Infantilizing college freshmen? Is this the new (or not so new) normal?

Am I the only one who’s astonished at the level of parent involvement in the transition to college? When I left for college (3 hrs drive away), one parent drove me and my stuff, dropped me off, said good-bye, and left. That’s all I needed from them (plus of course their paying the bill, and the very generous by 1978 standards extra $100/month allowance to buy myself whatever I needed). I didn’t want them hanging around - I wanted to meet the other students, and go in a freshman floor pack to explore the campus and head to the dining hall together. From what I’m hearing, people are planning to drive two-car caravans from across the country with the entire family and tons of stuff, or ALL fly together, families of six, with two suitcases each filled with all Primo’s stuff, complete with hotel stays for everyone, to drop Primo off at college, as a multi-day event, including orientation sessions for the parents!

The icing on the cake is that I just found out that the college is inviting ‘letters of introduction’ from the parent(s) to the advisor, so that the advisor can get a head start on getting to know the student. The last time I wrote one of these was when my oldest went to nursery school for the first time, although I did fill out a form the first time each kid went to sleep-away camp. I would have been mortified, and outraged, had my parent written such a letter to my college - and it most certainly would never have occurred to them to do such a thing.

The parents seem to think that this is wonderful idea. I’m appalled. Even if my child were a Type I diabetic, or had a seizure disorder, I think that it’s up to my child to share that information. As for any other ‘getting to know my child’ info, isn’t that supposed to be up to my child? I mean, they’re the one who is going to college.

Am I being a dinosaur? Or do others think that this level of parent involvement is inappropriate?


I agreed until the line about the serious medical disorders such as diabetes and / or seizures.


This information will have already been submitted to the health department of the college. If the student and his physician and the school health department feel it is appropriate to share this information, they will.

As a parent, would I want my child to share this with the advisor? Yes. But would I share it for them? No. And it seems that they are inviting all ‘getting to know your child’ information that the parent wants to share.

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Yes, I was aware that such medical information should be in the hands of the school, but I would confirm that both the health facility & the RA were aware of any serious medical conditions.

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Agree. It’s a continuation of the helicopter parenting they have experienced all the way up, including through the college application process. I have always worked full time outside the home. My own mom stayed home with us full time. Yet, she was much more hands off. As a result, my sister and I were infinitely more independent and better equipped to deal with adulthood than my own kids. I blame myself. (I also blame smartphones because I couldn’t simply text/call my my mom whenever an issue arose. I had to figure it out for myself.)


I like the service academy way: 60 seconds at drop-off to hug your kid and wipe a tear (if you even choose to attend), then off they go, incommunicado for six weeks of basic training and you, the parent, are just a taxpayer from that point on. The military does not require anything from you to produce officers and will not allow you to participate in the process in any way (besides attending football games). The academy makes it very clear that you are dropping off an adult, and it is time for you to leave, physically and symbolically.

(But, c’mon @parentologist, if it weren’t for these types of parents, CC would have dried up long ago!)


Technology has made remote helicoptering much easier. Now a simple google search will give all of the contact information a helicopter parent needs to contact a professor/advisor/administrator. A generation ago they had to try harder.


Letters of introduction written by the parents? What??? Definitely over the top. Which school is doing that?

Also agree with the drop and go vs hanging around after freshman move in. That time is for the kids to bond with their new roommates and go to their orientation activities, not mom and dad having an orientation and hanging around.

The one thing that surprised me at Purdue was in person course registration/advising when D was a freshman (pre Covid). It was done over the summer two months before classes started and she was still inexperienced enough that we didn’t want her driving there alone (probably helicoptering a bit there). They did have separate break out sessions for parents which I thought was very weird. But, we were told afterwards that it was specifically so parents didn’t accompany their student to the advising meeting. They wanted the kids to take that on 100% independently. As it should be! We would never in a million years have thought to go to her meeting with her and would have just taken a walk around campus.

