Helicopter Parents: Hovering to Success
By Reese Ramponi, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, April 27, 2012
If my dad had never told me about Dartmouth, I wouldn’t be here. In the Alaskan town where I grew up, many high school counselors weren’t familiar with Dartmouth, so my parents were my most reliable source of information. During the college process, they were the perfect balance between absent and overbearing. It wasn’t until after I was accepted that they told me they’d wanted me to go to Dartmouth since I was born. I’m glad, because if I’d known that, my teenage angst would have surely kept me from even considering it.
Coming from a slew of different schools, countries and socioeconomic backgrounds, the College’s applicant pool varies greatly from student to student. Similarly, so does parental involvement. Throughout her college application process, Caitlin Ardrey ’13 was always in close contact with her parents. Their involvement was initially limited, but after she was rejected early action from another school, her parents became concerned.
“They proofread and were very nitpicky, which was a good and a bad thing,” she said.
Although Ardrey was irritated with her parents, their careful editing was worth it, even with the incredible college counseling resources of her high school, she said.
“They would tell me, ‘I know these things about who you are, and your application doesn’t highlight them enough,’” she said. Ultimately, her parents were able to help her create an application that best represented who she was as a person, according to Ardrey.
Other students also pointed out the importance of parents in the application process, citing both personal knowledge of the applicant and the extra eyes for grammatical errors as advantages of parental input.
“Either my mom or dad reviewed every single word that was typed on all of my college applications to ensure that there were no unnecessary errors,” Ross Brown ’14 said. He added that he went over every step of the process with his parents, from essay ideas to final edits.
While completing the financial aid application and checking for grammar fell to his parents, the ideas and content were his alone, he said. To Brown, his parents were integral in navigating the process, especially because he did not have a strong college counselor.
For Sophia Pedlow ’15, an international student from London, the process was not as easy.
“It definitely required a lot of initiative,” she said. While college was a “hot topic” at dinner, she said, the actual legwork of the application was up to her.
“Since I was in the British school system, my school didn’t have a specific support system to help me with my American college applications,” she said.
While the application process was confusing at first, Pedlow managed to navigate the application, gather recommendation letters and stick the stamps on and mail the letters on her own.
Vipul Kakkad ’13 was also solely in charge of his own application due to the lack of knowledge of American schools and support within his high school in India. Aside from an expensive external counselor, who gave him “cut-and-dry examples” of applications that successfully earned acceptance to state schools, Kakkad said he was on his own. His parents were supportive during the application process, but they lacked the experience of completing a rigorous application like the Common Application.
Brown, who had more concrete parental involvement in the college application process, said that while he sent his parents a few papers to look over freshman year, he now completes his work and applications independently from his parents.
While independence is valuable, extra input can also be helpful, Ardrey said. Smaller applications are up to her, but she still has her parents review cover letters and applications for opportunities that are important to her, a practice she attributes to the precedent set during the college application process.
“People ask their friends to proofread their papers and apps all the time,” she said. “When they’re busy, your parents are the ultimate source of advice. They know you.”
Independence comes eventually, and Ardrey said that this assistance will probably stop soon after college.
I don’t let my dad read my cover letters. I get irritated when he comments on what I should have said in my last Mirror article. He does give good advice, and I’m sure my reluctance is mostly stubbornness. The truth is, I’m terrified by the fact that I don’t yet know how to do my own taxes, fill out the FAFSA or change the oil in my car. We all have things for which we rely on our parents. If I’d found, applied and been accepted to Dartmouth on my own, I’d probably be more independent. But the truth is, I probably wouldn’t have gotten here in the first place without my parents.
Pedlow is a member of The Dartmouth Staff. Brown is a former member of The Dartmouth Staff.