College Admissions Officers Share Their Parent Horror Stories

Story Time!

So, on my first day of college orientation, we met in the common square area to begin the tour. Out of 50 of us, no one had brought a parent along.

Shortly through the tour, one of the other students audibly sighed and grumbled "seriously?" We all kind of turned to look at him, but he continued along as if he were fine.

At our next stop, I noticed him glaring at an older man. As we walked across the campus I noticed the man was following us.

You guys... it was comically bad.

I need you to picture this. We're walking through a crowd full of teenagers, they were buzzing with activity.

A group was literally playing volleyball while some others sunbathed, making the whole thing into a terrible cliche. Like, the volleyball scene from the montage in the movie Top Gun kind of bad.

There, in the middle of the youthful hustle and bustle, was one middle-aged man wearing beige cargo shorts and a button-down shirt. His sunglasses covered an enormous percent of his face and he literally looked away and whistled as we passed.

This kid's dad had totally followed him to orientation, then snuck around behind the tour looking like the incognito mode icon!

The poor kid never said anything, or broke with the group but we didn't get too much further before everyone was staring and snickering. All credit to him, he didn't even flinch, so neither did our tour guide.

There were some looks exhanged, but nothing was said. We all just finished the tour simmering in the awkward.

So when one Reddit user asked:

"College admissions employees of Reddit, what is your most ridiculous story of parents getting involved in their child's application?"

I was so in it to win it. Now that I'm done laughing and reliving this one teenagers cringe-worthy college intro, I'm going to share some more beautiful moments of awful.

Have fun!

"Suck My Fat Degree"

From the other end, my mother tried to call the university I was accepted to to slander me with false tales of drug charges ect to get my offer rescinded. She was pissed because I "didn't ask her permission to go" - despite the fact she'd thrown me out of the house 5 years prior and we hadn't spoken since. The best bit? She called the wrong university.

Student Doesn't Care

Just completing everything for them, the student doesn't care one lick about going to school, but the parents can't wait to get rid of them - which is the opposite of what college is all about. Those parents get one or two semesters of freedom, before the student flunks out and is back with them most likely forever.

Not Talking To You Mom

I've had parents call to ask why their child didn't get accepted into our graduate program. Thankfully in the US there are privacy laws (FERPA) that we can cite to explain why we can't discuss it with parents.


I'm in the registrar's office. The student does all business and enrollment through a portal. Some parents demand the password, get it, and do all the work: pick classes and enroll the student, make advisor appointments, all that.

Among other things, uni teaches you how to handle yourself in a bureaucracy. These students don't even learn that. They're still their parents' child.


I've worked for a major public University for the past 11 years. The range of things you get from parents trying to order transcripts for their students, to parents calling to ask about their (grown adult) grad student child.

The worst is when a parent calls asking about tuition, and the kid isn't actually enrolled. They've just been cashing mom/dad's check.

Sorority Life

Used to be part of admissions. Once had a parent call to complain that his daughter was accepted. He was distraught and said he didn't want her there. As the conversation went on, it turned out he DID want her there, but was upset that she was touring campus (that day) with his wife, and they were looking at sororities.

Just A Tech Guy

Had a parent literally work their way down the phonebook trying to get what she wanted. She eventually got to me, the system admin for the admissions system at the time. I just deflected the barrage of insanity with, "I don't have the ability to make any admission decisions, I am just the tech guy." To which she asked if I could just change a thing or two to let her son in. That was pretty bad.

The Professor's Mom

Not admissions, but my husband works for a college. A PROFESSOR's mom called and complained about her little baby not getting tenure.

He wasn't doing his job, was stealing money from the school, and was boinking an undergrad.

LGBT Students

Not employee but I can go for my mom!

I applied binding early decision to the best graduate program in the state, an hour from home. Was 22, some classmates much older. Got in on my own with my own materials and etc.

But, when time for the campus tour came, I was between college and grad school, living at home. Working but couldn't afford to live by myself and my parents were actually mostly okay to me. Even lent me one of their cars to drive to work and the gym.

But, apparently I was not to be trusted driving for an hour alone, and my mom was very nosy about my school prospects. So, she just told me she was coming. Huge argument, I said it wouldn't look mature of me. Then she finally said, either I go as well or you don't get to go!

So it was the admissions counselor, five students, and my mom and I. I tried to ask about offerings for LGBT students and she stood on my foot to stop me! She's always told me she's scared for me and wants me to hide my orientation. Thank God she only stuck with me for the physical tour, and I apologized to the guy later about her.

Staying In The Men's Dorm

We have a summer program for incoming freshmen where they can stay the weekend in the dorms and do activities on campus and whatnot to get to know the school before they come up for the fall. One time a mom just assumed she would be staying with her student. In the dorms. In the male dorm. The kicker was they had driven something like 10 hours to get to campus, and she refused to not stay with her son in the dorm despite him already having a roommate assigned and everything. She screamed and cried, even denied us when we said we would help her get a hotel. Eventually she swore at one of the school's VPs and left with her son. I felt awful for the kid. He seemed pretty normal, and I don't think he ended up coming in the fall.

There's always a ton of crazy parents but that one stood out. We had a casual hand signal for crazy helicopter parents when we were talking with coworkers and other staff.

A Comb

As a writer of magazine articles, I got an assignment to write about "helicopter parents" just as the term was becoming mainstream. I interviewed college admissions people to ask their views and their stories.

