Study shows that parental pressure affects students’ decisions for college

Jessica May

Students are becoming heavily influenced by their parents when picking a college or major in college, according to a Noel-Levitz Benchmark Psychographic study, titled Institutional Brand and Parental Influence on College Choice.

Students face the struggle of making big decisions when entering college and, with thousands of dollars at stake, parents contribute to these decisions.

Young adults are facing the pressures of social expectations, brand influence and the prestige of colleges, on top of parents that are breathing down their necks. Some students on college campuses are losing sight of what they want for their future and are instead of picking what they think will make their parents most proud.

According to the above study, “Parental involvement can certainly play a large role in the college decisions of prospective students—especially in an era of growing ‘helicopter parents’ who are very hands-on with their children’s educational careers.”

The study reports that parental influence increases when parents volunteer in their classroom growing up, talk about grades with their student, assist with ACT/SAT studying and have a saving account for their student.

This parental influence begins at a young impressionable age, according to the study. Parents make their kids play sports, join clubs and go on unsolicited playdates. Then, it spreads to high school, where parents pick out students’ classes, switch their teachers, convince them to continue sports, be in the National Honors Society, be on the band and do everything they can that will look good on a college application.

“When parents hear ‘I want to do accounting,’ they know their child can get a job as an accountant. But when they hear that their students want to major in history, they are unsure what jobs they can get and they get wary,” Director Richard Roberts of UNF’s Career Services said. “When a student comes to their parents with a plan, it changes the whole feeling.”

UNF Career Services. Photo by Jessica May.

UNF Career Services, where Roberts works, is a service on campus that works to help students find internships, jobs, discover what they would like to do, and what they could do with their major.

“We’re here to help people find their own way,” Roberts explained.

UNF Alumni Ashley Ruiz told Spinnaker she felt pressure from her parents to go to college as a nursing major. Now, she currently works as the marketing communications specialist at Lakeview Health.

“It took me two and a half years to finally put my foot down and switch to communications,” she said. “At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to wake up every day and go to that job, not your parents. If someone isn’t happy with the major his or her parents chose for them, he or she’s going to be pretty unfulfilled.”

Meanwhile, colleges continue working to appeal to the parents. This is causing young adults to be pushed further down in the decision-making totem pole, and they lose control of what they would like to do.

“We send letters to the parents to invite them to a parent orientation,” Karen Lucas, the director of the Office of Admissions at UNF said. “This helps the parents determine if UNF is right for the students and the family.”

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