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Survey: Helicopter parents hover over campus

A new survey of admission officers at 387 386 colleges finds that helicopter parenting is on the rise.

Of the colleges surveyed by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions (which is part of The Washington Post Co.), 77 percent reported that parental involvement is increasing. As a result, 61 percent reported they were developing new programs for parents -- special Internet sites, seminars and tours. Other schools "are cutting parents out of the admission process entirely," Kaplan states in a release.

College is increasingly competitive and increasingly expensive. Parents want the most from their investment. "These concerns may cause some parents to do a lot more than they have in the past," and sometimes "a lot more than they should, from filling out applications for their children to calling the admissions office with questions, to even writing their children's personal essays," said Justin Serrano, president of pre-college programs at Kaplan.

Colleges are responding by holding information sessions for parents alone, or separate campus tours for parents and children. One college said it was offering a "how not to hover" workshop. There are Facebook pages, blogs and electronic newsletters just for parents. Some schools report they have opened an office of parent relations.

Other schools, the survey found, set firm boundaries. One college reported that, as a matter of strict policy, its officials would speak only to the student once he or she was accepted. Another said the office would not discuss a student with his or her parents without the student's permission. A third said that when a parent calls with a question, "the school encourages the parent to hand over the phone to the student."

The helicopter parent is a favorite topic of Wesleyan University President Michael Roth, who wrote in a 2009 Boston Globe op-ed, "Although we try to treat our students like adults, to give them responsibility, to hold them accountable for their actions, to allow them the freedom to chart the course of their own education, I regularly find that parents think they are still running the lives of their children."

Other findings from the Kaplan survey:

1. 80 percent of admission officers said they'd received a Facebook friend request from an applicant, up from 71 percent a year ago.

2. 67% of officers surveyed said they had found false or exaggerated claims on applications.

Follow College Inc. on Twitter.

By Daniel de Vise  | September 27, 2010; 5:33 PM ET
Categories:  Admissions, Research, Students  | Tags:  Kaplan admissions survey, college parents, helicopter parents, overinvolved parents  
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