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Letting Your Grad Student Go

Parents who are tethered to their children continue to hover over the graduate admissions process — and beyond.
Two-thirds of the admissions officers surveyed at top business schools reported seeing more parental involvement in applications now than five years ago.
 
Thomas P. Rock, past president of the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals and director of admissions at Teachers College, Columbia University, says parental hovering — and what to do about it — is a common topic of conversation among his colleagues.
 
“During the admissions process, a mother became more excited about the program than the daughter did — so the mother enrolled,” says Dr. Rock, whose staff has recently contemplated a separate program for the parents who attend Teachers College’s admit weekend, an orientation once limited to students.
 
Some of this can be seen as a generational phenomenon. As the millennial generation, born roughly between 1978 and 2000, grows up, they carry habits, well honed in the undergraduate admission process, into graduate school. Another contributing factor is that parents who are chipping in want a greater say in their financial investment.
 
Anna Ivey, a private admissions consultant, advises parents never to call on behalf of a child. She remembers calls she got when she was dean of admissions at the University of Chicago’s Law School: “My son or daughter is very busy, too busy to deal with this.” She asked to speak directly to the applicant.
 
For Ms. Ivey, other no-nos are parents calling to negotiate an extension on a missed application deadline, essays not written in the voice of the student, or the parent who wants in on every meeting, every phone call. Dr. Rock has even questioned whether it was the applicant — or a parent — on the other end of the phone.
 
Here is where the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which ensures the protection of a student’s education records, comes in handy. “We’re happy to talk to a parent about general stuff, but once it gets into the specifics — like, can you tell me the status of the application, or has everything been submitted, or why wasn’t he or she accepted — we really have to speak to the applicant,” Dr. Rock says.
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