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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      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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