My favorite was an admission director who said that while freshmen photos were being taken for incoming students' IDs, one mother pushed others aside to run a comb through her son's hair as he posed for the photo.

Living Their Dream

I had a friend whose parents pulled her out of her dream school so she could live THEIR dream about going to school abroad.

She had a full ride scholarship to a great university where she was swimming competitively. She comes home after her Freshman year only to discover her parents have pulled her out of school and enrolled her in a French university. Just like that.

She was doing Bio, intending on becoming a doctor and later getting into med school. I met her in my physics class.

Her parents had signed her up for the wrong degree. And she wasn't fluent in French, either. And to make matters worse? After a few months there, her parents started complaining about the uni, asking why she wasn't going to a better one!

Her parents so desperately wanted her to have the dream European university experience that they didn't listen to her at all.

She lost her competitive edge for swimming. Her grades dropped because she couldn't understand the assignments. And when she finally returned to the US a year later, she had lost her scholarship (that's what happens when you drop out of a university, mom and dad!) and was forced to pay to go to a completely different university ... starting over as a freshman.

My heart broke for her.

Some Stories

Worked in admissions for a Russell Group university in the UK. Some Stories:

  • a mother threatens to find where I live and cut off my legs because I wouldn’t offer her son a place on our medicine course (medicine applications in the UK have a very strict procedure and no you can’t just call in). I nearly cried with how vile she was to me. Anyway, I found their address and sent them an envelope that Just said ‘f*ck you’ on the back. Morally dubious, I know
  • after stating I couldn’t offer a guy a place on Economics because we needed AAA and he had BBC, he passed he phone to his mother who said ‘but he was part of the hockey team, and I think you clearly need the applicants so you would be at a loss if you didn’t have him’. No love, we don’t need your kid all that bad
  • I tried to delicately explain to a dad that the BTEC qualification (an equivalent to the A-level that isn’t typically accepted for more competitive courses like medicine, law and veterinary) wasn’t accepted for veterinary. The issue is, it’s a more practical, vocational qualification and not very academic so it doesn’t really suit for these courses. I essentially had to say his son wasn’t clever enough (or hadn’t picked the right qualification to do to prove that). He then said I was a stupid woman and put the phone down on me.
  • a guy rang me from Ghana and I rejected him for Law. He then said I was cursed for eternity and hoped I would die in childbirth.
  • a woman was rejected from a masters course and wanted to know why - because she had applied to so MSc Chemistry and her bachelors was in history and she hadn’t even attached a personal statement. She then said ‘I bet you don’t even understand what it’s like to be at university, working in the sh*tty admin job you do’, to which I explained I had a bachelors from a Russell group myself, and was due to start my masters in September. Go choke to death on a d*ck. ma'am.

I could go on forever. I hated that job.

But Your Child Is The Student?

In the two years I’ve been in contact with a family about their student’s interest/application I have never once spoken to or received an email from their child.

When I said I would love to hear from the student directly, The parent said something along the lines of: “I’m surprised you would want to contact my child because they’re a minor.”

How Admission Works

One year, I spent a summer working in the admissions office of a very selective university in New England. During the middle of the summer, I want to say it was in July, I answered a seemingly normal call from a mother who wanted to know what she needed to do to get her son in to the incoming freshmen class.

Me: "Thank you for calling Selective School Admissions Office, this is Wolfgang, how may I help you?"

Her: (pleasantly enough) "Hi, I'm calling to find out what my son needs to do to be part of this freshmen class"

Me: "I'm sorry ma'am, let me make sure I understand. Your son was admitted, and you want to know what he needs to do next to accept his offer? That deadline was in May."

Her: "No, no, no, he hasn't applied yet, but I want him to go here this fall"

Me: "Well, applications were due January 1, and admissions decisions were sent out in the spring. He can apply this fall to be a part of next year's incoming class"


Me: "Perhaps he can consider taking a gap year or taking classes at his local college. That may strengthen his application for when he eventually does apply."

Her: "This is ridiculous, I cant believe this. How much is this going to cost me? Are there extra fees I can pay for a late application? Who do I need to speak to?"

Me: "I'm sorry ma'am, but that is how the admissions process works. It takes time to read through all of the applications we receive, so we have deadlines to make the admissions process fair for everyone. Our incoming class has already been finalized, and any spots that do open will be going to students on our waitlist. As of now, we do not anticipate any spots opening up as we are slightly over enrolled."

She hung up after that. Needless to say that kid didn't get least not from that phone call.

It may be possible to bribe your way in to a good school, but there's a proper way to do it, and that isn't by asking a college student to let your kid in over the phone.


One year I was working the orientation speech from the president of the university to the parents of incoming freshmen and he told this story.

He mentioned that one time, a mother of a kid called him, the president of the university to complain that her son's classes were too hard and he needed more sleep.

So he asked the mom "so, what do you want your son to do some day?"

And she answered "finance and business" (not surprising, the school I attended had a well known business school).

The president then said "Ma'am, imagine one day your son works for [big famous investment firm] and he's tired and working very hard at his job. If you called the president of [big firm] and told them your son was working too hard and needed more sleep, do you know what would happen? Your son would likely be fired the next day"

This was clearly his message to parents of "Jesus Christ, do NOT call the president of the university to complain about your kid's classes".

Thanks, But No Thanks, Dad

When I got accepted to a university out of the city and got denied to the one in city my dad tried to call the university in city and sue them unless they gave me an admission offer.

Helping your kids is a natural reaction for parents and fully expected.

But knowing how far is too far is important.

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