the essays and SoP. Additionally, due to Sumit’s busy schedule, Sumit’s Mother tried to edit the essays and quite often included a few lines here and there as well (of course, with good intent).
We had to tell her that for the positive outcome, it would be wise if she refrains from actually writing the essay on behalf of Sumit. She quickly understood where we were coming from.
I had spoken with Sumit and her Mom at length. The conversations with Sumit’s mother significantly helped us in this case. As the case with any Mother-Child relationship, Sumit’s Mom provided several insights about his preferences, interests, extracurricular activities & hobbies, social/community initiatives, and career goals.
Those little inputs proved to be immensely helpful with the entire process. If we were acting as Sumit’s admission consultant, his Mom acted as his Mentor. That made the case easier for us and helped Sumit getting acceptances. Read the full story of Sumit’s MS application journey.
Taking the Initiative Every Single Time Can Hamper the Application
Remember, it is the student who is applying. Colleges want to hear the students’ “voice.” We want to hear from the student, admissions personnel say.
Examples: Is the parent always making calls to college personnel?; Or the essay does not sound like that of a student; On the college tour, one’s parent is asking all the questions; The student is tuned out or on their cellphone; The student looks disinterested, but the parent keeps asking questions.
Several parents approach us regularly to help them out with the UG College Admissions. We are also happy to speak to the parents whose children are applying for postgraduate programs. But, at times, we face too many queries from the parents and hardly any communication from the applicant. That raises a red flag for us. More often than not, we have to turn down their requests for working on their kids’ applications because we know we won’t able to help effectively.
Have a look at the following screenshot of 1:1 Online Career Counselling Booking Request:
In the above case, it was the Mother of a final-year student who booked a session with me to understand the process. They also opted for the Personalized University Shortlisting service. We were approaching the application season.
But, every single occasion, it was either the Mother or the Father who was calling and asking about different aspects – which University would be a better choice for MS Computer Science with Data Science specialization, which Professor from a particular university would be a good choice for the MS thesis project, what are the companies in the vicinity of the shortlisted universities, and so on.
For MS programs, we prefer the applicants to ask us those questions and not their parents. I got around 7 emails and 5 calls from them in a month and literally no email/call from the applicant. Eventually, we didn’t work on the application part.
How should it be? Here is a good example:
The above case was pretty much okay. The Mother asked a few basic queries and how she should advise her son about various components of profile building and how to keep a track of certain activities. For a 2nd year student (who is 19 or 20-year old), this is far more acceptable for us. More importantly, the lady (Chandrakala) also confirmed that it would be her son who would call us once he approaches the application season.
Below is the Mother’s feedback for the 1:1 Online Consultation Session
It was too good and informative, I have so many questions in my mind before making a call and I have tabulated everything before call but its completely cleared without asking.
I am able to make a complete schedule from now to my son’s final year’s final sem and following that simply. Now my son realized that he needs to have a good GPA to get an admit to good Universities and he is trying for that and I can see the change.
Taking college admissions advice from Friends and/or Relatives
Friends and relatives are definitely well-wishers. But, not everyone could be the subject matter expert for a process as complex as the college admissions.
Well-meaning friends do not likely know what your child’s academic profile actually is, nor are they likely to be experts on colleges so keep their opinions in perspective.
Note: As a Career Guidance and College Admissions Consulting Organization, we might sound biased. But, objective help from an expert could be particularly helpful for a student in a large public high school or college where personalized guidance may be limited.
Here is a case where the Mother did Research and played the role of a Mediator
Ankita had applied to multiple universities in Fall 2020. Unfortunately, the outcomes didn’t go her way. Later she opted for specific bite-size services. Here is her feedback:
My mother found a blog – and sent it to me since the case was very similar to mine. (The student had a good profile but was getting rejects from multiple colleges). After reading the blog, I searched for some other reviews of Tanmoy Ray and thought he could help me get in my dream college next year. this motivated me to contact Stoodnt.
Given what I had heard from my friends and seniors, I did not trust admissions consultants much. Everyone said they take the money but the services aren’t worth it. But I went ahead with the consultation anyway. I found it worth the money is given that he went over my application thoroughly and I wrote nearly 3 pages of notes from his feedback.
I am an introvert and not at all well with writing long essays or conveying myself with what I write. But Tanmoy’s feedback and recommendation gave me confidence that I can follow them and write my SOP, CV in a much better way.
I do feel these bite-size services are a good idea since not everyone is looking for an end to end package and only require some help to finish their application.
Here are a few testimonials from Mothers who worked with Stoodnt Counselors
I was a very worried parent when it came to choosing the correct college for my son. I wanted the very best for him. The catch was that I wanted the best college which suited him: his personality, his choice of subjects, environment, and the location. This was understood very well by the Sunita Bose and Let’s Talk team. They interacted with Aman and got to know him. The next step then was to choose the college for him. Each step was very well handled, and today, Aman is a very happy student at Colorado State University, USA. Let’s Talk goes the extra mile with you and your child.
– Meenu Patnaik, Mother of Aman Patnaik (Sai International School, Bhubaneshwar), who worked with Sunita Bose
Sunita, in the first meeting, came across as so warm and also professional. As we got talking, I was sure that this was the right place for me because, as a busy parent and a working woman, I needed someone who would take care of everything. It was the best decision I took. I was so comfortable.
– Vinita Sawhney, Mother of Preetika Mitra (DPS Kalinga), who worked with Sunita Bose
I found you through Linkedin. I used to go through your posts & I approached you for my son, who wanted to pursue MS in data science in US. My son diligently followed your advice as in spring the admission process for MS is limited to a few universities only. I’m very impressed with the SOP, which actually streamlines the application process & there is no possibility of missing out any point. As you know with your guidance, he has gotten through in 4 universities. Thank you for your guidance & assistance and thanks to Linkedin for introducing me to you.
– Rajashree Sharma, Mother of Kautilya (MS Admits at UT Dallas, UConn, GMU), who worked with me. Read Kautilya’s full application journey.
Mothers know their children best. Some students will need more parental assistance. Others are able to thrive throughout the College Admission Process with less parental involvement.
It is important for parents to be the steering wheel of their child’s study, college admission journey, and career path. However, knowing when to help, how to help, and how to refrain from crossing the line into too much help is the key.
Remember that college is an experience that your child will have on his or her own; you won’t be making them dinner, you won’t be making their bed, and you surely won’t be making their day-to-day decisions. The application process is meant for students to learn about themselves and to tell admissions officers about their academic interests, their passions, their future — not your academic interests or passions or future.
Author: Tanmoy Ray
I am a Career Adviser & MS Admission Consultant. Additionally, I also manage online marketing at Stoodnt. I did my Masters from the UK (Aston University) and have worked at the University of Oxford (UK), Utrecht University (Netherlands), University of New South Wales (Australia) and MeetUniversity (India).
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