I do have a friend who is the academic dean of her department at another university and every year she shares stories of parents calling her to complain about their kid’s grades, or make excuses for their lack of effort in class, or intervene about any number of other things student should be managing on their own. She has a standard response - “your kid needs to come talk to me.”


College had gotten insanely expensive and society seems to put the bulk of paying the price on the parents. Parents therefore want to see where their money is going and be confident they are making a wise investment. Colleges want and need money and lets be real, the kids aren’t the ones with the deep pockets, the parents are.

Younger siblings had to come to the oldest one’s move in day to the dorm because I couldn’t leave them home alone. Grandparents came because grandpa is the electronics guy and my oldest asked him to come along to ensure he was setting up his stuff correctly (my oldest has some mental health issues and LD so the support helped calm my son’s nerves).

I think there’s a healthy balance to be had.


I’m sure this thread will prompt many defensive posts. Each family should and will do what it wants to do but, understand, almost none of the participation is necessary as many of us who navigated these waters alone during our own undergraduate years can attest. Nothing has changed in that regard. The rising cost of college does not equate to a rising need to participate.


And, in many ways, I wish I knew less about the parents. Over the past ten years, I have learned more about what kind of home a lot of applicants come from, what kind of neighborhood they live in, and their parents’ individual quirks than I have about the kids themselves.

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In general, yes! I can see both parents (and siblings) wanting to drop them off and say goodbye depending on how far away the school is. But I thought even summer orientation should be for the students, not the parents. We attended a couple of the parent sessions like the one how to pay the bill, but skipped out on a lot of it and just walked around campus. I’m also not part of any parent facebook group, nor would I dream of contacting an advisor/professor/admin unless it was something very unusual. (I’m thinking of the thread where Purdue rejected the student after they had accepted/paid deposit due to a computer glitch and would not fix it!)

One of my favorite memories… when I went to summer orientation 4.5 hours away (in a death-mobile with no cell phone), I went by myself. My mom said “if you can’t figure this out, you shouldn’t be there.” But my family did all drop me off on moving day - and then promptly left.

By move in day, the college decision has long been made and I don’t think parents need to be overseeing their investment.

I also think bringing extra family members can be very hard for the other roommates when you are in a tight space.

One of my D’s roommates, In a quad converted from a triple, brought three siblings and grands and it was immediately clear they couldn’t all fit in the room with everyone else moving in.

Come with the family for parents weekend but not move in.


I think this has been and will continue to be rationalizing for overly involved behavior.


My oldest had no siblings, unpacked and we left. The next one two sisters came, because he was on the 9th floor of a dorm with no a/c, they did the vast majority of the unpacking with him while we waited in the hallway, he didn’t want us to take him to lunch do we left. The third the oldest brother came to carry heavy things, didn’t even unpack her but took her to dinner (it was a 2 day early move in and she had a couple of free hours).

One of my 18 year olds is going 12 hours away, 1 sibling is flying with us (very close and wants to see the campus), have a hotel room since we are flying in, will find out the exact move in date tomorrow. Apparently there is a parent orientation the night of move in, to replace the one that used to be at actual orientation, although my other kids drove themselves to orientation.

I’ve never called a college, or emailed a college. I’ve never seen a portal. I will be most involved with my 18 year old son, only going 45 minutes away but clueless (I’ve tried so hard but he’s so different from the others, he might crash and burn).

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In our case, we knew our son would be the only one moving into his 2 bedroom suite with 1.5 baths, living room, kitchen, and eating area. As a single parent, grandpa was my “plus 1”. Siblings mostly sat outside and were out of the way. We got him unpacked, electronics set, and off we went before the next roommate moved in (they had time slots).

I attended the parent session to learn about what the college had to offer and tucked it into my backpocket so to speak to recommend to oldest if at anytime a situation popped up. My son will come to me with issues and say “i dont know what to do”. So knowing resources far from home gave me piece of mind I could say “this is dealt with at xyz office, call them”. Lots of young adults find themselves in new situations and aren’t always sure were to turn. As a parent, I will still give advice no matter what age my kids are. Going to the parent session just made me know what type of advice to give is all.

