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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 Students Report That Report That Moms Do Dads Do Ask you which schools you are considering 95.7% 90.9% Ask you about what you plan to major in 93.4% 88.5% Discuss colleges with others 87.8% 80.2% Encourage you to do things to enhance your college resume/applications 85.5% 76.0% Talk with you about financial concerns/paying for college 81.7% 78.5% Help you evaluate options by weighing the pros/cons of specific schools 81.2% 75.3% Read materials colleges sent to them 80.0% 69.0% Serve as a sounding board for you 79.8% 72.7% Read materials that colleges sent to you 76.1% 60.2% Help you with college applications 68.9% 59.3% How are parents involved? (continued) Students Students Report That Report That Moms Do Dads Do Help you complete scholarship/financial aid applications 66.5% 60.3% Encourage you to consider a specific type of school 63.4% 59.4% Encourage you to consider a specific school 61.1% 57.2% Consult with guidance counselors/teachers/coaches 58.5% 42.3% Research information about schools online 56.1% 45.6% Arrange campus visits 55.4% 42.7% Encourage you to consider a specific major/field of study 55.0% 52.5% Request information from a college 44.5% 31.9% Call admission offices to ask questions/gather information 31.6% 20.4% How does involvement by moms and dads compare? % of Moms % of Dads Who Who Report Report They They Do Do Ask child about intended major 94.3% 91.0% Ask which schools child is considering 92.1% 93.5% Read materials that colleges sent to child 89.9% 84.6% Encourage child to do things to enhance college resume/applications 87.3% 90.0% Read materials colleges sent to them 83.2% 85.6% Serve as a sounding board for child 78.3% 78.6% Talk with child about financial concerns/paying for college 77.1% 69.2% Research information about schools online 71.4% 73.6% Discuss colleges with others 70.5% 59.7% How does involvement by moms and dads compare? (continued) % of Moms % of Dads Who Report Who Report They Do They Do Help child evaluate options 68.7% 67.7% Consult with guidance counselors/teachers/coaches 55.8% 55.2% Encourage child to consider a specific type of school 48.1% 50.2% Encourage child to consider a specific major 45.9% 41.8% Arrange campus visits 41.3% 41.8% Encourage child to consider a specific school 30.7% 35.8% Email admission offices 23.5% 22.9% Help child complete scholarship/financial aid applications 20.9% 20.4% Call admission offices to ask questions/gather information 19.0% 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 % of Students Reporting Item as Reporting Item as Important to Important to Parents Them Personal happiness of student 72.3% 40.2% Quality of a particular program/major 53.2% 25.1% General academic quality 49.1% 36.9% Personal attention provided to students 23.3% 15.3% Financial cost to family 22.1% 40.2% Prestige of the institution 18.0% 16.8% Rankings relative to other institutions 12.3% 12.4% Proximity to home 10.6% 30.7% Religious affiliation of institutions 4.6% 7.2% What’s really most important to parents? % of Parents % of Parents Reporting Item is Reporting Item is Most Important to Most Important to Them Child This child’s personal happiness 57.4% 59.9% Quality of a particular program/major 52.1% 66.5% This child’s safety 47.3% 10.7% Financial cost to family 45.3% 18.5% General academic quality 39.6% 42.6% Personal attention provided to students 23.4% 24.8% Proximity to home 15.9% 25.7% Prestige of the institution 7.4% 23.4% Rankings relative to other institutions 6.8% 14.3% Religious affiliation of the institution 4.7% 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 Guidelines for Daughters Mother Set Father Set Mother Set Father Set Specific schools considered 28.9% 24.2% 35.3% 27.9% Specific schools visited 25.9% 22.7% 31.2% 22.8% Specific schools to apply to 21.3% 18.6% 27.7% 20.2% Number of schools to apply to 25.2% 18.8% 27.3% 17.7% Amount to be spent on college education 29.6% 29.4% 36.3% 35.3% Distance of the school from home 35.5% 22.3% 44.5% 28.7% Type of school selected 20.6% 13.5% 22.3% 18.7% Environment of the school selected 20.9% 15.8% 24.4% 18.0% Size of the school selected 15.6% 12.7% 17.9% 11.9% Amount of debt to be incurred in loans 29.6% 25.7% 33.7% 30.5% Field of study 25.2% 21.6% 28.3% 22.5% Living arrangements on or off campus 34.4% 27.8% 46.2% 32.7% Employment during school 31.8% 29.7% 42.3% 31.3% What guidelines have parents set? (as Reported by Parents) Guidelines for Sons Guidelines for Daughters Mother Set Father Set Mother Set Father Set Specific schools considered *+ 23.1% 27.4% 33.1% 40.0% Specific schools visited *+ 27.2% 28.6% 34.7% 49.3% Specific schools to apply to *+ 20.0% 25.0% 28.9% 44.0% Number of schools to apply to + 32.3% 29.8% 35.6% 49.3% Amount to be spent on college education 42.1% 59.5% 52.7% 68.0% Distance of the school from home *+ 32.3% 31.0% 34.7% 44.0% Type of school selected * 19.5% 33.3% 34.3% 37.3% Environment of the school selected *+ 19.5% 25.0% 29.3% 42.7% Size of the school selected * 17.9% 19.0% 21.8% 32.0% Amount of debt to be incurred in loans * 41.5% 61.9% 60.7% 68.0% Field of study * 14.4% 19.0% 23.4% 28.0% Living arrangements on or off campus * 41.0% 51.2% 58.2% 64.0% Employment during school * 33.3% 44.0% 45.6% 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 Reporting Parents Parents Parents Parents without college with college without college with college experience experience experience experience Specific schools considered ** 21.6% 39.7% 45.0% 31.1% Specific schools visited ** 16.9% 35.8% 53.0% 34.6% Specific schools to apply to ** 16.8% 30.4% 41.0% 29.2% Number of schools to apply to ** 16.3% 31.6% 50.0% 36.8% Amount to be spent on college ** 24.5% 39.5% 63.0% 55.9% Distance of the school from home ** 28.2% 43.6% 54.0% 37.3% Type of school selected ** 15.9% 24.1% 46.0% 32.3% Type of environment selected ** 16.8% 26.6% 45.0% 29.0% Size of the school selected ** 11.6% 20.2% 34.0% 23.6% Amount of debt to be incurred ** 23.5% 37.4% 73.0% 59.4% Field of study ** 20.1% 31.3% 37.0% 22.2% Living arrangements on or off campus * 25.0% 45.2% 59.0% 57.1% Employment during school ** 25.1% 44.7% 63.0% 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 Parents Reporting Non-Traditional Traditional Non-Traditional Traditional Families Families Families Families Specific schools considered ** 38.7% 30.6% 42.6% 32.8% Specific schools visited * 33.2% 26.5% 42.6% 37.0% Specific schools to apply to ** 32.5% 22.6% 39.8% 29.7% Number of schools to apply to ** 31.5% 23.5% 46.3% 37.3% Amount to be spent on education ** 38.4% 32.4% 64.8% 55.7% Distance of the school from home * 43.8% 36.1% 43.5% 39.2% Type of school selected ** 26.4% 19.4% 46.3% 32.7% Environment of the school selected * 28.6% 21.1% 38.9% 30.8% Size of the school selected ** 20.2% 15.8% 34.3% 24.1% Amount of debt to be incurred in loans * 37.3% 30.5% 63.9% 59.9% Field of study ** 33.2% 25.2% 32.4% 24.5% Living arrangements on or off campus * 40.6% 36.2% 56.5% 55.9% Employment during school ** 42.0% 35.5% 53.7% 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 35.6% Parental preferences are imposing restrictions on choices 16.9% Parents are demanding, pushy, controlling 15.9% Parents have had no influence whatsoever 14.2% Parents are confident in my abilities to “reach for the stars” 6.8% Parents aren’t interested in my college search 5.3% First-generation student; parents desire a better life for me 2.1% Parents lack confidence in my ability to go to and complete college 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 46.7% motivation Parent’s “job” to help the child in such areas as finances, applications, support, and 26.7% encouragement Desire to share in the college planning experience 17.1% Child is so exceptional that opportunities will be vast (“Ivy-League material”) 17.5% Projection of parental desires and beliefs onto child’s choices 10.1% Fear and worry (college might be too difficult or child might not be admitted) 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-first- generation 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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