The temptation to help is just too overwhelming. Helicopter parents who hover and take control during the college admission process mean well, but are often motivated by fear.
Parents concerned about the prospects of their child's being accepted to their dream college -- or for some parents, "to any college at all" -- frequently become anxious, overinvolved and end up doing dumb things that actually stymie the process.
Amid the college search and applications, some things to avoid:
Talking about college nonstop. Don't chatter on about how difficult it is to get in, where other students are going, who didn't get in at particular schools, which extracurricular activities someone did, etc. Such behavior is a huge turnoff for students.
Instead, set a "college talk" time. Follow-through is important. Demonstrate to your child that you want to repair any damage already done.
Looking for a "back-door" entrance. Stop trying to scheme your children's entrance to colleges where they probably don't belong. Don't tell them to suddenly become consumed with Greek theater because you heard the classics department was undersubscribed. Instead, allow them to follow their passions and present themselves accurately in their applications.
Testing, retesting and testing again. Repeated tests are time-consuming, stress-inducing and expensive.
Instead, by the end of sophomore year or the beginning of junior year of high school, determine the best test for your child. Every college accepts both the SAT and the ACT. Purchase prep books for both tests (they have multiple tests so you can share among friends), take benchmark tests, compare results of the two and prep for the one that your student says offers the best chance for improvement.
Counting on connections. Just because your father-in-law plays golf with someone who knows somebody in the administration really doesn't mean much to the 24-year-old recruiter who is reading the application.
Instead, make sure your child asks for letters of recommendation from teachers, advisers, coaches or others who really know them and can write about what they'll contribute to the college community.
Focusing on prestige. Rid yourself of your preconceived notions of what certain colleges used to be like.
Instead, stay open-minded and focus on the fit for your child. Where will he or she thrive?