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Campus Overload
Posted at 06:28 PM ET, 04/11/2011

It’s not just helicopter parents — grandparents want to check out campus life, too

When Marymount University hosts open houses for prospective students, the director of admissions sometimes finds himself entertaining grandparents who aren’t up for a walking tour of campus.

“I have never seen so many grandmothers,” said Michael A. Canfield, who oversees undergraduate admissions. In many families, higher education has become a core value, he said, “so the families are congregating around it.”

That involvement doesn’t stop at picking where to enroll. In some families, grandparents pay for a chunk of tuition (or foot the bill for activities such as study abroad or fraternity dues).

On many campuses, “parents weekend” is now ”family weekend” so grandparents and other relatives feel welcome. And some schools even hit grandparents up for donations — Vanderbilt University has a “parents and grandparents campaign” to raise money “to make the undergraduate experience the best it can be.”

I wrote an article for Sunday’s newspaper about some colleges aiming their admissions pitches to parents — which quickly prompted an e-mail from John Dobbertin Jr. of Chaseburg, Wis. His subject line: “Don’t forget grandparents!”

Dobbertin told me that he and his wife were highly involved with picking colleges for their two children about 25 years ago. Their son picked Kalamazoo College in Michigan, and their daughter went to Augustana College in Illinois.

“Even then (back in the dark ages), astute colleges were on to involving parents,” he wrote. “Now we are grandparents and can watch all of this one-step-removed.”

The Dobbertins’ college-age granddaughter is finishing up her first year at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, and her grandparents have already attended several St. Olaf events. (That includes “family weekend” in the fall, where the Dobbertins received the name tags pictured above.)

Dobbertin added in a follow-up e-mail that he and his wife are ”still in good enough shape to ‘do’ the tours!”

What does your college or university do to involve grandparents? I would love to hear your stories in the comments section.

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By  |  06:28 PM ET, 04/11/2011

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