The Huffington Post
February 2, 2012
By, Debra Ollivier
Clinical psychologist and parenting expert Wendy Mogel is fond of recalling an anecdote that sums up parental obsession with college admissions. One day her friend, a college placement counselor, got a call from a father who had promptly returned her phone call. In the background, she heard an odd noise.
“What’s that noise?” she asked.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” the dad replied. “I can talk. I’m just doing a colonoscopy.”
Wisely, the college placement counselor told the father that they’d table their conversation until after the procedure.
This might be extreme, but it underscores the extent to which parents have become overly involved in the college admissions process and its gatekeepers, in many cases to the detriment of their kids. Stories abound about parents so zealously involved that they’ve even written their kids’ personal essays and mistakenly signed their own names on the application. Gone, in any case, are the halcyon dates when teens could get into a great college with simply a solid GPA and SAT scores and limited parental supervision.
Fear of competing (or not) in an increasingly globalized job market has driven parents to micro-manage their kids with the gusto of hedge fund managers negotiating investment portfolios. It doesn’t help that beyond great transcripts and SAT scores, teenagers now need their own personal portfolios that include years of community service, extracurricular activities, and college prep courses that start, as some joke, in pressure-cooker pre-schools. (Mogel contends that kindergarten is now “boot camp for the second grade standardized tests.”)
They also need to apply to not one or two colleges but sometimes more than ten. Although the Common Application is used by more than 400 schools, many also require additional personal essays designed to convey formative intellectual experiences.