Our first-ever broad survey of current college parents revealed that you are in consistent contact with your children and that you utilize, to a very high degree, the programs that college and universities have created in recent years to facilitate parental involvement.
The National Survey of College Parent Experiences was conducted by College Parents of America and completed online by over 900 of you who have children currently in college.
Parents of today’s college students have come to be called helicopter parents because of the perception that you hover, hover and hover some more over the lives of your children, choosing to land whenever and wherever you want. Though many can disagree about the desirability of parents taking such an active role, our survey demonstrates that no one can argue with the reality of such behavior.
In our view, the time for hand-wringing and eye-rolling by college and university administrators is over; the good thing about parents being involved is that it is much better than the alternative. Now, we hope that forward-thinking schools will realize they can channel this parental involvement in positive and productive support of what should be everyone’s principal goals – student success in school and student achievement of practical skills, as necessary components of preparation for a productive and happy life.
According to the College Parents of America survey, 74 percent, or three in four, of current college parents communicate at least “two to three times a week” with your sons or daughters while they are at college or university, with 34 percent, or more than one in three, having such communication on at least a daily basis.
How do parents communicate? Cell phone seems to be your mode of choice, with 90 percent of respondents saying that you use a mobile connection to frequently stay in touch, as opposed to the much lower figure of 25 percent who use a landline phone connection. In fact, more than one-half of all respondents, 52 percent, say that you either rarely or never use a regular landline phone.
E-mail is popular too, according to the survey, with 58 percent using it frequently. Perhaps laying open an inter-generational technical disconnect, only 29 percent of parents claim to use instant messaging frequently, while a clear majority of 54 percent claim to use IMing rarely or not at all.
The U.S. Postal Service is not too busy in college towns: only seven percent of parents utilize regular mail frequently, and 69 percent either rarely or never utilize mail at all.
That’s not to say, however, that all communication is electronic, as parents like to visit in person, from the beginning and continuing throughout their child’s collegiate experience. Nine in 10 respondents said “yes” when asked whether they attended parent orientation when their child first enrolled at a college or university, and 75 percent say that they visit campus at least once or twice a semester, with 17 percent visiting at least once a month or more.
Given the above, it’s not surprising that 72 percent of current college parents strongly agree or agree with the following statement put to them in our survey: “I feel that my child’s college or university includes parents in the school community.”
When asked to compare the level of involvement and communications you have with your child, as compared to the level of parental improvement you experienced yourselves when in college, a huge plurality – 74 percent – said that you were “much more” or “more involved” than your own parents. Less than four percent said that you were “less” or “much less involved.”
What does “involvement” mean, exactly? One way to measure that is through tools utilized, and more than 61 percent of parents said that you used your school’s “parent-oriented Web site.” But the College Parents of America survey also tried to get at the question of concerns among parents regarding your children, and “academics” topped the list, with 34 percent or more than one in three parents citing that topic as the area of greatest concern, followed by “finances” at 24 percent and “career planning” and “health and safety” both at 12 percent.
When asked, however, the pointed question of “this year, on which topic has your student most requested advice or assistance from you?” then the order shifts, with finances cited as the most-asked about topic by 35 percent, and academics by 19 percent. Health and safety concerns don’t seem to be brought up much by the students, as only 5 percent of parents mentioned that as the topic of most requested advice or assistance.
The College Parents of America Survey on Parent Experiences generated responses from 49 of 50 states and the District of Columbia. The vast majority – 91 percent – are parents of college freshmen or sophomores, so we hope that the answers to these questions will serve as benchmark data that can be tracked over the next couple of years and beyond.