“Can My Mom Sit In?”: Defining the Proper Scope of Parental Involvement in Academic Advising


  • Alan Reynolds University of California, Davis




parents, parental involvement, higher education, FERPA, developmental advising


Parental involvement in higher education is on the rise, including in academic advising. Much of the literature on this topic takes parental involvement for granted and discusses ways to make the best of this situation. This article takes a step back and asks if parents should be involved in advising at all, and if so, under what conditions. Of particular concern are cases where parents join advising meetings with their child. When, if ever, is this appropriate? Taking developmental advising as a guide for thinking about the goals of advising, in what ways does parental involvement contribute to—or detract from—student development? I articulate three guidelines that help define the proper scope of parental involvement:

  1. Generally, parents should not join advising meetings.
  2. Although not encouraged, parents may join up to one advising meeting.
  3. Advisers should never meet with parents without the student present.

Reforming advising policies and messaging along these lines would allow for cases of positive parental involvement, minimize cases of harmful parental involvement, and redirect parental involvement into more constructive channels.


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