It’s no secret parents play a hugely influential role during the college search process, from helping students research schools to getting hands-on with the nitty-gritty of applying and visiting to deciding where to enroll, their impact spans every step of the journey.
Despite wide recognition of the importance of parents among higher ed marketers and enrollment managers, many schools struggle to implement a cohesive communications plan targeting the parents of prospective students.
In this episode, we sit down with Will Patch, Enrollment Marketing Leader, at Niche.com to talk about strategies for more effectively engaging parents during the college search. We start our conversation with a review of some key findings from a recent survey the Niche team conducted with parents, then we dive into concrete steps schools can take to engage parents more effectively.
Understanding the Mindset of Today’s Parents
Niche’s recent parent survey provides an informative snapshot of what’s top-of-mind right now for parents as they navigate the college search. Not surprisingly given the current global health crisis, parents are overwhelmingly concerned with their student’s safety, but Will is quick to point out parents define safety in broader terms, not simply in terms of how schools are managing the COVID-19 pandemic, and that other factors like reputation are still a top priority. Encouragingly, nearly three-quarters of parents reported being comfortable with their student living in a residence hall and 80% indicated they were comfortable with the safety measures being taken by schools.
The survey also reveals some interesting geographic nuances around parent involvement, both at the regional level and between rural, suburban, and urban communities. For instance, parents in the Midwest reporting being the most highly involved in their student’s college search.
Tips for Effectively Engaging Parents
One of the first challenges schools face in communicating with parents is simply gathering parent names and contact details, to begin with. Will’s advice is to schools is simple. If you want to capture parents’ information, you need to ask for it. To accomplish this, he recommends placing a set of optional fields on inquiry forms that allow students to enter separate information for their parents.
Will then outlines several ideas for crafting better communication flows to parents including specific topics to address, how to strike the right tone, and how schools might consider tailoring communications to specific segments of parents.