Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Fill Out Your Student’s College Applications For Them

Don't fill out your student's college application for them

Source: Flickr user knightfoundation.

You’ll need just a little background before I tell you about a curious phone call I recently received about a student’s college applications…we have lived in this community long enough for me to know a significant number of my child’s peers since they were in pre-school. I know the school hours for my local high school, and I know when these kids are likely in the hallowed halls of the high school.

So, back to the curious phone call that, sadly, is an all too common occurrence. A parent called me on a weekday during school hours. She told me she had some questions regarding college applications if I had a few minutes. This, in and of itself, did not surprise me; a significant part of my background is in college financial aid, so I figured this might well be the nature of the questions.

I was wrong.

The nature of the questions truly shocked me.  She was not asking questions to help her child through the application process. She was completing the student’s college applications for them.

This mom was talking about filling out the Common Application using the first person pronoun. “I’m sitting here filling out the Common App and…,”  or, “…so, for this question, should I put…” 

I was actually almost rendered speechless, though I’ve learned from my professional peers that this goes on all the time. I know that it happens, and I know the reasons. Students can seem apathetic about the process. College admissions can seem impossibly competitive or overwhelming.

But, I stand firm: You should not complete a student’s college applications for them.

For students, this is like letting your mom do one of the most meaningful assignments of your life! No matter how much financial aid you receive, you are about to drop a significant chunk of change on your child’s college education. You are investing in them sand their future, and you’re not even letting/making them do the work themselves?

No one understands better than I do that our kids work on their own timetable, which is not necessarily the one I would choose when applying to college. (I would have things completed in August, checked, double checked, even triple checked before my senior year began.) But I also understand that this is a stressful period of uncertainty for our kids. It’s scary, and kids often don’t want to face the reality of it until they can hide no more. This often translates into last minute applications, but that’s okay–as long as they’ve done it largely on their own.

Our children need to be mature enough to handle the challenges that come with college attendance, and if they cannot complete the applications themselves, that’s likely a sign that they’re not ready to take that step.

Full disclosure: I, too, have a high school senior living in my house right now.

Do I want my kids to pursue some education after high school?  You bet! But not at the expense of having to do the work for them just to get them out of the house.

Over and over again, I’ve heard high school and college admission counselors say they want to hear from the student, and not the parent, whenever possible, and as I now have a child in this demographic, I completely understand why.

This in no way means that the parent needs to have a completely hands-off approach. We can be there to support, nudge, cajole, or even organize our children. We can make up lists to help them stay organized, if needed. But doing the work for them does them a great injustice.

If they cannot do the work themselves, perhaps they’re just not ready to go. And, yes, I have put my money where my mouth is on this one. I proofread, I remind, and I encourage–but I do not do work that does not rightly belong to me.

I hope you won’t either.

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