Helicopter Parents - Are You One?

Helicopter parenting describes parents who hover over their children and become too involved in their lives, including interfering in college or career decisions later in life.


Full disclosure here, but I definitely am one, at least with my two girls (I’ve backed away a little with my third child). Being a helicopter parent does not necessarily need to be a bad thing. Here’s my thought process…..I was definitely not going to allow my 17 year child to make a $150,000+ decision. When it came to applications, college visits, acceptance letters, and academic advising, I definitely was a part of the whole thing. I will never forget my daughter informing me that one of the coaches who was actively recruiting her told her that “we like to work with the student and not the parent because after all the student is now an adult”. Really? Newsflash! My daughter would not be the one paying for the school so you’ll have to deal with me. It’s easier to snow over a 17 or 18 year old than a parent so that’s why they want to talk to the kid. Not too many high school kids can really talk scholarship dollars comfortably with a coach. Heck, it’s intimidating for a parent to do that much less a child. I felt like it was my job to advocate for my child.


When it comes to course selection and academic advising, I think it is important that a parent is involved in the process. Prior to my daughters’ first academic sessions (when they were still a high school student and choosing freshman coursework), I had gone on-line and explored all the coursework they needed -  both general education courses and specific classes to their major. If you want your child to have any chance of making it out in four years, it takes considerable planning. Your student needs to understand what they need to take and when! Some courses will do double duty counting for two different requirements. Though it may be impossible to plan out a four year academic calendar (schedules change, classes fill up, etc.) students must have a general idea of how to fit everything in. Add a study-abroad program and the stakes change even more. Bottom-line is go on the school website, familiarize yourself with graduation requirements and specific degree requirements and review it with your student prior to their first meeting.

Additionally, all bills including tuition payments, housing payments, sorority bills, etc. come to the student (typically sent to the student’s on-line university email account). I went through and set up all their accounts and then added myself as an authorized user on the account – that way I could manage the bill process. I did the same thing with access to their student records accounts – I’m paying the bills and I want to see what their grades are. Parents are told by the university that the college is unable to give out your grades to anyone but the student.  College students are protected by a law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Among other things, FERPA protects information that belongs to you -- like your grades, your disciplinary record, and your medical records when you visit the campus health center -- from other people, including your parents. In the eyes of the institution, the student is the “customer” and FERPA laws prevent schools from disclosing information  but in the eyes of my family, forget about FERPA I’m paying so I’m the “customer”. If you feel the same you will want to  request third party disclosure and put yourself on the accounts allowing access to information. My girls will be full-blown adults soon enough with their own job, house, family, etc. and then they’ll be in charge but in the meantime while I’m still paying – I am still in charge. I’ll just hover away...

I knew it would go fast but, really? As I sit and type this I prepare for my oldest and first-born to graduate college this weekend!  What a quick and crazy ride it has been. I have enjoyed every step and was lucky to share it with my daughter. It seems like we just packed up the car for U of I and now she’ll be home again. I am one proud momma, for sure. She leaves school more mature, more worldly, and ready for whatever comes her way. She graduates with a fantastic “toolbox” –magna cum laude, James Scholar, bilingual, lots of leadership/internship/work experience, etc. but more than that she graduates with a good head on her shoulders, a strong work ethic and a strong person. She has made lifelong friends and has truly embodied the whole college student experience. It has been a great 4 years. Shout out to my daughter: I love you and I am so proud of  you!!!! Can’t wait to see your future.

Janet Eggenberger is the mother of three - 2 college girls and a high school boy. Janet is a member of the admissions team at a private college in Illinois.  She is a contributing blogger for EleMental Learning Tutoring.