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Parent Involvement in College Search

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					It’s a Family Affair:
Parental Involvement in the College Search Process

Pamela Kiecker, Ph.D. Head of Research and Issue Analysis Royall & Company

Parental Involvement in College Search
• How involved do children perceive their parents to be in their college search? • Does the level of involvement meet the needs of the child in question?

• In what activities do parents participate?
• What’s most important to students? To their parents?

• To what extent are parents setting guidelines that affect students’ college options?

Research Methods
• eSurveys administered in early spring of 2006 • Samples
– Students from our urCompass panel and institutional inquiry pools; n = 2,389 (demographically diverse with heavier representation from Caucasian and female students) – Parents, when email addresses were available; n = 843 (mostly mothers)

How involved do children perceive parents to be in their college search?
• Mothers are most involved
– Mean of 3.98 (on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 = not at all involved and 5 = very involved)

• Fathers are somewhat involved, but fathers’ involvement varies
– Mean of 3.49 overall
– Boys report a higher degree of fathers’ involvement than do girls – Children in traditional families report higher levels of fathers’ involvement than do those in nontraditional families

Is parents’ involvement in the college search meeting the needs of their children?
• Overall, the level of involvement from mothers and fathers can be described as “just right.” • Boys and girls do not differ in the level of involvement they desire from their parents.

• Some students, those living in nontraditional families, those who will be first-generation college students, and children who are only children or middle children, desire greater parental involvement.

How are parents involved?
Students Report That Moms Do Students Report That Dads Do

Ask you which schools you are considering Ask you about what you plan to major in Discuss colleges with others Encourage you to do things to enhance your college resume/applications Talk with you about financial concerns/paying for college Help you evaluate options by weighing the pros/cons of specific schools Read materials colleges sent to them Serve as a sounding board for you Read materials that colleges sent to you Help you with college applications

95.7% 93.4% 87.8% 85.5% 81.7% 81.2% 80.0% 79.8% 76.1% 68.9%

90.9% 88.5% 80.2% 76.0% 78.5% 75.3% 69.0% 72.7% 60.2% 59.3%

How are parents involved?
(continued)
Students Report That Moms Do Students Report That Dads Do

Help you complete scholarship/financial aid applications Encourage you to consider a specific type of school Encourage you to consider a specific school Consult with guidance counselors/teachers/coaches Research information about schools online Arrange campus visits

66.5% 63.4% 61.1% 58.5% 56.1% 55.4%

60.3% 59.4% 57.2% 42.3% 45.6% 42.7%

Encourage you to consider a specific major/field of study
Request information from a college Call admission offices to ask questions/gather information

55.0%
44.5% 31.6%

52.5%
31.9% 20.4%

How does involvement by moms and dads compare?
% of Moms Who Report They Do % of Dads Who Report They Do

Ask child about intended major Ask which schools child is considering Read materials that colleges sent to child Encourage child to do things to enhance college resume/applications Read materials colleges sent to them Serve as a sounding board for child Talk with child about financial concerns/paying for college

94.3% 92.1% 89.9% 87.3% 83.2% 78.3% 77.1%

91.0% 93.5% 84.6% 90.0% 85.6% 78.6% 69.2%

Research information about schools online
Discuss colleges with others

71.4%
70.5%

73.6%
59.7%

How does involvement by moms and dads compare? (continued)
% of Moms Who Report They Do % of Dads Who Report They Do

Help child evaluate options Consult with guidance counselors/teachers/coaches Encourage child to consider a specific type of school Encourage child to consider a specific major

68.7% 55.8% 48.1% 45.9%

67.7% 55.2% 50.2% 41.8%

Arrange campus visits
Encourage child to consider a specific school Email admission offices Help child complete scholarship/financial aid applications Call admission offices to ask questions/gather information

41.3%
30.7% 23.5% 20.9% 19.0%

41.8%
35.8% 22.9% 20.4% 21.9%

Help child with college applications

14.4%

20.4%

How does parental involvement vary for sons and daughters?
• Most mothers participate equally for sons and daughters
– But a higher percentage of boys than girls report that their moms read materials sent from colleges and contact colleges for additional information
– A higher percentage of girls than boys report that their moms talk with them about financial concerns of attending college and specific schools and types of schools

