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Wikipedia defines a helicopter parent as someone who pays extremely close attention to his or her child or children, particularly while at educational institutions. The term suggests that like an actual helicopter, parents “hover” nearby, able to swoop in quickly to address, fix or handle situations.

The term is mostly used in a derogative way on college campuses, since these helicopter parents are accused of rushing in to prevent any harm or failure from befalling children, sometimes, despite protests from the children or college students they seek to protect.

Valerie Strauss in an article for Washington Post, says helicopter parents “are needy, overanxious and sometimes plain pesky — and schools at every level are trying to find ways to deal with them”.

As schools try to deal with helicopter parents, administrators have to balance other research that shows that students with strong parental involvement do better in school. The Harvard Family Research Project found that teens, whose parents played an active role in their education, do better in school and are more likely to enroll in college.

If parental influence supports better attainment in high schools, why would that not hold true for college students? Opponents of helicopter parenting would appear to be saying that once students are safely enrolled in college, parents should immediately take a hands-off approach.

With HigherEdInfo.com showing a 6-year college graduation rate in the US at 56.4% in 2006 and the 2003 annual ACT survey showed that only 37.5% of two-year college students were graduating within three years, is there a role for helicopter parents?

Experience, Inc., a provider of career advice and job hunting tools for students and alumni, surveyed more than 400 college students and new graduates on their parental involvement in college life. The overwhelming majority of college students described their parents as moderately involved. Twenty five percent of students in the survey responded that their parents were “overly involved to the point that their involvement was either annoying or embarrassing.” Additionally, 13% of the respondents said their parents were not involved at all.

Is it possible that parental involvement at the college level could enhance rather than hinder college student graduation rates? Should college administrators now begin to embrace rather than reject helicopter parents?

To find out if your parents are helicopter parents or if you are a helicopter parent, the College Board offers a great quick 12-question quiz that could help you as a parent gauge your current level of involvement with your children. Whether or not, one agrees or disagrees with their quiz results, I did not agree with mine, it does offer the opportunity for personal reflection and could be the foundation of a conversation between college students and parents.

Article courtesy of the Recruiting Blogswap, a content exchange service sponsored by CollegeRecruiter.com, a leading site for college students looking for internships and recent graduates searching for entry level jobs and other career opportunities.

Article by Marcia Robinson and courtesy of BullsEyeResumes College Blogs. Robinson has been coaching, training, and writing on career, workplace, employment and education issues for students and career professionals for 10 years.

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