PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT OFTEN REVEALS ITSELF IN SUBTLE WAYS
More often than not, however, parental involvement is obviously less noticeable to business school admission officials because applicants are often embarrassed to fess up that their parents are still so heavily involved in their plans to go to a professional school. But sometimes, the issue does crop up in more subtle ways. Jon Fuller, who had been on the admissions staff at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, recalls getting a phone call from the mother of an accepted student.
“It was really weird,” says Fuller. “She said, ‘You didn’t know it but I was blind copied on every message he sent to you. I read all his essays and talked about all the interactions he had with the school. I want you to know but don’t ever tell him I called you’. She was calling to say thanks for admitting her son, but it was a little disconcerting to know that he had his mom approving all this stuff.”
Last year, Fuller notes, one of Michigan’s accepted applicants asked if she could bring her mother with her to the admitted students weekend. “She was an international student and she and her family were not comfortable with her making the decision on her own,” remembers Fuller, now an MBA admissions consultant for Clear Admit. “Her mom came and we treated her as a guest like anyone else. She was part of the decision-making process, too.”
HOVERING PARENTS CAN RAISE A RED FLAG ABOUT A CANDIDATE’S ABILITIES
Fuller believes it happens more often than many realize. “You know that it happens but for the most part the candidates are still savvy enough to understand that the schools shouldn’t know, he says. After all, a hovering, over-involved parent may raise a red flag about an applicant’s ability to make it through an MBA program on his own and to thrive in a demanding post-MBA job. At Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, in fact, a new series of questions to recommenders attempts to ferret out applicants who lack the self-sufficiency and independence required to be successful in business. Says Tuck Admissions Director Dawna Clarke, “We want people who don’t need the coddling that helicopter parents provide.”
Still, helicoptering parents have become a fact of life. “It’s a necessary evil because the schools realize that the parents are not only acting as advisors,” says Fuller. “They are paying the bills. They are paying for test prep and tuition so their opinions are going to hold a lot of sway in the process. Schools have to figure out how to work with it instead of against it.”
When parents call admission officials at schools, their children tend to be some years from applying—rather than active applicants. Clarke says she sometimes fields telephone calls from parents whose children are still undergrads. “They want to know what they should tell their children to increase the odds of an acceptance at Tuck later on,” says Clarke.
CALLS TO WHARTON FROM PARENTS OF CHILDREN STILL IN MIDDLE SCHOOL
That is also true at Wharton. When Judith Silverman Hodara, now an MBA admissions consultant at Fortuna Admissions worked in Wharton’s admissions office from 2000 to 2009, she would frequently get calls from parents of kids who were making the decision about what school to attend for undergrad. “They would be very concerned about how that choice of school would affect their eventual MBA plans,” says Hodara. “Keep in mind that these kids were 18 years old at most, and the MBA would not be for another six to eight years, but there was a tremendous concern about the ‘right choice,’ especially if they were comparing two schools to each other to decide.”
Even more puzzling were the queries from parents of even younger children—in the seventh or eighth grade. “Perhaps more concerning were calls from parents of middle school to see what activities the kids should be involved with if they eventually wanted to go to Wharton MBA,” laughs Hodara. “So this was planning out about 12 to 15 years in advance, at least and gave me pause about how much these kids would have their own agency when they finally reached that age.
How intrusive is parental meddling to a hired admissions coach? “I am always glad to chat with parents at the start of the process,” adds Hodara, “but I do not believe that they need to be editing the essays or giving coaching tips for the interview for their kids who had already graduated from college and were working full time. With this much support at every step of the way, how is the student really going to navigate their own academic and professional careers when they need to? They are soon to be in a world of individuals who are able to succeed on their own energies, and I almost wish there were a moratorium on the “stage” at which parents need to take a step back and say, ‘Ok, this is your show.’”
A MOM WHO WAS OFFENDED BY HER SON’S REJECTION FROM INSEAD
Yet, on at least one occasion, a mother was so apparently offended at her son’s rejection from a business school that she felt compelled to weigh in. When Edwards was director of MBA admissions at INSEAD, she received an email from the mother who actually thanked the school for the rejection because otherwise her son would have “unnecessarily postponed having children.” Besides, the mother added, “given the talent and political connections of the family, he doesn’t need an MBA anyway.”
DON’T MISS: DO’S & DON’T FOR HOVERING MBA PARENTS or INSIDER TIPS FROM AN EXPERT MBA RECRUITER FOR GOOGLE AND MICROSOFT