Given that the NSSE survey found that about 75 percent of college students frequently follow their parents' advice, the newest catchphrase in corporate HR departments and at universities is "parents as partners." The accounting firm Ernst & Young—which hires about 5,500 college graduates a year—now offers students a flash drive with information about the company, its employee policies, benefits, and possible bonuses to give to their parents. The company hopes that being parent-friendly will make it more appealing to top candidates.

Betty Smith, university recruiting manager for Hewlett-Packard, has even found herself negotiating a benefits package in a conference call with a new employee and her mother. Some Enterprise Rent-A-Car locations reportedly send letters to parents of prospective employees, explaining positions and offers.

At least one college administrator thinks corporations are going to have to do a lot more than send letters and make phone calls to help today's twenty-somethings transition to adulthood. As assistant dean of students at Florida State University, Patrick Heaton hires college students to give campus tours. He had to ask several guides to stop chatting with one another and focus on the task of helping new students during orientation. They didn't like the way he corrected them. Heaton was baffled. He had not yelled or been harshly critical. Heaton asked the students how they thought he should have done it. They said they liked the "sandwich" method. "You have to say something nice, then give the criticism, then say something nice again," he explains.

Heaton doesn't think corporate America currently has time for the sandwich method. So he feels that part of his job is to encourage parents to prepare their children for a world that might feel a little tougher than home. Recently he received a call from a mother inquiring how laundry is done at the school. She thought she'd missed that part of the campus tour.

There are washers and dryers in the dorms, Heaton told her.

"But how is it done?" the mother persisted. "Who picks it up and delivers it? Or do students have to drop it off somewhere? What is the service?"

"There is no service," Heaton explained. "The students do their own laundry."

The mother was horrified. She said that her son didn't know how to wash clothes.

Heaton told the woman it was a good thing she called when she did—six weeks before school started. She had time to teach her son something really important: how to do laundry.


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