When Rich Parents Act as College “Concierges,” Opportunity Gaps Widen

By Jean Rhodes

In the study “Providing a ‘‘Leg Up’’: Parental Involvement and Opportunity Hoarding in College,” researchers conducted interviews with parents of college students to explore the impact of parental involvement on their children’s college experiences. The study focused on families from a large public university in the Midwest, analyzing how affluent parents’ engagement influenced their daughters’ academic, social, and career paths during college.

The primary data consisted of 59 interviews with mothers and fathers from 41 families. Interviews were conducted by the first author, covering topics like cultural knowledge of college, academic expectations, and parental involvement. Data analysis involved coding interview transcripts and field notes using qualitative analysis software, focusing on parenting approaches, class variation in involvement, and access to institutional infrastructure.

Among affluent families, a significant majority displayed high levels of parental involvement termed the ‘college concierge’ approach. These parents provided substantial financial support, academic guidance, and social advice to navigate college successfully. They tailored their support to align with university programs that catered to specific career paths, giving their daughters distinct advantages in academics and social integration.

Affluent parents’ active role in guiding their children through college had profound implications. They not only facilitated academic success but also leveraged their resources to secure internships, provide insider knowledge for career advancement, and ensure a smooth transition into the workforce. This level of involvement highlighted disparities in access to opportunities based on socioeconomic status within college environments.

 Implications for College Peer Mentoring Programs

The study underscores the importance of recognizing and addressing disparities in parental involvement to ensure equitable opportunities for all students. College peer mentoring programs that use platforms, like MentorPRO can attenuate some of these differences by providing additional support for students from less affluent backgrounds who may lack the same level of guidance and resources as their more privileged peers. By offering tailored mentorship and resources, these programs can help bridge the gap and enhance the overall college experience for all students.

This research sheds light on how parental involvement influences college outcomes and emphasizes the need for inclusive support mechanisms within higher education institutions to promote equal access to opportunities for all students.


Hamilton, L., Roksa, J., & Nielsen, K. (2018). Providing a ‘‘Leg Up’’: Parental Involvement and Opportunity Hoarding in College. Sociology of Education91(2), 111–131. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038040718759557