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Liz Davis Headshot

How to Avoid Becoming 'That' Parent

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Not so surprisingly, like a school year, the world of college admission is also very cyclical. Every fall we're highly regarded recruiters and marketers, traveling across the country and the world to persuade the cream of the crop that our institution is the best. Yet every spring, we morph into salespeople trying to sell a $200,000 investment. Just as our roles change, so do those of the students and parents we interact with daily. Prospective students worship us until they are admitted; then we are forgotten. Heaven forbid they are waitlisted or rejected and we never stop hearing from them. Parents however, are wildly unpredictable. One minute you're a soothsayer and the next you are their child's worst nightmare; a nightmare that they more than likely created.

We have all been embarrassed by our parents and have subsequently sworn not to be a repeat offender. But I can tell you now; unless you have experienced the behind the scenes of college admission then you are doomed when it comes to schlepping your children off to college. Firstly, when you decide to call the admission office on behalf of your child, it's okay to be yourself, literally. We understand that your child is in school at 1:15 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon. And if he or she is not, then that is a red flag on our end. So you're not doing your future college grad any favors by calling and pretending to be them. It's much easier to ditch the youthful, non-smoker-sounding voice and carry on the conversation as John's mother or father. You would be surprised how many of these phone calls we receive and how much pleasure we take out of hearing parents hesitate when we ask them to repeat their name.

I hope it goes without saying that it is also not helpful to yell, make lavish demands or divulge all of your family secrets over the phone. I'm sorry you lost your job and I wish I could accept your child, but the fact that your great uncle attended our university for one semester, 60 years ago, means absolutely nothing. Yelling at us will be treated with lengthy silence, which simultaneously involves us putting one hand over the receiver and craning our necks to find someone in the office to sympathize.

Probably my favorite admission 'sin' that parents commit is the leverage technique. This usually involves a miffed parent comparing his or her child's grades, test scores, extracurricular activities (or lack thereof), to another student that received an offer of admission. Really? Do you work for The College Board? Are you the high school guidance counselor? Okay that's what I thought. Also, not telling me how to do my job would be a great way to keep the conversation going.

I get it. Parents want the best for their kids. And having been the first one to go through the college application process, I'm thankful that my parents made me get on the phone if I had a question about my application. They made me write the letters to financial aid offices begging for more money. And while my parents were known to make my cheeks red on more than one occasion, I am thankful that they showed me how to not be 'that parent', well before I experienced it firsthand.

So in retrospect, in conclusion, if you heed my warnings or if you have parents like mine -- there may be a shot for you down the road. If not, I can at least tell you there will always be an admission representative obligated to answer the phone when your time comes. Just try be nice. At least I can wholeheartedly tell them I tried.