College Admissions Scandal: Three Take-Aways

Everyone, including me, seems to be surprised and disgusted by the recent college admissions scandal reported in the New York Times and elsewhere.  Why would caring parents hand out thousands of dollars in bribes to get their teen into college? Maybe they felt stressed and scared.

Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman:

Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are two parents charged in the college admissions scandal.

There has to be a better way.   And there is:  99.99% of parents take the honest path to helping their teens get into college.  Parents can help in honest ways. I’m honored to assist any of these parents when they call.

Since 2005 I’ve spoken about getting into college to teachers, parents, counselors and students in person, online, and on television.  I’ve worked side by side with two caring colleagues, John Boshoven and Geri Markel.

Let’s see what we can learn from the college admissions scandal.
1. A popular new term–bulldozer parent.

2. The best college is the college that fits you.

3. Parents can help in honest ways.

1. A popular new term from the college admissions scandal–bulldozer parent.

Just when you thought being called a “helicopter parent” was bad, now there is something worse…being called “a bulldozer parent.”  Wondering if you are one?  Unlikely that you are. In case you are curious, here are the characteristics.

  • Helicopter parent: This is a parent who has problems letting go. We’re talking about more than doing your teen’s laundry if they attend college near your home.  A helicopter parent calls the professor and makes an appointment for their son when he is having problems in Calculus 101.
  • Bulldozer  parent: This label can fit a parent embroiled in the college admissions scandal. According to Maria Lianos-Carbone, “the bulldozer parent will forge ahead, removing all obstacles before their child, ensuring success at every turn. While well-intentioned and meant to “protect” the child from short-term harm,  a bulldozer style of parenting ultimately results in a psychologically fragile child, with poor coping strategies and resilience.” Although this term has recently become popular, people have been using the term “bulldozer parent” (also known as snowplow or lawnmower parent) since 2014, including psychologist Rachael Sharman.
  • Free-range parent: This parent is “fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape,” according to Lenore Skenazy.
  • Many parents are often a combination of a free-range parent and a type of authoritative parent, who is highly responsive, but also sets high standards.

    An alternative for parents affected by reading about the college admissions scandal

    Find more Essay Coaching tips like this on Pinterest

What kind of parent are you?   Learning from failure, and the resilience that comes from the process, is necessary to learning how to succeed, says PBS and NYTimes writer Frank Bruni.

That’s why bulldozer parents really aren’t helping their teens in the long run. But what SHOULD parents do? Read on.

2. The best college is the college that fits you.

A second take-away from the college admissions scandal is that there are many options for colleges.  More than 800 colleges accept the common application.  Hundreds of colleges are not looking for 4.0 students, according to this article from USA Today.

As high school counselor John Boshoven said in our popular book, Solving the College Admissions Puzzle, students and their parents should select a college like they select a coat, looking at fit, feel, flair, cost and function.

An alternative for parents affected by reading about the college admissions scandal

“Select a college like you select a coat,” says John Boshoven in Solving the College Admissions Puzzle.

In other words, make sure the college fits you–fits your abilities and interests. Going to a college too competitive for your abilities is like wearing a coat that is made of scratchy wool or too small for your body.  Why make that choice when there are so many coats out there that will fit you perfectly, that you will enjoy wearing?

3. Parents can help in honest ways.

The third take-away is that parents want to help but often don’t know what to do.  We nag.  We beg. We make deals. Get your applications done! Write an essay draft, please!

Parents spend hours helping their college-bound teen…researching or visiting prospective colleges, for starters

How do you become a better parent to a college-bound student? There is no script.  Ask around. Ask teachers, friends, relatives.  Read books. Talk to your teen. Listen to your teen. Read materials from schools, both high school, and college.  Look for talks and classes on the topic in your community at libraries, high schools, and through community centers.  If you are still feeling stressed, consider hiring a professional.

When it comes time to write a college application essay, here are some student tasks.

  • Research colleges thoroughly
  • Organize the essay questions and application deadlines in one place
  • Choose a topic using good judgment
  • Write it like you’re telling a story
  • Edit frequently and carefully

There are ways parents can help with these tasks above.  How?  Read more about that here!

How Adults Can Support Students Who Are Working On Their College Admissions Essay

I love teaching about college application essays because they are a great opportunity for students to:

  1. Learn about themselves
  2. Think about their future
  3. Become stronger writers

Embrace the opportunity.

Debbie Merion
Founder, Essay Coaching

Need more assistance with writing your college application essay?  Check out the free Essay Coaching quizzes here.  Would you like to work with a principled, honest, award-winning writer who helps businesses, authors and students tell their story in a compelling, meaningful way?  Write Debbie Merion: