The high school years can be exciting and overwhelming as your child prepares for a future beyond high school. Discuss your child’s future and help them set goals as well as devise a plan for attaining those goals. Talk about postsecondary expectations and options from early adolescence on. Discuss your education with your child and let them know how your choices have impacted your life. Talk about the different career paths other family members and friends have taken and the impact of their choices on lifestyle. Help your child set realistic goals for themselves based on their individual skills and interests. Remember that the two won’t necessarily intersect; your child may be very skilled in math and not the least bit interested in careers that involve high levels of math ability. Make sure you and your child know what courses and grades are necessary to prepare for college. The secret to finding a great fit is to start the college search early and then taking it one step at a time.
Remember that it’s not all about the bumper sticker.
Finding a good fit should be the most important criterion students use in identifying colleges and universities. Rankings are useful in providing possibilities, but visiting campuses and truly understanding a student’s profile in relation to the colleges’ expectations is critical.
It’s not all about sticker price, either.
Millions of dollars in federal, state, and private monies are available to students. Parents are often surprised to hear that the most expensive college can be quite affordable because of financial aid. While we encourage students to find a financial safety school (a school the family can afford without much financial aid), they should not limit their options based on cost alone.
Give them the keys.
You have already done the work of supporting their personal growth and educational aspirations, but your job is not done. While students need to drive the college admissions process, they rely on you to give them the keys to do so. Provide the support they crave. Remember, while your son or daughter is no longer in middle school, they still require your support – they just may be less likely to ask for it.
Enforce the curfew.
A great role for parents is that of “deadline police.” Help your student to organize the application process. Creating a college calendar devoted to college related “stuff” is one way to do so. Gentle reminders about upcoming admissions and financial aid deadlines are important. As we tell the students, this is one time when a note from mom or dad isn’t going to make a difference. If you are late, you risk not being admitted or not being considered for your maximum eligibility for financial aid.
Ask for directions.
Utilize the resources available to help you plan and pay for college. From the guidance office to the financial aid office, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t make assumptions about the best places or the requirements to get there. Your school counselor is the guide you need to help you map out a plan. We’re also here to provide support, resources, presentations and materials to New Hampshire students and parents. Don’t hesitate to contact the Center for College Planning at the NHHEAF Network if we can be of service to you. Our experienced counselors are also here to help support, guide and direct you.
Consult the map.
Make sure your student is on track to graduate with many opportunities. Know that meeting graduation requirements doesn’t always mean meeting college entrance requirements. By mapping out your student’s journey with the guidance office, you’ll preserve options for higher education.
Buckle your seatbelt.
College applications can be complicated, stressful, and entirely overwhelming. There may be moments when you don’t recognize your child! Help your student to keep perspective. Find ways to ease the burden such as offering your help in reviewing the essays, monitoring deadlines, and being willing to travel to visit college campuses. It is a short but intense ride.
Enjoy the ride.
You’ve been there for every milestone – the first step, the first word, the first day of kindergarten – and now here you are: your child’s graduation from high school and application for college admission. Congratulations! Due in part to your support – fostering their personal growth and nurturing their talents – they are at the point of pursuing their own dreams.
The pressures and challenges facing college students today can be overwhelming and every parent wants to see their child become successful. By providing the proper support, parents can help their children mature while in college. But, when does parental involvement become too much? When does a helpful parent become a “helicopter parent”?
A helicopter parent is a parent who consistently intervenes in their children’s lives. The term has special significance during and immediately following the college years. Helicopter parents have been known to directly contact professors demanding that the student’s grade be changed. Other interventions include text messaging students while in class, assisting or completing college applications, and accompanying students to job fairs and interviews.
The term is believed to be coined about ten years ago by Marilee Jones, the former Admissions Dean at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a USA Today article, Jones stated, “Parents write their kids' essays and even attempt to attend their interviews. They make excuses for their child's bad grades and threaten to sue high school personnel who reveal any information perceived to be potentially harmful to their child's chances of admission. As a dean of admissions, I see this type of behavior at least twice a week.”
With emerging technologies such as cell phones and e-mail, parents are finding it easier and easier to keep in touch with their kids. Cell phones are now being regarded as “the world's longest umbilical cord” (Graves, 2007). The National Survey of Student Engagement found that 86% of first-year students reported frequent electronic contact with their mother and 71% with their father. Such close communication becomes harmful only when it hinders maturation.
Helicopter parents not only prevent kids from maturing, they also send negative vibes to third parties such as admissions counselors and employment recruiters. Marilyn Emerson, a New York-based college admissions consultant, says, “Parents should realize that admission folk are experts at reading applications and can recognize when an essay has been written or edited heavily by a parent” (Graves, 2007).
According to an article on the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga’s website, A UTC sociology department study indicates that “‘helicopter parenting’ a college-aged child may be the most damaging time to over-parent or micromanage an offspring's life” (UTC, 2012). Teachers are refusing to meet with overwhelming and abusive parents. Most importantly, The National Survey of Student Engagement found that there is no evidence that children of helicopter parents produce better grades than their peers.
According to another USA Today article, Jennifer Seymour, who runs the intern program at the Hewlett-Packard Atlanta office, says, “helicopter parents create a negative view among hiring managers” (Armour, 2007). In other words, helicopter parents create a sense of dependence which raises a red flag for employers who definitely expect a certain amount of independence and self-reliance out of their prospective employees. Charles Wardell, the HP Managing Director and Head of the northeast region at Korn/Ferry, says, “When an employer is hiring someone, they're hiring an adult for an adult job, and then they have to deal with a parent. There comes a time when you've prepared children, and you need to let go” (qtd. in Armour, 2007).
Parents should not be discouraged from supporting their children, but they need to be sure that they are not hampering their progression. It is important that they find a healthy balance between supporter and participant. By the time students are in college, parents should consider themselves as coaches. They are there to provide structure, give advice, and serve as a role model. “Parents need to prepare the student for the big moment by offering support and encouragement, but then stand back and let the student make the actual effort,” says Marilee Jones. “Parental over-involvement can rob a child of a chance to develop resilience and self-confidence, two key components for a happy life” (Jones, 2003)
Think you may be a helicopter parent? Take the test.
* Adapted from information from Dr. Will Keim
A legitimate concern for parents.
As parents who want the best for their children, it is natural to wonder how the campus environment may affect students in terms of access and attitudes toward drugs, underage drinking, and binge drinking. You are sending your students off in good faith to pursue educational goals, and you want to make sure that they will stay healthy – physically, emotionally, and socially.
The reality is that, while overall drinking rates on campuses have somewhat decreased in recent years, binge drinking is on the rise. We have all seen the news headlines on deaths and injuries resulting from alcohol poisoning and, unfortunately, alcohol and drugs are going to be available on just about any college campus. Statistics also show that underage drinking and binge drinking are even worse problems on college campuses in the northeast and at schools known for their prominent sports programs.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to “have fun” and even “party” on a college campus without any drugs or alcohol being involved. The last time we checked the definition of “socializing,” it meant interacting and recreating enjoyably with other people… no substances required! There are still plenty of fun activities that include parties with music/dancing, sporting events, artistic performances, wilderness adventures, games, and other activities where students can get together and have a blast while still being responsible and respecting their health and the law.
You can research each school’s website to learn about opportunities to maintain a healthy lifestyle on campus. Substance-free housing is a campus residence that prohibits alcohol, drugs, and smoking; check on the availability of such housing on each campus (i.e., check to see if there are just a few rooms or several buildings). A lot of campuses offer a campus security escort service whereby a security officer will walk or drive students home to prevent drunk driving. Does the campus have a dominant Greek system (fraternities and sororities)? If so, are they spread out across the campus or contained in one area? Are there any alcohol-free fraternities/sororities? Are there other places where parties are held or is the Greek system the only place to go?
See for yourself.
In order to find out what the campus culture and night life are really all about, it is worthwhile for students to spend an overnight at each of the colleges to which they are applying. Seeing the dorm life firsthand and spending time on campus during the off-hours is really the best way to discover if this campus is the right fit. Are drugs or alcohol out in the open? Is everyone participating in dangerous (and/or illegal) activity? Is that element restricted elsewhere and out of sight?
An excellent source of information on different colleges’ efforts to promote health and safety on campus is the “Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention” sponsored by the US Department of Education. Some useful publications and lists include the following:
The best prevention is talking with your kids – from as early an age as possible – to warn them of the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Students who are raised with strong values, and supported in developing the self-esteem and confidence to uphold those values, will find likeminded friends on any campus. Some things you can do include role playing to present scenarios to your kids so that they are not caught off-guard. By anticipating ahead of time, young people can prepare a few key responses to keep in their back pocket so that they know just what to say in any situation. If you are interested in a more focused approach to preparing your kids for the social challenges they will face on a college campus, renowned motivational speaker Dr. Will Keim offers free podcasts on maintaining a wellness lifestyle in college and beyond: http://www.willkeim.com/podcast/index.php.
At the end of the day, a student’s college experience is really what he/she makes of it. Part of growing up involves making decisions, even when that means swimming upstream and being your own person. Although it can be stressful in the moment, it is perfectly okay to leave a party or walk away from a situation that is not comfortable, ethical, or legal. Facing tough decisions and making good choices will enable students to derive the most of their academic and social experiences, gaining maturity in the process. While high school is a time when peer pressure seems to reign, in college and the real world, it’s their right – and it’s cool! – to just say “no!”