Close Contact

During Kayleigh Gamble’s freshman year, her mother usually called her between one and four times a day. Sometimes she called in the morning and sometimes she called in the evening. When the SESP sophomore didn’t pick up, her mother would leave multiple messages.

University administrators across the country are reporting there are more and more parents similar to Gamble’s mother, who keep closer ties to their college-aged children. They call these concerned moms and dads “helicopter parents.”

Northwestern students, professors and administrators say Gamble’s case remains a rarity.

Some parents will call NU to complain or ask questions on their student’s behalf, saying their children are too busy to ask themselves, said Jen Meyers, orientation and parent program coordinator.

“While most administrators can probably recall an incident with an overzealous and hyper-involved parent, I would say ‘helicopter parents’ are by far the exception,” Meyers said in an e-mail.

Most students said they don’t feel their parents contact them too often.

Communication freshman Hannah Macfarlane said she talks to her parents every couple of weeks and thinks that’s fine.

“Usually my parents will call me, but they aren’t obsessive at all,” Macfarlane said. “They definitely let me have my space.”

Some students chose to go to school close to home so they could keep in closer contact with their families.

Music sophomore Adria Rice grew up in Evanston. She said she limits how much she goes home so she can have the experience of being away at school. But that doesn’t stop her from sometimes doing laundry or taking “a real shower” at her house.

“In addition, sometimes my dad will take my friends and me out to dinner,” Rice said in an e-mail.

Although many students don’t talk with their parents every day, they said they know if anything happened they could reach their parents anytime.

“If something important happens I can always talk to them, it doesn’t necessarily have to be something trivial,” Macfarlane said.

Weinberg sophomore Kaavya Paruchuri’s home is in Hinsdale, which is an hour from campus with traffic. She mostly goes home to see her family and her brother when he comes home from boarding school.

“I think they want me home more often than I do,” Paruchuri said.

Meyers said the current generation of college students tends to be very close with their parents, so it is natural that these parents take an active involvement in their children’s lives.

Chemistry lecturer Shelby Hatch said she has only received zealous phone calls from parents once or twice.

“In the cases I’ve dealt with, the parent thought that the student’s grade should have been higher than it was,” Hatch said in an e-mail. She said she does not discuss students’ grades with anyone except the students themselves.

Gamble said even when her mother was calling her every day, she sympathized with her mother’s concerns. Gamble said students with hovering parents should communicate with them.

“(My mother) eventually cooled down because I told her that I didn’t have the time to talk to her like she wanted,” Gamble said. “She understands I’m busy now and we talk more naturally now, in smaller increments.”