The Washington Post

Admissions 101: Ban parents from final college visits

Students only for April college visits. Bring the family to graduation. (Jessica Hill/AP)

So why mess it up by having all those parents there, asking irrelevant questions, bragging on their kids, taking photos, making incorrect assumptions, embarrassing the admittees and spoiling what should be a fun time full of future possibilities?

When my children asked that I stay away from a campus visit that was important to their final selections, I said okay. I know we are paying the bill, but aren’t they likely to do best at a school that appeals to their tastes rather than ours? Shouldn’t they be allowed to soak up the ambiance by themselves, without us butting into conversations and offering, without invitation, our own reflections on each school?

I have long argued that the April visits are the time to get down to details. Study the course catalog. Sample the cafeteria food. Spend a night in a dorm and talk to as many undergraduates as you can find. Parents are probably better at that kind of investigation than students, but we can do a lot of it online and offer our views at quiet moments after the kid gets back home.

Or am I presuming too much? Do students want to have their parents there? What is your experience? If you are in a college-applying family, what are your plans for April?

Jay Mathews is an education columnist and blogger for the Washington Post, his employer for 40 years.


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