Teaching College Kids To Pilot Their Own Helicopter

Oct 18 12:10pm College Admissions
The issue of how deeply involved parents of college students should be in their child’s campus life is a hot topic in higher education these days. As the fall term was beginning, media accounts highlighted efforts at some schools intended to push parents to drop their children off on campus and depart quickly and quietly. Now a recent survey of college admissions officers indicates that so-called helicopter parenting is on the rise. As a college president and a parent, I find that approach—encouraging parents to do a drive-by, drop-off—an unrealistic approach to coping with moms and dads who seem to hover over their college student. While too much parental involvement can be a problem, colleges and universities must acknowledge that parents have a crucial role to play in helping their child succeed. Parents spend years preparing their child for college, and working to find ways to pay for their education. Those are major accomplishments. And taking your son or daughter to college for the first time is often emotionally wrenching. Parents deserve more than cursory thanks and a nod toward the door. Instead, colleges need to communicate clearly how a healthy relationship between parents, students and the institution should work. We also need to explain that making that relationship work will enhance their child’s chances for success at college and in life. Balance is the key. Parents should support their child, but not serve as their gofer or administrative assistant. They can do this by urging their son or daughter to learn how to navigate the college bureaucracy and campus life on their own. This is a vital part of the educational process. It includes allowing the student to handle issues relating to classes, housing, dining, roommates, and extracurricular activities such as athletics, clubs, and student organizations. A good body of research indicates that college students have a better chance of succeeding academically and socially when they themselves discover and initiate contact with the campus offices and departments that offer services and resources for students. We also know that the problem-solving skills students develop during the formative years at college are an important part of their education. Parents should encourage students to take responsibility for their own financial planning, for managing their time, and for setting limit...
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