Now, look.

I’m not bragging. I am fully aware that my previous enrollment in the Honors College at Ball State has no bearing on me as a human being.

It doesn’t elevate me above any of my friends, and it certainly doesn’t mean I’m smarter than anyone else.

But, what it does mean is I worked the front desk at the Honors College, fielding calls from parents and students alike. Most of the time, people were friendly and helpful.

Sometimes, I would leave work with many stories about people or interviews I heard happened at other schools or with other scholarship committees.

What I’m not going to do in this column is complain. What I am going to do is put forth my best effort to decrease some common blunders I’ve seen from both parents and students.

So parents of college-age kids, listen up. And college kids, sit down. Here are my five don’ts of navigating modern college life:

DON’T: Sit in on interviews with your child or let your parent sit in.

Yes, I have seen this happen.

Chances are, your child is about 17 or 18 and they are about to become a young adult. Trust me — the best training they could get for being grown-up is to actually act like it.

It’s very hard for kids to prove that they are independent and responsible if their dad is next to them telling jokes the whole time (again, saw that too) or reminding them of things to talk about.

Please let your kid do what they have been preparing to do. And I guarantee you, if you sit in on their interview, whatever it is your child is interviewing for — a scholarship, university entrance, a job — they will be placed near the bottom of the list of candidates.

DON’T: Be rude to any receptionists.

As a former receptionist of sorts, and as someone who is friends with other desk workers, we will go out of our way to help someone who is polite and clear with what they’re seeking.

Being polite, aside from making you a decent human being, can sometimes result in being able to turn in an application a day or a week late.

Also, when candidates are coming in for high-stakes interviews, receptionists are almost always notified ahead of time, mostly so they can guide the interviewee to where they need to be, but also so they can gauge the character of the person.

That feedback from the receptionist about whether someone was rude carries weight with those who are making the big decisions.

DON’T: Make calls for your child or let your parent call for you.

Kids: If YOU need to set up an appointment with YOUR adviser, YOU need to call YOUR college.

Don’t make your mom call and set up an appointment for you. Not only is it mean to your parents, but they also likely don’t know your student ID number or the complete reason why you’re wanting an appointment.

Also, you don’t want to graduate college and not be able to make your own phone calls with proper phone etiquette. I know I sound old, but I’m a firm believer in knowing how to make a good phone call.

DON’T: Wait until deadline to submit scholarship applications.

This isn’t true for every scholarship, but since it’s not public info as to which scholarships this is true for, it’s best to apply this rule to all of them.

Sometimes, if a scholarship committee has applications open for a month, but feels like they got all the applications they need in the first week, they will keep accepting applications, but they will be able to compare the rest of the applicants to the ones they already like.

DON’T: Question the integrity of your child’s major.

It’s understandable that parents want their kids to be successful and make money, and there are certain majors that are more statistically likely to lead into jobs that start with a higher salary.

It’s not a crime to want your kids to be financially stable. But it’s not OK to discourage your adult child from majoring in an area of study they’re passionate about.

In a situation where a parent doesn’t like their kid’s musical theater major and instead encourages them to do construction management, the danger isn’t that the kid will rebel and be annoyed with their mom or dad.

Instead, the danger is that the kid will be pressured to succumb to their parents’ wishes, graduating with a degree for a career they don’t want for a job they hate. And, for lots of people, once the financial support of their parents dries up, going back to school for something they like is impossible.

And if genuine concern comes from worries your child might not have their heart in the right place — like if they’re majoring in art because their significant other is — there are underlying problems to talk about that changing a major won’t solve.

Hopefully, this column helps to navigate the rapidly-evolving collegiate world, which I know can be every bit as scary, if not more, for parents as it is for new students.

Sara Barker is a reporter for The Advance Leader and The News Sun. Have questions about college? Shoot them her way at

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