A timely study on parental honesty and morality in college admissions


This recent report is discussed in this article here, titled “The college application process is an ethical test—and many parents are failing it” https://qz.com/1576807/college-application-process-is-an-ethical-test-many-parents-fail/

Some years ago, a lovely family I know with a number of kids , a family that in every way I could see, worked hard to instill work and moral ethics into their kids, found to their horror, that their brilliant, superb student son bailed on the college apps.

Just couldn’t, didn’t do them and year end and many of the most selective schools’ deadlines were approaching in days.

Dad took off from work, and the two parents rolled up sleeves and got them done. Son just took off.

Son got into Wharton at Penn, today is extremely successful, seems happy too.

That’s just one of many such stories I’ve heard. Yes, I believe that a lot of parents complete their kids apps. Not just these days either. DH has had employees in his department who did zero in applying to colleges,or do they claim. All done for them, and they just picked from what choices their parents showed them. They’re now totally flummoxed with this whole thing, with their kids, having never done it on their own. They’re paying a counselor through some service to assist and guide, and, ahem, do. My one son has a friend who works for one of these companies and he says he often does most of the applications. These are top schools that are in the focus.

It’s nowhere near everyone. I don’t want to overstate the situation, but I have no doubt there are parents who do most all of it

Any college consultant who belongs to organizations like IECA, HECA, NACAC, etc and is filling out their clients’ applications is violating ethical guidelines. It is wrong. Plain and simple. No wonder some young adults have underdeveloped problem solving skills coupled with a sense of entitlement.

And parents who do most of it should be ashamed of themselves. Every kid does not deserve a trophy, as they say.

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So what? It doesn’t make it honest that the parents completed this application regardless of the outcome.

We should be advocating for parents and students to complete their applications honestly…meaning kids do the applications. Sure, parents can proof read or whatever…but saying it’s OK for parents to complete college applications just because you know others who have done so is not encouraging honesty.

What is disturbing is the increased sense that people can rationalize this as somehow ok. “they are too busy… they are working on other things so I am helping with this”… Its NOT ok. Its rationalization, justifying unethical behavior and excuse-making and helicoptering and its wrong.

I know a family who worked closely with a well-known consultant who practically did 90% of the applications, including very substantial work on essays. Student was admitted to most of the Ivies and recently graduated Yale.

The admissions officers don’t care - they certainly know what’s up. Here is a very well done and thoughtful piece in my opinion:


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Some examples show up on these forums where students’ posts suggest that they have no idea of how to calculate a GPA, or how to find what grades / GPA they need to earn this year to raise their GPA to some desired level.

Exactly, @ucbalumnus. Or they simply turn to the web like here on CC, and ask adults to solve their problems and/or do their research for them.

A report from Harvard… perhaps its admissions office is having difficulty screening out what it would consider the ethically dubious applications from what it considers more honestly completed applications?

Do we have the actual study?

The issue, to me, seems to be the vast number of top applicants to top colleges who have no idea what their targets really look for. A parent can’t fake that. Not without a high measure of effort to understand. And then, what does impress. It’s rarely what chance threads imply.

We see this a lot on CC, where hs grades and decent scores, some shiny EC or two are praised by adults and the encouragement goes out. Few ask the kids to do the hard work of understanding the difference between simple hs status and the college leap.

We see this here on CC all the time. Parents are not doing their kids any favors by “helping.” If students are too busy in HS to be bothered completing the common app and writing their essays, how are they going to be successful with their time management in college? Are parents going to be doing their assignments for them too?

Or insider information or privileged connections.

If the professionally polished applications weren’t the ones getting the coveted spots, then it would stop. The colleges are to blame.

While it’s not my style, I personally don’t see a huge difference between a parent being over-influential on essays and a hired essay consultant (or HS counselor for that matter) brainstorming, helping craft, and editing an essay or application. It’s the norm where I am: an adult, either paid or unpaid, will help in some way. What exactly is the line between “fine/helpful” and “too much?” Literally typing the words yourself?

Pro counselors aren’t the magic key. The better ones guide a kid to the right colleges for him or her. Big difference.

Thing is, ucb, this is not as simple as “insider.” I know firsthand what one college expects. The rest I learned with the same process and due diligence I ask from kids. So many of them never get so far as to even read testing requirements (look at how many questions in the past month about “Do I need xxx?” Or kids with the stats. but obviously no understanding. Look at the misunderstandings about the role of essays.) The great ones get it and can spend the time, have the thinking skills to put 2+2 together.

Btw, I have no objection to parents getting involved, when it’s basic help. Kids have never been through this sort of app process before.

I have no problem with parent helping. I DO have a problem with parents completing applications on behalf of the kid.

Reminds me of the “give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime” proverb. Teaching a student how to write a good essay is different than doing it for them. Good writing skills are of benefit to a student in many aspect of life.

And first, good thinking skills. :slight_smile:

And a good moral core.

Great kids are great.