• Boys perceive greater involvement from fathers
– For many of the activities, a higher percentage of boys than girls report that their fathers are involved

When making the college choice, what’s most important to students? To their parents?
% of Students Reporting Item as Important to Them % of Students Reporting Item as Important to Parents

Personal happiness of student Quality of a particular program/major

72.3% 53.2%

40.2% 25.1%

General academic quality
Personal attention provided to students Financial cost to family Prestige of the institution Rankings relative to other institutions

49.1%
23.3% 22.1% 18.0% 12.3%

36.9%
15.3% 40.2% 16.8% 12.4%

Proximity to home
Religious affiliation of institutions

10.6%
4.6%

30.7%
7.2%

What’s really most important to parents?
% of Parents Reporting Item is Most Important to Them % of Parents Reporting Item is Most Important to Child

This child’s personal happiness Quality of a particular program/major

57.4% 52.1%

59.9% 66.5%

This child’s safety
Financial cost to family General academic quality Personal attention provided to students Proximity to home Prestige of the institution Rankings relative to other institutions Religious affiliation of the institution

47.3%
45.3% 39.6% 23.4% 15.9% 7.4% 6.8% 4.7%

10.7%
18.5% 42.6% 24.8% 25.7% 23.4% 14.3% 3.8%

How do girls and boys differ?
• Girls rank personal attention and happiness as important more frequently than do boys • Boys rank quality of school, prestige, and rankings as important more frequently than do girls • Girls report that their parents think financial concerns and proximity to home are primary factors more frequently than do boys

What guidelines have parents set?
(as Reported by Students)
Guidelines for Sons Mother Set Father Set Guidelines for Daughters Mother Set Father Set

Specific schools considered Specific schools visited Specific schools to apply to Number of schools to apply to Amount to be spent on college education Distance of the school from home Type of school selected Environment of the school selected Size of the school selected Amount of debt to be incurred in loans Field of study Living arrangements on or off campus Employment during school

28.9% 25.9% 21.3% 25.2% 29.6% 35.5% 20.6% 20.9% 15.6% 29.6% 25.2% 34.4% 31.8%

24.2% 22.7% 18.6% 18.8% 29.4% 22.3% 13.5% 15.8% 12.7% 25.7% 21.6% 27.8% 29.7%

35.3% 31.2% 27.7% 27.3% 36.3% 44.5% 22.3% 24.4% 17.9% 33.7% 28.3% 46.2% 42.3%

27.9% 22.8% 20.2% 17.7% 35.3% 28.7% 18.7% 18.0% 11.9% 30.5% 22.5% 32.7% 31.3%

What guidelines have parents set?
(as Reported by Parents)
Guidelines for Sons
Mother Set Father Set

Guidelines for Daughters
Mother Set Father Set

Specific schools considered *+ Specific schools visited *+ Specific schools to apply to *+ Number of schools to apply to + Amount to be spent on college education Distance of the school from home *+ Type of school selected * Environment of the school selected *+ Size of the school selected * Amount of debt to be incurred in loans * Field of study * Living arrangements on or off campus * Employment during school *

23.1% 27.2% 20.0% 32.3% 42.1% 32.3% 19.5% 19.5% 17.9% 41.5% 14.4% 41.0% 33.3%

27.4% 28.6% 25.0% 29.8% 59.5% 31.0% 33.3% 25.0% 19.0% 61.9% 19.0% 51.2% 44.0%

33.1% 34.7% 28.9% 35.6% 52.7% 34.7% 34.3% 29.3% 21.8% 60.7% 23.4% 58.2% 45.6%

40.0% 49.3% 44.0% 49.3% 68.0% 44.0% 37.3% 42.7% 32.0% 68.0% 28.0% 64.0% 42.7%

*Significant differences exist in the guidelines set for sons and daughters by mothers. +Significant differences exist in the guidelines set for sons and daughters by fathers.