I work for a college and never would I ever contact a professor for him. I only reached out to the college once in 2 years and that was to tell them that he was inpatient mental health. The college then reached out to my son and they figured out together what the next best step was (he withdrew from a course he was taking). I mean, I didn’t even drive up when my son was inpatient (and his friends picked him up when he was released). I did drive up to bail my son out of jail and help him set up new housing (all is cleared now and I can laugh about it).

As I said, theres a happy medium I think. I’m not going to drop my kids off and tell them to sink or swim. I’m the type who will tell them to be safe and ensure I know where the lifevests are in case I have to guide my kid to one if they need it. But I also wont step in unless my kid is in fact drowning. Mistakes are the best learning opportunities.


There is a fair amount of kvetching about lack of communication with parents on the parent FB page for my son’s university. It all settles down once parents figure out that almost all communications will go to the student and if they don’t know something they need to know, they should ask their child to check their email or student portal. Then, the next year they passing on this information to the next set of parents. And yeah, we worried about our reserved kid adequately handling his meeting with his advisor to choose his first semester classes. But, these advisors are accustomed to dealing with first year students and it was all fine.


Ten years ago I drove my kids by myself, stayed while things were taken to the room, and left. Things may have changed.

Interesting that you mention a kid with type 1 diabetes or a seizure disorder. One of mine has both. There is a lot of behind the scenes work parents can do (helping get proper documentation, researching accommodations for the MD letters, dealing with meds and insurance and supplies- type 1 has two devices now that require supplies).

However unless a crisis was happening I had no involvement with the school. When a crisis was happening and said child was not in shape to communicate or self-advocate, I would give a nudge to the dean but apologetically.

In the entire time my kid with health issues was in college, I never spoke to the doctors. If I had a concern I wrote a note to my kid and my kid could decide how to or whether to communicate my concern.

For my kids with learning challenges, pretty much the same thing.

One exception: for food allergy (oldest) and celiac (middle) for some reason I did attend meetings with dining services. After that it was up to them and we did not talk about it.

This is not to say I was not in frequent contact with kids- even more so now with technologies. But I did try hard to avoid communicating with the college in their place unless they were disabled.


As the mom of a T1D student, I don’t think it’s an overreach to simply call the disability office to find out what information my child needs to provide and what actions he needs to take when he gets to campus to receive appropriate accommodations and be sure that dorm staff/RAs are aware of emergency procedures. Managing chronic conditions is a huge burden on young adults on top of school and it’s not crazy for them to want support.


The disabilities offices I dealt with for 3 kids did not want to talk to parents. I researched accommodations (the disabilities office didn’t know and would probably minimize) and wrote the letter for the endocrinologist to sign, including a list of accommodations in the letter.

My kids then had to meet with the disabilities office- no parents allowed- and received letters to give to professors. These letters were helpful but mainly MD’s and deans or advisors did most of the advocacy with professors. Do not rely on the disabilities office! It may take a year for your child to really work the system because it is different at every school.

It was up to my kid whether to tell the RA/dorm staff and peers. It’s pretty obvious for type 1 these days, not so much for seizure disorder. The dean and advisors should also know. It helps to have an MD- primary and maybe endo- at the school or who works with the school.

I felt that handling insurance and meds took away a lot of the burden on my kids. As well as writing the letters for MD’s after researching accommodations.

Type 1’s can use single rooms (if desired, partly so roommate doesn’t hear alarms- suites are perfect and can be requested for social reasons), excused absences (vomiting due to a high), excused tardiness (trouble crossing campus due to a low), and exams in their own exam rooms (extra time for diabetes tasks, and again this protects other students from alarms). My kid also had extensions on assignments and, at one point, reduced course load (more for seizure disorder). Few people understand the impact of highs and lows on learning, but unfortunately the student has to do this education and advocacy.

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