By Amy Pimentel, Financial Aid Outreach Specialist

College of the Sequoias


There’s been much discussion around the role of helicopter parents and overparenting, but I see high school and postsecondary institutions doing a lot of handholding and doing whatever it takes to ensure students don’t fail. The sacrifice? Students lack accountability. They suffer no consequences for their actions or inactions. As a result, they lack a sense of urgency, don’t respect deadlines, and fail to take ownership of their lives.

I live and work in California’s Central Valley, serving Kings and Tulare County.  About 25 percent of the population lives in poverty and we have a large number of undocumented students. Only 14 percent of the residents hold a Bachelor’s degree. It’s by all means an underprivileged population.

In my role as a Financial Aid Outreach Specialist for a community college, I work with staff at 40 feeder high schools to assist their students and families in applying for financial aid in time for California’s Cal Grant deadline of March 2nd. While the majority of our students have financial need, and nearly all stress about affording college, there’s low workshop attendance and unprepared students who “forget” despite class reminders, letters, emails, texts, and home phone calls. They know that when push comes to shove, they will knock on their counselor’s door at the last minute and get assistance and they think the deadline doesn’t matter because it will be extended for them.

Counselors experience this in every step of the college application process regardless of student’s income level.

The response has been to develop more programs and do more hand-holding resulting in students who are less skilled to maneuver the responsibilities of adulthood.

Former Stanford Dean Julie Lythcott-Haims, has discussed the eight skills parents should ensure their 18-year-old has. How can we apply some of these skills as educators?

1. An 18-year-old must be able to talk to strangers

Counselors when you don’t have the answer and a call needs to be made to a college or other department, have the student make an appointment with you and call together with the phone on speaker. Be there to support and check for understanding, but make the student initiate the call and questions.

2. An 18-year-old must be able to manage their assignments, workload, and deadlines

I was recently at a high school listening to the principal remind students that it was the end of the semester and to turn in their late work. Is it any wonder students miss application and matriculation deadlines when deadlines have been fluid and there’s always another chance? Counselors, stop losing sleep and sacrificing yourself and time for students who procrastinate despite the numerous opportunities you provided for them. Let them miss the deadline. Let them face those consequences. Make them take ownership.

3. An 18-year-old must be able to earn and manage money

California recently earned an ‘F’ in Financial Literacy from the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College in Vermont. Can colleges work to include Financial Literacy into orientation?

Can your high school instructors embed this into career exploration or math classes? Can Student Service embed financial literacy in their support programs and regular meetings with students? Open workshops aren’t well-attended by students, so it needs to be embedded.

The other skills Lythcott-Haims lists in terms of how we parent are:

  1. An 18-year-old must be able to find their way around
  2. An 18-year-old must be able to contribute to the running of a household
  3. An 18-year-old must be able to handle interpersonal problems
  4. An 18-year-old must be able to cope with ups and downs
  5. An 18-year-old must be able to take risks

How do you see these skills being honed within our educational system?