Home > NewsRelease > For Prospective International Graduate Students, Part 2: A Word to Parents By Dr. Don Martin, June 2, 2022
For Prospective International Graduate Students, Part 2: A Word to Parents By Dr. Don Martin, June 2, 2022
Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Chicago, IL
Thursday, June 2, 2022

First, let me congratulate and encourage you. It is quite an adjustment for you to have a son or daughter travel not only far away for graduate study, but also to another country. In some cases you may not be able to see them for one or more years. This cannot be easy for you, yet you are doing your best to support and encourage your daughter/son to pursue their educational and career goals. That is quite commendable.
As a Dean of Admissions and a Dean of Students, it was my privilege to speak with the parents of many international students, be that via phone, online, or in person. What always amazed me was the strong desire these parents had/have to see their child succeed. In many cases parents make huge sacrifices so that their children can study abroad. It was very heart warming to observe this, and to witness the strong ties between family members.
If asked to provide advice to the parents of international students, the following two major tips come to mind:
Tip One: To the best of your ability, give your son or daughter permission to make some mistakes along the way. Do not expect perfection from her/him. Any successful person has some detours along the way, and does not do everything perfectly. Yet at times parents can place quite a bit of pressure on their children to get straight A’s, get the top job offer, and not fail in any way whatsoever. While you want your child to succeed, do not place too much pressure on him or her to do so. This could actually make things worse. Let your son/daughter be human. Do not place unreasonable expectations on them.
In one meeting with an international student it was related to me that their parents told them not to come back home unless they graduated. Unfortunately, this student was having academic difficulties and was faced with being placed on probation, perhaps worse. This in and of itself would be a major challenge for any hard-working graduate student. However, to have the pressure of not being welcomed home unless they graduated hanging over their head served only to lessen the ability to focus on what needed to be done to improve. Thankfully, we were able to help that student transfer to another institution.
Be supportive of your children. But remember that sometimes our greatest learning opportunities come from mistakes and errors. If we are afraid of or forbid failure, we actually create a culture where it is more likely that failure will occur. That is because the person who is being pressured to be perfect focuses on not making a mistake, which only causes more mistakes to be made.
To summarize, focus on success with your children, not on perfection. There is a huge difference between the two.
Tip Two: Help and encourage your son/daughter to find the best institution/program for them. Do not encourage an unhealthy and obsessive emphasis on rankings and prestige. Success in life is never dependent on where one attended college or graduate school. How many examples do we see, in any country, of very well connected individuals who attended all the best colleges and universities, yet who have failed miserably. And conversely, how many times do we witness instances of the major success of individuals who attended institutions that were not highly ranked or very prestigious. This is a testament to the fact that it is the individual who determines ultimate success or failure, not the ranking or prestige of the institution s/he attends.
In some cases parents are more focused on rankings/prestige than on their children. Please do not make the mistake of assuming that where your daughter/son attends will make a huge difference down the road. It may initially open a few more doors, but that is all. How do I know this? Because of my own personal story, some of which I would now like to share with you.
The cultural norms of my childhood included a strong suspicion of higher learning. My college choice was not my own. In fact, I did not even know what “liberal arts” meant until well in to my college experience. My undergraduate institution was not accredited and is not well known to this day. My graduate institution was better known but still not what you would call a “top tier” institution by most standards. And my decision to attend graduate school brought a fair degree of criticism from one of my parents.
Yet my career was absolutely amazing. My undergraduate institution offered me a job in the admissions office, and thankfully, it was a match with my skills and interests. For the next 28 years my employment opportunities grew, and it was my privilege to work at some very well known institutions. These opportunities came to me – I did not seek them out. Everything fell into place, not because of my connections, wealth, or the prestige of my educational institutions. Things fell into place because of my finding a career that was a perfect match for me, persistence, determination, hard work, learning from some mistakes, some luck, being in the right place at the right time and practicing the “Three C’s.” (See Tip One under “For Students”)
Coming up next: The University System in the United States
Be sure to check out Dr. Don’s book, “Road Map for Graduate Study, A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students,” right here on the GSRM website. For a reduced price CLICK HERE, go to The Book page, scroll down, click on the Order Now box, and use discount code GSRM.
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Name: Dr. Donald C. Martin
Group: Grad School Road Map
Dateline: Chicago, IL United States
Direct Phone: 773-549-7639
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