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Am I a helicopter parent?

dad3sonsdad3sons 171 replies7 threads Junior Member
Recently, it has been very stressful for me and for my eldest son. I am taking so much role in regards to deciding which college/university he must attend for his undergraduate degree. My main reason is I need to get involve because it will affect my finances and decision must consider affordability as one of the factors.

I had this feeling that my eldest son is not doing enough research and also, not equipped with enough knowledge to make a good decision.

Is being a helicopter parent bad? I feel that he is stressed over this.
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Replies to: Am I a helicopter parent?

  • TorveauxTorveaux 1451 replies10 threads Senior Member
    You did not describe enough of what you are doing to tell if you are a helicopter parent. Personally, I think being a helicopter parent is bad because it does not teach your kids to handle problems and take personal responsibility for their own adult/soon to be adult lives.

    I have helped the kids by doing some of the research and building spreadsheets for them, but they do everything else. The plan is to show them how to build models for finances, course planning, comparing schools or whatever they want to do. So far so good. 2 kids down, 2 to go.

    You do need to gauge your own child's interest in your help. It is not good to force your methods on them. If you are giving them money, set some basic standards (accredited college, within x miles of home, or whatever is important to you). Try to avoid setting arbitrary or overly restrictive parameters. It is their life. Set a firm budget. Tell them you will pay up to a certain amount and the rest must be handled by them. Since you have more children, your rules will likely need to apply to more than one. Good luck!

    In our case, we told all of our kids very early in their lives that college expenses were primarily up to them. The idea was to help them be self-sufficient and to maximize their drive to do well in school. S1 is on a basically full ride. D1 is going to have to work it out with some loans. But she is looking into other alternatives like ROTC and such. The two younger children see the difference and are already making plans to deal with such things.
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  • CorinthianCorinthian 1808 replies63 threads Senior Member
    OP has a number of other threads which help flesh out his situation. My personal feeling is that, as the person paying, you have every right -- and obligation -- to be clear about what you can afford and are willing to pay. My understanding is you have 3 kids and this is the first, so you need to think about the other 2 and your own future. I think it's NOT okay to force him to major in something he doesn't want to. But that doesn't mean you can't talk with him about different options and paths. Don't try to exact promises for the distant future. Our older D would love to go to law school and would probably make an excellent lawyer. But we (both her parents) are lawyers and have pointed out a lot of harsh truths about the cost of law school and the rather dismal prospects for future employment and paying off loans to accomplish that goal. But yes, it can cause a lot of stress to ask someone who is a senior in high school to worry about things like student loans and future employment. If he isn't sure what he wants to do, try to help him pick a path that minimizes debt and maximizes options.
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    You can certainly put limits on regarding costs. But I think things like saying you must attend a research university if the kid wants an LAC, or telling them I will pay for one major but not another -- that is too much helicoptering. My kids knew their cost parameters, that they need to be self supporting when they graduate, that they need to cover their own books & spending money & any unpaid summer internship costs, and that the bank of mom is only covering 4 years of study (so they better not switch majors or miss out on sequencing unless they can stay on track for graduation).

    But how much you do to help with the search can vary. My D1 loved looking at colleges; she burrowed into the Fiske book on her own. D2 said, "Mom, will you flag some colleges that seem like a good fit for me in Fiske, and then we can talk about them?" Both ways worked. I did the travel arrangements for visiting, not really stuff a 17 year old can do well. We had a joint email account used for all college stuff so I didn't miss important emails on stuff like FA. Once they had a list, I kept them apprised of upcoming deadlines and reviewed their essays because they asked me to.

    I also kept a bit of veto and "Mom's choice" power. One school D2 liked, I asked her not to apply because I didn't feel like I wanted to pay for what she would get there (didn't think it would be a good influence on her, BUT I said if she had her heart set on it, she could leave it on her list. She didn't). Another school I thought was a fit, and I asked her to leave it on her list, apply, and attend admitted student days -- but said if that happened and she didn't like it, I would not mention it again (and... she did end up attending there).

