5 things college parents need to hear you say

August 9, 2013 by

college parents

How can you ease college parents' concerns?

Sending kids off to university is a huge step. And even if  it doesn't involve outright fear for most parents, when it's time to choose a college there's usually at least a healthy level of concern about things like:

  • Their child's future
  • Their child's safety
  • An empty nest
  • Even emptier pockets
  • Perhaps just the teensiest mid-life crisis?

It's doubtful you can do much about the mid-life crisis, but good communications can help ease that worried brow - and keep your school in the running as a strong contender.

But first, the elephant in the room.

That whole 'helicopter parent' thing

The so-called 'helicopter parents' of the 21st century get a bad rap. They're accused of being interfering, controlling, and incapable of 'letting go.' Time magazine even went so far as to run a cover story on 'The Case Against Over-Parenting' back in 2009.

Is all this parental involvement healthy? Who knows. It's a moot point, though, because as Susan T. Evans makes crystal-clear in 'Helicopters or Helpers?', 'Parents of college students.... want to be involved, they need to be involved, they WILL be involved.'

In fact, 61% of parents and 49% of students report that parents and students will make the final enrollment decision together, so ignore them at your peril.

What college parents will be listening for

If you can communicate even a few of these things to prospective parents, they'll thank you for it.

  1. 'We understand you're making a big investment - here's why it's worth it.' Practical concerns top the list of how parents (and students) decide on where to enroll. The 2011 National Parent Satisfaction and Priorities report by Noel-Levitz spells it all out. For instance,
    • Will my child be able to find a good job after graduation?
    • Can I be sure your academic offerings are top-notch?
    • What will it cost?
  2. 'We want to keep you in the loop.' And here's how we put that into practice:
    • Our website is easy to use (and highlights the information we know you want).
    • We've created a Parent Liaison Office.
    • Welcome to our Facebook page.
    • We'll keep you informed about [xyz] by email.
    • Of course your son or daughter will do better if you stay in touch!
    • (Fill in the blank with any other steps you've taken to enhance communications)
  3. 'Your child will never be just a number (or cash cow) to us.' Can parents really trust that you've got their child's best interests at heart? Here's how you can demonstrate that you do.
    • When parents at your school say, 'my child gets a lot of individual attention,' you know you're doing something right. If you're getting this kind of feedback (in relation to academic advisors, counselors and faculty), let prospective parents know. Make sure your staff hear about it too. The occasional pat on the back goes a long way, and will motivate them to keep up the good work.
    • A university education is about dreams, aspirations, a brighter future - YES. But marketing platitudes and clichés about these same higher principles - please, NO! Instead of producing the same old empty fluff, be ruthlessly concrete and specific about what your students and graduates have achieved. If they volunteer for the elderly, or create health-friendly mobile apps, or become influential leaders, give us all the nitty gritty details. In other words, make it real.
  4. 'Safety and security is a top priority.' One of the reasons parents ask embarrassing questions on college tours about parties, sex and drugs is that they're worried. Make sure you have effective policies to protect your students from these and other safety issues, and make sure parents know about them.
  5. 'Our net price calculator will give you all the details you need about costs, financial aid and scholarships.' Will it? Have you got your (federally mandated) comprehensive calculator in several obvious places on your website?

What would you add to this list? What do parents at your school want to hear from you?





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