Four Questions to Help You Evaluate Your Institution’s Enrollment Outreach to Parents, with Dr. Rick Winslow of Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences

WinslowDr. Richard P. Winslow- Vice Provost for Enrollment and Student Services,

Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences

Parents of this generation of college students are different than previous generations’ parents in that they are more engaged and more vested in all aspects of their student’s college experience.  The vast majority of enrollment managers I have conversations with recognize this, but are left wondering how best to engage and cultivate parents in ways that benefit the institution’s enrollment.

This shifting paradigm within the parent/student relationship leads enrollment managers to better understand how colleges and universities can successfully recruit parents in order to successfully recruit their students. Enrollment managers eager to more successfully involve parents in the college selection process should answer the following questions:

1. Does your institution understand the level of parent engagement in the college selection process?

Parents play a key role in the selection process. According to University Research Partners (2012), a higher education market research firm, seventy-five plus percent of parents are engaged in searching institutional websites, reading materials mailed to their child, reading materials emailed to their child, and using search engines to explore the internet for additional information. In many cases, parents are spending more time reading and searching materials and information than their prospective students are at any given point in time.

2. Is your institution sending the information parents want, WHEN they want it?

I have heard so many people share with me that “mail is dead”, when in fact, it isn’t. Parents still want some information about the college search and selection process mailed to them and their student, including information about financing college, financial aid, scholarships, and college cost. And parents shared with University Research Partners that they want more and more information earlier (i.e. the sophomore and junior years) in the high school years. Parents indicated that this allows them more time to prepare and plan about key issues such as financial aid, overall costs, financial planning, and time to research scholarships that might be available. When it comes to parents, it is clear that, earlier is better.

3. Is your Admission Office sending information to parents in a format within which parents want to receive that information?

Are you and your staff thinking about what format to send information to parents? If not, give that some careful consideration. As mentioned previously, parents want financial aid information by mail, but prefer application deadline information via email, and prefer housing options via the college webpage. What this information from University Research Partners (2012) reinforces is the need for enrollment managers to be very intentional about how they disseminate information to parents and students.

4. Do your faculty and staff understand the key insights parents have made about what they have the most influence over in the college selection process?

Involved parents understand the limitations of their influence over the college selection process. According to the data gleaned from the University Research Partners (2012) study, Parents believe they have the most influence over all financial aspects of the college choice process. Second, parent wants to receive information at different stages of their student’s search process: Financial planning during the freshman year of high school, general college information the sophomore year, specific program/majors information the junior year, and application tips and deadlines during the senior year. Third, parents are aggressively using the web to do research, but still want printed materials sent to them and their student at home.

Enrollment managers who are able to give thought to what they will communicate to parents, when they will communicate with parents, and how they will communicate with parents will be more effective in successfully recruiting students. I would encourage all enrollment managers to consider specific parent-focused strategies such as, a parent specific communication flow, organizing on-campus events for parents, and designing a parent specific webpage connected directly to institutional recruitment efforts.

References: University Research Partners (2012). Engage Parents for More Engaged Students: Three Engagement Building Blocks for Enrollment Managers. Richmond, VA.

Dr. Richard Winslow has over 20 years of experience in higher education working in the areas of student life, enrollment management and financial aid. He currently serves as the Vice Provost for Enrollment and Student Services at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, with responsibility for the offices of admissions, financial aid, registrar and student affairs. Rick also serves as an enrollment management consultant for Teresa Farnum & Associates in New Boston, New Hampshire, working with a variety of colleges and universities nation-wid

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