    Basically I would not allow my kids to apply anyplace I didn't intend to allow them to attend. And if there are restrictions on costs/scholarships, be sure you make those clear BEFORE the kid applies. Don't pull the rug out from under them in the spring when a college dangles merit aid if you didn't clarify your position on it earlier. But I also think as a parent you should make sure that you have run the NPCs, and also have a realistic idea of your kid's possibilities of getting merit (we can help with that out here).
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 82861 replies738 threads Senior Member
    edited April 2016
    OP's other threads indicate that a budget was given beforehand.

    However, the application list was not well informed, resulting in an affordable school without the student's intended major and two unaffordable (or extreme financial stretch) schools with that major (chemical engineering).

    The threads did lead to suggestions of big automatic merit schools that would be affordable, have his major, and are still accepting applications, including for the scholarships.

    The student is obviously disappointed (and may be disengaged as a result), though the OP is trying to find some solution to the problem.
    edited April 2016
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  • thumper1thumper1 78070 replies3504 threads Senior Member
    It's one thing to set a college budget. It's quite another thing to choose the colleges.
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  • happy1happy1 23832 replies2384 threads Super Moderator
    I would try to sit down with your S and go through things together.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 82861 replies738 threads Senior Member
    thumper1 wrote:
    It's one thing to set a college budget. It's quite another thing to choose the colleges.

    The OP may not want to choose the colleges, but now they are in a situation where the student effectively got (financially) shut out and have very few affordable options left for the student (start at CC, go to an automatic full tuition school with the desired major and is still taking applications, give up on the desired major and go to the affordable university, or go to work for a year and reapply to a new list).
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  • kac425kac425 221 replies1 threads Junior Member
    imo, it is an enormously difficult process. i admire the kids that can navigate it themselves, but many just cant--as an adult, i am overwhelmed, let alone my kid. call it what you want, but when large amounts of *MY* money are involved, you can best believe i have a large roll in this process.

    for example, my kids GC suggested she apply to a specific school. he flat out said dont worry about the money. now, my late bloomer has decent stats, but she surely isnt full ride material...we are a donut hole family and yes, the money matters--frankly, in our case, it might be close to the number one criteria--our EFC is relatively unaffordable. it was a ridiculous suggestion--i could buy my kid a house for less than what that school would have cost (and no, it wasnt some holy grail--it was a meh suggestion).

    so my kid now knows that under no circumstances is she applying. left to her own devices i'm sure she would have went with the advice...she doesnt have the life experience to know that not all advice is good advice.

    so i guess maybe i'm a 747 parent--i'm above and beyond helicoptor in this particular process. i'm not suggesting that i will make her go where *I* say, but i am here to provide her with a workable, comprehensive, *affordable* list--then she can go from there.

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  • NEPatsGirlNEPatsGirl 2845 replies106 threads Senior Member
    I think teamwork is key in the college search. My D decided the parameters (size of student body, region, greek or no greek etc.), I set the budget and a yearly monetary contribution from her. We visited together. I helped with a spreadsheet to sort the particulars like how much merit was available, how many credits she might get from her IB classes, potential majors....One thing I note is mentioned quite often is majors and what parents will allow or pay for. I'll be honest, I was quite clear that she could minor in anything she wanted but that her major had to be one which I thought would provide a potentially lucrative career. Its a sacrifice for our family for D to be in college and I felt I had some say.
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  • thumper1thumper1 78070 replies3504 threads Senior Member
    It totally advocate team work @kac425 .

    This teamwork really needs to start BEFORE applications are sent in...and really the first thing every family needs to do is set their financial budget. Students can then apply wherever, as long as parents dont object for some other reason. But the student needs to understand that the net cost needs to be within the family college budget.

    @ucbalumnus I understand this OP's issues. He has several threads about them.

    No family should be forced to take on loans because their application list was not one that gave them an affordable acceptance.

    this oarent should be presenting the affordable options to his son...and then the son should choose.

    BTW...where is the other parent in this story...I forget!
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  • BestfriendsgirlBestfriendsgirl 931 replies4 threads Member
    @thumper1 - my dad set the budget, chose the school, everything. All I basically had to do was show up.
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  • HRSMomHRSMom 4605 replies50 threads Senior Member
    I doubt you are helicoptering OP. And if you feel you are, you are likely doing more bc you now feel you may have been too hands off before with a result that is not what you kid hoped for.

