Know Parents’ Role in the MBA Admissions Process

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com

If Mom and Dad are actively involved in your MBA application process, then it might be time to rethink their role at this critical career crossroads. The admissions committee wants to see applicants with demonstrated leadership and maturity, which is hard to convey with parents chiming in at every step along the way.

So-called “helicopter parents” may have the best intentions, but their interfering actions could unwittingly jeopardize their child’s chances of admission to a top business school. Millennials, defined roughly as anyone born between 1980 and 2002, have an upbringing rooted in play dates, involved parents and constant feedback and praise for their accomplishments.

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Millennials typically enjoy a cozier parent-child relationship than any previous generation, but it’s important for parents to strike the appropriate balance between taking an active interest in their adult child’s education and career choices and hijacking the responsibilities those choices entail. This is true even if parents are fully or partially footing the bill, which is more and more often the case, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s latest Prospective Students Survey Report.

Business schools certainly welcome parents when they come to visit their enrolled students, and tolerate those who join their children on a general admissions tour. But unlike undergraduate admissions, where parents are assumed to be heavily involved, the expectation in MBA admissions is that students are independent, fully formed professionals. When parental involvement becomes intrusive, it raises a serious red flag about the candidate’s ability to be successful in the program.

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So what level of parental involvement is appropriate when it comes to the b-school admissions process? In my view as an MBA consultant, it’s perfectly all right for parents to get in touch with my company for information about how admissions consulting works, to chip in or cover the costs of consulting, or to provide helpful insight or act as a sounding board for their children’s essays – if they request it.

Parents should not attempt to guide the process themselves, however. I’ve had parents ask for conference calls to discuss their child’s issues without the applicant on the phone. Getting on a call without my actual client on the line makes no sense.

We’ve also known cases of parents impersonating their child when contacting the school admissions office with questions about financial aid, application status and more. If discovered, this deception will cause irreparable damage to the applicant’s candidacy.

The truth is, parents may know their children very well in a certain light, but they don’t necessarily know how to reveal the aspects of their child that will be most appealing to business schools. In some cases, their opinions are slanted in completely the wrong way and can actually be harmful.

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We have had many incidents of parents nearly derailing the process when they critique and tear apart the applicant’s MBA essays that my consultants have already determined are pretty much good to go. When that happens, we’re left wondering why they paid for expert consulting in the first place.

The urge to insert themselves into the admissions process likely stems from a desire to protect their children from failure or disappointment, but parents can serve their children’s needs better by cheering from the sidelines and offering moral support if a setback or ding does occur.

Even if they still rely on Mom and Dad for advice and financial support, graduate-level students are adults who are expected to be capable of making independent, adult decisions. If you’re the student in this scenario, make sure you set limits with your parents’ involvement so as not to jeopardize your candidacy by creating a poor impression of your decision-making capacities.

And parents: Trust that you’ve done a great job and that your child is responsible enough to make the right decisions for his or her future.

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