What guidelines have parents set?
(by First-Generation Status)
Students Reporting Parents without college experience Parents with college experience Parents Reporting Parents without college experience Parents with college experience

Specific schools considered ** Specific schools visited ** Specific schools to apply to ** Number of schools to apply to ** Amount to be spent on college ** Distance of the school from home ** Type of school selected ** Type of environment selected ** Size of the school selected ** Amount of debt to be incurred ** Field of study ** Living arrangements on or off campus * Employment during school **

21.6% 16.9% 16.8% 16.3% 24.5% 28.2% 15.9% 16.8% 11.6% 23.5% 20.1% 25.0% 25.1%

39.7% 35.8% 30.4% 31.6% 39.5% 43.6% 24.1% 26.6% 20.2% 37.4% 31.3% 45.2% 44.7%

45.0% 53.0% 41.0% 50.0% 63.0% 54.0% 46.0% 45.0% 34.0% 73.0% 37.0% 59.0% 63.0%

31.1% 34.6% 29.2% 36.8% 55.9% 37.3% 32.3% 29.0% 23.6% 59.4% 22.2% 57.1% 43.1%

*Significant differences exist by parental college experience based on student responses. **Significant differences exist by parental college experience based on both student and parent responses.

What guidelines have parents set?
(by Family Type)
Students Reporting Non-Traditional Families Traditional Families Parents Reporting Non-Traditional Families Traditional Families

Specific schools considered ** Specific schools visited * Specific schools to apply to ** Number of schools to apply to ** Amount to be spent on education ** Distance of the school from home * Type of school selected ** Environment of the school selected * Size of the school selected ** Amount of debt to be incurred in loans *

38.7% 33.2% 32.5% 31.5% 38.4% 43.8% 26.4% 28.6% 20.2% 37.3%

30.6% 26.5% 22.6% 23.5% 32.4% 36.1% 19.4% 21.1% 15.8% 30.5%

42.6% 42.6% 39.8% 46.3% 64.8% 43.5% 46.3% 38.9% 34.3% 63.9%

32.8% 37.0% 29.7% 37.3% 55.7% 39.2% 32.7% 30.8% 24.1% 59.9%

Field of study **
Living arrangements on or off campus * Employment during school **

33.2%
40.6% 42.0%

25.2%
36.2% 35.5%

32.4%
56.5% 53.7%

24.5%
55.9% 44.1%

*Significant differences exist by family type based on student responses. **Significant differences exist by family type based on both student and parent responses.

What did children say about parents’ attitudes? (Summary of Verbatim Comments)
Students’ Perceptions %

Parents are extremely supportive Parental preferences are imposing restrictions on choices Parents are demanding, pushy, controlling Parents have had no influence whatsoever Parents are confident in my abilities to “reach for the stars” Parents aren’t interested in my college search First-generation student; parents desire a better life for me Parents lack confidence in my ability to go to and complete college

35.6% 16.9% 15.9% 14.2% 6.8% 5.3% 2.1% 1.3%

Students’ Verbatim Comments
• I take school very seriously because I want to get into a good school and they have those same views. They help me consider my options. • They tell me only what I can’t do or wouldn’t be good at rather than encouraging me to pursue what I’d be happy studying and where I’d like to go... It’s all No, never, absolutely not, you’re not going there, you’ll never make it. • My mom says I can go wherever I want, but my dad limits me and talks about the cost. • My dad who is a maintenance man ...tells me the mistake he made by …not going to college. He had me work with him to show me how bad it is not to attend college.

What did parents say about children’s attitudes?
(Summary of Verbatim Comments)
Parents’ Perceptions %

Child deserves wonderful college experience due to intelligence, dedication, and/or motivation Parent’s “job” to help the child in such areas as finances, applications, support, and encouragement

46.7% 26.7%

Desire to share in the college planning experience
Child is so exceptional that opportunities will be vast (“Ivy-League material”) Projection of parental desires and beliefs onto child’s choices Fear and worry (college might be too difficult or child might not be admitted)

17.1%
17.5% 10.1% 3.7%

Parents’ Verbatim Comments
• Whatever Aileen decides will be perfect for her. She is highly intelligent and works very hard to obtain her goals. • I feel I am there to answer her questions, assist her with her needs (visits, applications, SAT fees, etc) and encourage her to make choices that will benefit her future. • Brad is very bright and a good athlete. I think he is Ivy League material. I would like him to shoot for Princeton. • I have attended 4 institutions and have 11 years of post grad education and 4 degrees…she has the advantage of my years of experience …she has no advantage in this area compared to me.

