The Four Types of College Parents

Labeling parents as helicopters, snowplows, or the like is nothing new, but there are certainly different parenting approaches and outcomes - especially when considering how those involvement levels can impact student success.

Laura Hamilton, a sociologist at the University Of California Merced, recently broke parenting into four categories in her book "Parenting to a Degree: How Family Matters for College Women’s Success".  She was also recently interview on Chicago Tonight, where she discussed these categories:

Professional Helicopters: those who carefully orchestrate their daughters’ academic and career decisions. Pink Helicopters: parents who invest their energy and resources largely into their daughters’ social successes, mainly in hopes that it will increase their chances of finding a successful marriage partner. Paramedics: parents who value their daughters’ independence, but will intervene when things go wrong. Bystanders: parents with minimal involvement, normally from lower-middle and working class backgrounds. 

Professional Helicopters: those who carefully orchestrate their daughters’ academic and career decisions.

Pink Helicopters: parents who invest their energy and resources largely into their daughters’ social successes, mainly in hopes that it will increase their chances of finding a successful marriage partner.

Paramedics: parents who value their daughters’ independence, but will intervene when things go wrong.

Bystanders: parents with minimal involvement, normally from lower-middle and working class backgrounds. 

What’s the best parenting style?

When it comes to student success, Hamilton said two groups of parents come out on top, but with slight differences:

Professional Helicopters – these parents are all about limiting the risk, but their children tend not to be as capable making decisions on their own.

Paramedics – these parents often have successful children with more autonomy, but there is additional risk if they come in too late to help their students

 

CampusESP addresses the needs of both these parent groups. 

  • For Professional Helicopter parents, CampusESP publishes information right when they need it.  For example, first-year parents will see information on orientation, getting to know financial aid, etc., while fourth-year parents get information on how to better support their student's job search, information on graduation, etc.

The impact for colleges and universities? A lot less parent phone calls, as they already have the information they need.

  • For Paramedic Parents, CampusESP provides alerts and emails letting them know when they should be involved, thereby decreasing risk for their student and increasing their chance of success.  Many of our schools will push out information such as student financial aid deadlines or information on student holds.

The result?  College report better student retention.

 

What parents have the least amount of success? 

Hamilton says that students of “bystander parents” generally have the least amount of success.  She notes that these parents...

“tend to come from lower income backgrounds, and have little background with higher education. They tend to feel like they’re on the outside looking in, in terms of college life.  Some of them might want to assist their daughters, but they’re not sure how.”

At CampusESP, we believe that these are the parents (and students!) that we can help the most.  It starts by recognizing that parents & families are involved in their student’s journey.  Often times, parents are the most influential people in their student's life.  CampusESP can help them become better advisors to their students by providing the information and alerts they need….when they need them.

Takeaways

Hamilton notes some takeaways that we firmly support here at CampusESP.

First, she says that “helicopter parents are responding rationally to the challenges they are facing today.” Families view their student’s education as an investment.  They want to see the return on investment (ROI).

Second, “Involvement definitely helps” and “navigating the college years is far more difficult without involved parents”.  Sometimes parents just need some help in knowing the best way to support their students.