Parents Now Get Themselves Involved 
in Graduate Admissions, Too

January 27, 2014

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Michele R. Mahoney, assistant director of graduate admissions at Wheelock College, was startled to hear an applicant's father on the other end of the line.

She had left a message for his son, an applicant to the master's-degree program in social work. The father explained that he had returned her call because his son was busy doing music therapy with elderly people in New York.

He went on to compare his son to the prodigious cellist from the film August Rush, arguing that his son's artistic gifts made up for relatively weak academic credentials.

"We don't even have a degree in music," she remembers thinking.

Thus began one of the many uncomfortable encounters that graduate admissions officers, not used to parental meddling, say they are facing ever more frequently.

"Helicopter parents," already ubiquitous in undergraduate admissions, are invading the graduate-school process, too, driven by the rising cost of advanced degrees as well as by hard-to-break habits of coddling.

Some of these parents have become so aggressive that they've required a new moniker: "snowplow parents," for their impulse to push obstacles out of their adult children's way.

"It's the new norm," Thomas P. Rock, assistant dean for enrollment services at Columbia University's Teachers College, says of parents' involvement in graduate-school admissions. "It's the Gilmore Girls phenomenon. Moms want to stay best friends with their daughter and all her friends."

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