Whose decision is it?
• Both parents and students acknowledge the importance of financial considerations in the final decision • Aside from money, most (70.7% of students and 67.0% of parents) feel it is the child’s decision

• Parental role is to provide advice and input (15.4% of students and 15.8% of parents)

Whose decision is it?
(Verbatim Comments) From Students • Pretty much it’s my decision, but I have to consider my parents’ financial ability

• Its the money’s decision
From Parents • Ultimately, it will be Robert’s decision. As long as we can financially afford to pay for the tuition, the choice is his. • I will leave it up to him with certain parameters, i.e., financial package awards, distance. We will try to visit as many colleges as possible so he will have adequate choices.

How do they plan to pay for college?
• Students may be underestimating need for loans to pay for college
– 21.5% said they wouldn’t borrow any money for college – 27.9% didn’t yet know what they might borrow – Parents seem somewhat more realistic; only 14% said they did not plan to borrow money

• Girls are more uncertain than boys
– A higher percentage of girls than boys reported not knowing to what extent parents would provide funds for college – A higher percentage of girls than boys reported not knowing how much money will need to be borrowed

How do they plan to pay for college?
(continued) • First-generation students expect to be less reliant on parents for financial support
– 77.2% of first-generation children report that parents will cover at least some portion of college costs compared 68.2% of non-firstgeneration children
– Only 26.4% of first-generation children expect parents will pay for 50% or more of college costs, but 37.8% of non-first-generation children expect this

• Nearly all (both parents and students) expect that at least some college costs will be covered by grants and scholarships

What do parents think of their involvement in child’s college choice?
(Verbatim Comments) • I think parents are too involved in pre-college preparation. Our kids are burned out—to the point where they no longer enjoy learning. First-time parents like myself are very anxious about the process. This trickles down to the kids. • Parents cannot be too involved!! The choice of colleges is one of the most important decisions in a lifetime, right up there with getting married and having children, only without the emotional baggage to get in the way. A wrong decision in any of these can lead to a lifetime of debt and waste. I am not prepared to allow my child who has been protected by myself and society to the point were we've taken all their choices away from them to now make such an important decision.

What do parents think of their involvement in child’s college choice?
(continued) • Parents must understand that the purpose of college is to provide a learning experience to the student, not to the parent. The parent can advocate for the child, but should reserve advocacy only for health/safety-related issues. • I feel that parents have a right to be involved but in the long run it will be up to the child to start taking on responsibility for their own life. Nothing is wrong with being involved in your child future just make sure you make them accountable. • Parenting is in general about preparing a child for adulthood & gradually letting go. I like to hope that at this stage my son has the maturity and value system to get the information he needs to make a good choice for him, but still want and respect input from his parents/counselors.

Do Parents Perceive a “Parental Dilemma”?
• 44.5% say yes! • Parents were more likely to report that their teens “struggle with their involvement in their college choice” when
– More guidelines are imposed – There are specific guidelines, including which schools to visit, where to apply, distance from home, size of schools, amount of debt allowed, choice of major, living arrangements, and preference for a specific institution

How are Parents Managing This Dilemma?
• Listening

• Talking/Discussing options, opinions, limitations
• Being patient • Pushing (when they must)

How are parents managing the dilemma?
(Verbatim Comments) • Cody and I have this process! It goes like this – he comes to me to talk and I say ―do you need me to just listen or help you solve a problem?‖ He tells me which and we go from there! • I suggest he do things but I then drop the issue and leave it up to him. I do schedule his tests and just give him the information. • We fight, we discuss, we talk out our differences. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree. • We have family meetings to discuss and come up with solutions.


				
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