Do Their Parents Think?
All colleges require student
applicants to describe themselves and detail their accomplishments
and activities as part of the admission process. But few
schools ask for information from the people who know the
applicants best: their parents.
Smith is one of the few.
“I think that parents feel that they are completely disregarded in the college
process,” said Debra Shaver, director of admission. “Admission officers—me included—tell
parents they need to back off and let the student control the process. And yet,
let's face it, it has been our jobs for 18 years to be involved in our children's
Smith seeks parents’ input about their children, to gain information about applicants
that could not be obtained from anyone else, Shaver explains. The college began
offering parents the opportunity to write recommendations on behalf of their
teenagers nearly 20 years ago.
The testimonials always add
texture to the application package, said Shaver, who makes
sure to keep a box of tissues nearby when reading the parents’ heartfelt notes.
Among the most notable, Shaver
recalls, was a poem created by a father with his daughter
in mind. Then there was the video submission from a non-English-speaking
mother who spoke as her daughter translated.
“Each parent recommendation is different, just like each student is different,” Shaver
said. “You might think that parents do nothing but brag, but they take this exercise
About 45 percent of the parents
of traditional-aged applicants submit a letter, Shaver said.
A few years ago, Smith instituted a length limitation of
a single page because the narratives tended to be lengthy.
Although parents’ submissions
are an important part of understanding an applicant, Shaver noted, an admission
decision is primarily based on academics, and a parent letter will never make
or break the decision.
“At some point in the letter most parents acknowledge that the process of writing
was difficult, emotional and cathartic,” said Shaver. “They almost always write
how appreciative they are just to have been asked.”
The Admission Office is currently
reviewing applications for the Class of 2016.