Helicopter Parents on the Rise at B-Schools

Posted by: Alison Damast on October 14, 2010

The parents of the millennial generation making their way through business school just can’t seem to stay away…from the admissions office. A new study from Veritas Prep, a Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) test preparation company, shows the “helicopter parent” phenomenon — a term used to describe parents who tend to hover around their adult children — is still alive and well on business school campuses across the country.

I first wrote about the trend back in 2007, when admissions officers shared stories of parents who acted like their children were freshman entering college, rather than MBA students with several years of work experience on their resumes. Back then, school officials told me they had seen parents of millennials - students from the generation born in or after 1982 - do things like attend receptions for admitted students and help their child move into and decorate their new campus apartment.

Now, their involvement seems to have crept into the admissions realm, sometimes to their children’s detriment, according to a survey conducted this summer of admissions officers at 50 leading business schools. Of the 35 admissions officers that responded, 33 percent said that a pushy or overbearing parent has compromised an applicant’s chance of admission. A growing number of admissions officers also believe that parents are leaving a “noticeable footprint’ on applications submitted to their schools, the survey said.

Estimates vary among admissions officers on just how widespread the trend is. Fifty percent of the respondents said they felt parents were involved in the application process on less than 10 percent of applications they received. However, a smaller subset of the respondents said they believed parents played a “measurable role” in applications on as many as 40 percent of applications submitted to their school.

The Veritas survey is just one example of how helicopter parents are playing a growing role on campuses across the country. The trend appears to be the most prevalent now on undergraduate campuses, according to a survey done in September by Kaplan Test Prep and Admission of admissions officers at 387 colleges and universities. At these schools, 77 percent of respondents said that parental involvement in the college admissions process is increasing. As a result, 61 percent of admissions officers said they had developed new initiatives specifically for parents, including setting up special websites, information sessions and tours just for them.

Readers, have you seen any examples of helicopter parents making their presence felt on B-school campuses? Do you think parents are overstepping their bounds by helping their children with B-school applications?

Reader Comments


October 14, 2010 5:54 PM

I'm a Millenial, and my parents didn't even help me apply for jobs right out of undergraduate. Their philosophy is that I will learn more by figuring out my own life. I think this whole thing about 'helicopter' parents is based on a few unfortunate but very notable cases of parents who are out of line. It's not indicative of all or even most parents of Millenials-especially not those who are not upper middle class or those who are racial/ethnic minorities.

Gauri Puranik

October 15, 2010 1:13 AM

Helicopter parents is a common phenomenon in India where parents tend to influence each decision in their child's life right from school admissions, to career to marriage. I guess this is more out of love and the need to ensure that your child gets the best. However, I do believe that after a certain age lets say 18-20, individuals need to take their own decisions based on facts and their own gut instinct. While a parent's wise counsel can be sought, it need not be the basis of making a decision.


October 15, 2010 12:52 PM

Ah CLH…you comment says is all…”I'm a Millenial, and my parents didn't even help me apply for jobs right out of undergraduate.”

Newsflash kids: it is YOUR job, not your parents’ job, to complete your job applications, write a resume, apply for jobs and arrange interviews (and to be punctual, polite, professional and prepared). This goes for college, graduate school and the working world. No Admissions Officer or prospective employer can possibly take your candidacy seriously if your mommy calls to ask why you have not been called for a second interview or why you were not offered an academic scholarship.

As a higher education professional who, for the past decade, has worked at both private four year universities and community colleges, and I can attest that among middle class and wealthier families the helicopter parent phenomenon is not the exception, but the rule. If not for the on-campus consensus that these parents are emotionally crippling their children, the situation would be funny.

Smriti Sharma

October 20, 2010 3:34 AM

Well, I am an Indian applicant-My parents dont interfere at all! In fact, If one fine day , I decide to go up to them & ask for help on my application, they would surely take my temperature to see if everything is fine!!

But, yeah, when I finally do get admitted, they are going to accompany me to the campus to drop me off...Hell, I would be leaving my country, I want them to come and see my 'new' college once!!


October 25, 2010 1:58 AM

Helicopter parents are not a myth or even an insignificant statistic. Working fairly closely with UVA's professional school population (med school, law and Darden) over the last 5 years, I have seen countless helicopter parents. Very few with the med school students, a noticeable number with the Darden students, and mind blowing numbers with the law students.

That said, the mellinnials, as tied to their parents, and as problematic as they seem to be, it was the folks just before. 32 year old, with 9 years work experience, going to law school that had helicopter parents, not the 22 year old incoming med student.

Just my observation


November 24, 2010 6:26 PM

I'm a millennial in a top MBA program and my parents have never stepped foot into any one of my schools as far as I recall. K-12 through MBA. No PTA meetings, parent teacher conferences, dropping me off at college, etc. Similar to CLH, they left it up to their kids to figure it out. The good the bad and the ugly.

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