A guest post by Lisa Oppenheimer
Call it the “Scarlet H. ”
The “H? ” “For Helicopter Parent. ”
The dreaded label hovers over all parents even as we try to help (and yes, over help) our children, but never more than when our progeny apply to college. That’s when we become, well…crazy. Legends abound about mom and dad writing essays , berating admissions officers, and, in one particularly creative urban legend, applying to schools on this offspring’s behalf (I’m told by a reliable source that the last one is more or less impossible, but you never know).
Why Hire a College Consultant?
“The only thing worse than helicopter parents, ” berated the commenter after a New York Times post on families and college applications, “are people who hire others to helicopter for them. ”
So let me confess right here… I was more than happy to accept help through professional college admissions consultants when each of my children applied to college. But the reasons might surprise you. It wasn’t, as many might picture, to micromanage every decision on the road to higher ed. Au contraire… it was to get my big “H” out of the way.
It’s Your own Child’s College Search, Not Your own
My reasoning: as I approached my eldest daughter’s sophomore year in high school, I recognized it was impossible – summarily and completely impossible! – for me to engage in her college choices without inserting myself into the equation. We all have got dreams for our children. But since my children became young adults, this became clear that my desires were not necessarily theirs. I’m town and luxury hotels. They’re woods and campgrounds. I’m Edith Wharton and F. Scott Fitzgerald; they’re Stephen Hawking and Jack Kerouac. I really like everything about them and admire their particular drive to simplify and save the planet. And while it is my work as a parent to help guide all of them, I couldn’t help feeling that will my presence might actually steer them in a new and unintended direction.
An objective voice helped make certain any detours – in what ever directions – were theirs. And I got a much-needed voice to remind me that the label attached to their college of choice – brand name or not – didn’t matter. It’s what they did when they got there that would make the difference; what they decided they wanted from a future career, and how hard they were willing to guard it.
Save Your Time and Sanity: Leave this to the Experts
Indeed, I was happy for the essential how-to advice from the pros. But I also got assurance that my kids were pursuing their dreams and never mine. And when worries wracked me, I had an educated resource to deflect my angst away from them. Maybe most important, I got the solace associated with knowing I wasn’t going to mess it up. The people I worked for the purpose of liked it, too, since I was not spending my days obsessively surfing which school made the “best party” list, or which one was voted “best seven years of my life. ”
My oldest in particular ended up pursuing a college I wasn’t especially familiar with and that I probably never would have selected for her. And you know what? This fits her like a glove. The girl loves the environment, she’s doing attractively as a student, and she’s making carefully thought-out decisions about internships and summer jobs to set herself up for a great resume. Every day, I am impressed by something new – things I am now certain she wouldn’t have got accomplished if I had been in the driver’s seat.
And all of it had been achieved because I was miles out of the way.
So if all of the experiences are worthy of the title, “helicopter…”
Nicely slap on an “H, ” and color me scarlet.