Parental involvement has been a term widely used and positively viewed in K-12 education. For years now, we have read a multitude of research correlating strong parental involvement with positive outcomes in elementary and high school. These positive effects include higher standardized test scores, higher self-esteem, reduced substance use, better high school completion rates, positive social/emotional outcomes, and aspirations for college. In fact, parental involvement in education has been proven to be more important to children’s academic success than family’s socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or educational background.
I was an engaged parent and remember many evenings during my daughter Sofia’s elementary and high school years attending school events, conferences, meetings, volunteering in her classroom and in other areas of the school, helping to organize events, being a homeroom parent, organizing holiday parties for her class, and chaperoning more field trips than I care to remember. By doing this, I felt I was supporting my daughter’s success and getting to know the people I trusted her care and education to, and they were getting to know me as well. It felt like a win-win.
This fall, I took Sofia to college for her first year. I was humbled to meet parents who flew and drove from every corner of the United States (some of them with very limited resources) to move their children into their residence hall. I was touched by a dad’s willingness to help me unload boxes from the car, from the mom across the hallway who helped me carry empty boxes to the recycling station, and to the family who spoke broken English but was happy to share their garbage bags with us. I participated in parent orientation programs, presentations by the president and others, and got to know a few administrators.
But what is my role now that Sofia has enrolled at college? Even after her first term, I’m not completely sure. I know I am not alone, thousands of parents are wondering exactly the same things. What is my role now? Is there a place for me? How can I support my son or daughter? How can I support her college experience? And, how can I help the college?
What research tells us about parental involvement in college
Across the country colleges are welcoming families in many different ways and fostering parental involvement in college in ways that are positive for the students, the families, and most importantly for the institutions themselves. Nearly all the parents of high school students whom RNL surveyed in 2019 thought that college was the most important thing their children should be doing after high school, and nearly all of them were dedicated to making sure their children went to college. It is clear that parents support their children’s postsecondary plans and dreams as much as they supported their success through the elementary to high school years.
There are important opportunities for institutions to regularly gather satisfaction feedback from currently enrolled students and their parents. The RNL Parent Satisfaction Inventory asks parents to indicate how important and how satisfied they are on a series of items about the student experience both inside and outside of the classroom.
Results from the 19,746 parents completing the Parent
Satisfaction Inventory at 37 four-year private and public institutions
- 88 percent participated in orientation activities.
- 31 percent communicate with their child at least once a day, with an additional 47 percent connecting with the student multiple times a week.
- Phone (44 percent) and text (42 percent) were the most popular methods for communication between parents and students.
- The security of their children is top of mind for parents, with 98 percent saying it is important that the campus is safe and secure and 97 percent indicating it is important for security staff to respond quickly in emergencies.
- Parents are also concerned about faculty and advisors caring about students as individuals and students getting access to the classes they need with few conflicts.
- Another key issues for parents, and for students, is the perception of the tuition paid being a worthwhile investment.
How can you increase parental involvement in the college process?
In our continued search for answers in how RNL can help our campus partners figure out the right balance to parental involvement in college, we worked our partner CampusESP as well as TeenLife to produce a detailed study: the 2019 Parents’ Role in College Planning Report.
I recommend downloading the report and learning more about the expectations and experiences of parents of college students. You can also learn more about our partner CampusESP and how their platform for parent engagement can help you turn parents into enrollment advocates.
While you check out our research, I hope you will think about how you can help parents like me become positively engaged and be part of their children’s and your institutional success!
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