Rights and Responsibilities in the Admissions Process

Katie Creel / Colleges of Distinction »

Those who may be beginning their college search sometimes assume that colleges and universities have complete control over the admissions process. In fact, there are established regulations that almost every college, university and high school must abide by to be fair and ethical.

The Statement of Principles of Good Practice (SPGP), set forth by the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), specifies some important rights and responsibilities for every member of the process: students, parents, and counselors.

The Right to Know

One of the most important rights for students and parents is the right to information. College and university professionals (as well as high school college counselors) must provide all of the open, honest information that students need in order to make the best decision about college.

Colleges must be open and consistent about deadlines. The SPGP states that a “College and University member agree that they will include a current and accurate admissions calendar. They will state clearly all deadlines for application, notification, housing, and candidates’ reply requirements for both admissions and financial aid.” In fully understanding this statement, students have the right to know specific deadlines for submitting their applications without penalty.

Parents and students also have the right to information from their school counselor.  The SPGP says that counselors must “provide a program of counseling which introduces a broad range of postsecondary opportunities to students.” That means that parents and students can reasonably expect their high school counselor to make presentations, hold information sessions, and find other ways of making good information about the process available to them.

The Responsibility to Work

Parents and students also have clear obligations in the process. Students would often prefer someone else to do research for them—after all, it’s a big, confusing project. But every college-bound senior should take the main responsibility of researching all of his or her college possibilities.

By doing this, the student will learn not only a college’s requirements for admission, but also about the institution as a whole—an important part of the decision-making process. The more students know about the schools they’re considering, the better their chances of being happy with their choices.

Students also have the responsibility to complete their own essays, questions, activity resumes, and all other parts of the application. Parents sometimes feel they should help with the application in order to enhance their son or daughter’s chances for admission.

In fact, by helping in this way, they will be doing a great deal of harm. Colleges and universities frown on such parental “help”; if it is suspected that Mom or Dad wrote the admissions essay, then the student is much less likely to be admitted.

So what can parents do to help? It is perfectly acceptable for parents to take charge of paying application fees, making sure test scores are sent, and making sure that everything is organized. It is also a great idea for parents to go over admissions materials with students, brainstorm questions to ask during a visit, and even ask questions themselves. Although they should not re-do a student’s work, it is acceptable for parents to proofread student essays for spelling and grammar. There are many ways that parents can help their son or daughter with this difficult process.

For more information

If you are interested in a particular college or university, ask for clear information on what their admissions policies are and what kind of academic programs they offer. The Admissions office should be able to provide this information to you.