Future college parents expect to be more involved than their current college parent counterparts in the key college concerns of their children, according to a comparison of the results of two just-completed online surveys conducted by College Parents of America.

Elsewhere in this Web site we report on the results of our Second Annual National Survey of Current College Parent Experiences, conducted in late February and early March 2007 in partnership with Student Advantage, LLC.

Here we share with you the results of a companion survey, conducted in the same timeframe, but targeted to parents of high school students and gauged to better understand expected levels and types of future parent involvement. The 860 total respondents to the Second Annual National Survey of Future College Parents Expectations included hundreds of you, as well as hundreds of parents who learned of the survey through partner entity, Colleges of Distinction.

Many questions in the dual surveys were nearly identical, as the goal in each was to track frequency, methods and subjects of college parent-student communication – with one survey based on current behavior, and the other based on the expected frequency, methods and topics of communication for prospective college parents and their children.

Not surprisingly, the frequency of expected communications between future college parents and their college-bound children is very high, with 71 percent of parents expecting to communicate with their child two or three times per week, and 27 percent – or more than in four parents – believing that communication will occur daily or more. This level of frequency is consistent with the actual communication experiences of current college parents who responded to the companion survey.

Where inconsistencies begin to bare themselves between the two groups of responses, however, is in the area of anticipated methods of communication, as 68 percent of future college parents expect that they will “very frequently” or “frequently” utilize e-mail to stay in touch, as opposed to the actual behavior of college parents, with 50 percent of those respondents using e-mail with that level of frequency. Cell phones, however, are the expected – and current – lead method of communication for parents and students.

An even greater inconsistency, a consistent inconsistency if you will, has to do with the difference between the expected topics of communication for future college parents and their children once enrolled, as opposed to the actual topics dealt with by their further-along-in-parenting counterparts. These differences surface in two ways – when parents are asked the question “what do you think will be your concerns regarding your student when they are in college or university?” and when parents are asked “on which topics do you anticipate your student will request the most advice or assistance from you during college or university?”

Before addressing these two areas, it should be noted that future college parents, in general, believe that they will have much greater levels of concern on virtually every topic presented, and that this same group of parents also believes, much more so than their current-college-parent brethren, that they will be asked for advice or assistance early and often. The concept of “helicopter parenting” has begun to take hold in recent years and, if the surveys are any indication, the “hovering” is only going to become more frequent. Whether students welcome such parental behavior, however, is another matter.

When it comes to issues of expected parent concern, “health and safety” tops the list, with 74 percent of future college parents believing this topic will be of “extreme” or “great” concern, as opposed to 43 percent of current college parents. The other leading areas of “extreme” or “great” concerns follow, in order, with the first percentage signifying the combination of those “extreme” or “great” adjectives when it comes to future college parents, and the second percentage, in parentheses, noting the real-time “extreme” or “great” concerns about current college parents on those very same topics:

TOPIC “EXTREME OR GREAT” LEVEL OF CONCERN
Finances 66 percent (45 percent for current college parents)
Academics 61 percent (37 percent)
Career planning 55 percent (31 percent)
Personal relationships 52 percent (28 percent)
Community involvement 36 percent (14 percent)

According to the dual surveys, not only do parents of future college students expect to have elevated levels of concern across a broad variety of topics, when compared to their current college parent peers, these college-parents-to-be also expect to be asked for advice or assistance from their children at a much higher level than current college parents are now experiencing.

This difference can be seen dramatically in the topic of “finances,” which tops the list of subjects for advice or assistance among both groups of parents. While 63 percent of prospective college parents expect to be asked for “very frequent” or “frequent” advice on finances, only 33 percent of current college parent survey respondents actually are asked for financial advice, though they are asked for advice and assistance on finances more than any other topic.

As other topics are explored, the expected vs. actual numbers grow closer, but on no topic do future college parents expect to be asked for advice and assistance less than the current college parents are already experiencing. These other topics are listed below, in order, with the first percentage shown representing future college parents who expect to be asked for “very frequent” or “frequent” advice, and the parenthetical percentage that follows delineating the actual advice or assistance experience of current college parents.

TOPIC “VERY FREQUENT OR FREQUENT” ADVICE
Career planning 36 percent (16 percent for current college parents)
Health and safety 30 percent (14 percent)
Academics 27 percent (14 percent)
Community involvement 15 percent (5 percent)
Personal relationships 15 percent (11 percent)

We’ve thrown a lot of information at you, and those who are interested in even greater detail can click to view the raw data of the future college parent survey results, via the Survey Monkey tool. Also available for your review is the executive summary and analysis of the current college parent survey results, as well as the Survey Monkey supplied raw data, both of which were compiled and released in March 2007.

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