Admission Officers Share Advice They Give Their Own College-Bound Kids


Editor’s note: A version of this post originally appeared on Admitted in March 2016. It’s being republished as part of NACAC’s Best of the Blog series.

The college search and application process continues this summer for rising seniors.

In a 2016 New York Times article, nine college admission officers offered a unique perspective on what lies ahead.

As parents themselves, the interviewees shared the advice they offer to their own college-bound children.

“They know that while parents can’t control where their child is admitted, they can influence whether their teenager views the college process as stressful and frustrating or as an exciting time filled with opportunity,” note authors Jennifer Wallace and Lisa Heffernan.

Words of wisdom highlighted in the piece include:

“There’s a rule in our house that I pay for the applications completed before Labor Day, but after that, my children are responsible for the fees. Getting those applications in early is the best way to reduce stress senior year.”
— Clark Brigger, executive director for undergraduate admissions, Penn State University

“For our children, it’s important to earn some money in the summer, so they can do things like put gas in the car. As an admissions officer…I’m not looking for students to have done any particular activity in the summer; but instead, I’m looking to see how students grew from whatever they undertook. I do see students who are doing magnificent research and that is a great thing. And I see students, like my daughter, who are working as a lifeguard at the pool all summer, and they are both learning from those experiences.”
— Laura Simmons, assistant director of undergraduate admissions, Georgia Institute of Technology

“What I tell students, and my own kids, is that you don’t have to take every advanced class. My high school daughter, for example, is taking advanced math and science courses but chose not to take advanced English and history. You should challenge yourself. For some students this might mean taking the most advanced classes, but it also might mean taking the most advanced classes appropriate for that student, and not spreading themselves too thin.”
— Stuart Schmill, dean of admissions, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“As parents we know that our kids may not get accepted everywhere they apply. I advise students to complete all of their applications ahead of early decision news [when] they are in a positive frame of mind. It is far easier to rebound from disappointment and proceed when you have a game plan already in place.”
— Doug Christiansen, vice provost for university enrollment affairs and dean of admissions and financial aid, Vanderbilt University (TN)


Read the full article and check out NACAC’s Preparing for College: Senior Checklist.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

One thought on “Admission Officers Share Advice They Give Their Own College-Bound Kids”

  1. Solid advice from experts in the field. Setting expectations and parameters is incredibly helpful to support and guide your college-bound child. Establishing a working game plan and being diligent about that plan will help students overcome adversity and set them up for success once they are in college. Critical thinking, grit, time management, and organization skills are life skills that transcend the college application process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *