College Guide


August 15, 2012 5:06 PM When Dad Comes to College

By Daniel Luzer


Apparently parents of college students are now taking a really active role in helping their children pick colleges and majors. This is pretty creepy (“you will be a lawyer, like daddy!”) but, really, can you blame them?

According to an article by Bonnie Miller Rubin in the Chicago Tribune:

Those footing the bill are taking an increasingly hard-nosed, consumer-oriented approach to their child’s higher education, education experts said.
Parents are pushing their student into certain majors, vetoing others and advocating for in-state schools over more expensive status brands. They’re grilling administrators on job placement rates and alumni networks. In short, they are demanding a better return on their hefty investment than ever before, and administrators say they are getting the message.

In past years discussions about helicopter parents focused on rich people trying to force their students into Ivy League (or similar) institutions. The parents are still really involved, but now they’re getting practical.

They’re focused on state schools, job placement, and average salaries of graduates. They’re going to career offices.

That’s probably not much better for the actual kids, who perhaps don’t want to be nurses or engineers.

This is what happens when college costs so much that it prevents college students from becoming independent. They are adults, but they’re so reliant on their parents they can’t behave like adults. But how can we blame their parents for being overly involved? They’re the ones paying for the education, at least most of it. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • Snarki, child of Loki on August 15, 2012 9:25 PM:

    And, unless the job market improves, after graduation they'll be back living with their parents again.

  • TCinLA on August 15, 2012 9:33 PM:

    I can see what would have happened to me had Mommie and Daddy Dearest had a voice in the choice of my career: no happiness, no success, just a lot of time-serving in things I hated because they had less than zero understanding of who I was or what I was about. (Kinda like what I let dear ol' Dad influence me into attempting in the Navy, a definite disaster)

    Damn, am I glad I went to school back when it was affordable and provided an education, rather than training.

  • paul on August 16, 2012 11:55 AM:

    Maybe this is becoming more prevalent, but the idea is longstanding. My freshman-year roommate of 35 years ago was a physics and philosophy major until the beginning of junior year, when his father laid down the law and made him go pre-med.

    But really, other than finance, or time travel so you can go back and pick richer parents, what choice of major is likely to yield really good returns these days?

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on August 16, 2012 12:20 PM:

    Helicopter parents... I've had a few parents phone in to my office about their college students. And the funny thing is: I work at a GRADUATE school. Now that is some creepy shit...

    I hope this isn't a growing trend, because the faculty and staff will definitely need some sensitivity training for dealing with parents. As of now, unless they're paying their kids' tuition, we don't even try to give parents the time of day. Yeah, we handle that at arms length with pinched fingers like dirty undies...