    It's ok now to jump in and help, especially as the high school counsellor may now be out of the picture as school is ending.

    I admit I did a lot of investigating. Questioning. I made all the school visit appointments and travel arrangements. I proofed his app and essays.

    He did all the applying, got my credit card to pay and send.

    We had a joint email account.

    I am paying, so I got a say upfront in where or what I would not pay. For instance, at full pay, I was not spending $69k a year for a midrange LAC when he had access to much better schools within our state system. I would not pay $60k a year for a BFA...not worth the $.

    And while I want him to learn how to navigate and make his own mistakes, it is easier to say that when that mistake doesn't cost you $60k a year!

    Do what you think is right. It will be appreciated by your kid at this point.
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  • mackinawmackinaw 3040 replies54 threads Senior Member
    With one child (no longer a child), I'm something of a "pontoon parent." I come to the rescue to keep this child afloat when some of the best-laid plans don't work out. A helicopter wouldn't do much good.
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  • dad3sonsdad3sons 171 replies7 threads Junior Member
    After so much discussion last night, my son was left with few options with the limited budget on the table. He didn't like the idea of going to UAH. My son decided to stay in town and attend community college with a plan to transfer through TAG. That is despite getting accepted to UCI and UCSD already but he knows we will incur too much debt.

    I told him a disadvantage of doing community college -- which is he will be able to finish an Associates degree but may become bored of studying to the point of forgetting why he is there for -- to transfer and get a Bachelors degree at a minimum.

    I am so happy that he could make that tough decision. Now, he is writing his own destiny. I'm so proud of him.

    I could safely land the helicopter now.

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  • itsgettingreal17itsgettingreal17 4110 replies28 threads Senior Member
    @dad3sons He was eligible for the merit at UAH and would prefer to go to community college instead?
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  • californiaaacaliforniaaa 1868 replies47 threads Senior Member
    I am not considering myself a helicopter, but a secretary, who makes an executive summary.

    dad3sons, you are in California, aren't you? University of California is good, and it is relatively easy to apply to all campuses, including Berkeley and Merced (same application form). If it is too expensive, (and If your children are focused and ambitious), they can go to a community college with direct transfer program to UC. Thus you would save tuition for 2 years.

    Alternatively: US army is always an option ->GI bill.

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  • dad3sonsdad3sons 171 replies7 threads Junior Member
    @itsgettingreal17 Yes, he researched about the place - Huntsville AL although he haven't even visited. He wanted to stay in California.

    Even after UAH merit (tuition only), we still need to pay about 11k for the rest. With community college, it will be less than 11k total per year.
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  • dad3sonsdad3sons 171 replies7 threads Junior Member
    @californiaaa Yes, the plan is to do community college and then, transfer through TAG program to UC.
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  • mackinawmackinaw 3040 replies54 threads Senior Member
    edited April 2016
    @dad3sons When I interviewed for my first academic job at FSU, I spoke with a dean about the kinds of students who attended and how they compared with UF and other institutions. He said there were basically two streams of incoming students at FSU: those who enrolled as freshmen and those who transferred from community or junior colleges. He said that on average those who transferred graduated with higher GPA's than those who began as freshmen.

    The reason for this was that those who arrived as freshmen sometimes came to college without much sense of purpose, or came with an intent to enjoy all the EC's and the social life of college, and they did OK in their courses but did not excel. In contrast, those who transferred with associates degrees were often more highly motivated, realized that the main purpose of college was training and skill development, and had figured out how to balance work and school. So the transfers worked harder, were more focused, and earned better grades.
    edited April 2016
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  • zbreezezbreeze 64 replies0 threads Junior Member
    You should be proud of yourself and your son for coming to a workable and affordable option. I wish the both of you much success.

    I think we sometimes get blinded by what we *want* for our children even when we know what the needs are.

    The article in the Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/05/my-secret-shame/476415/ by Neil Gabbler, who says he was pretty good at living frugally except when it came to his children is a good example of the slippery slope to financial instability resulting from trying to give your children everything they want.
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