Findings and strategies from our Parent Enrollment Marketing Survey: Part 1

Part 1: Introduction and Inquiry Response for Parents

For every parent, the college search is more or less the same – more headaches, less financial aid than expected and way more extensive than they had remembered doing 20+ years ago. But because parents are more active in the increasingly complex process and are dishing out more money for their child’s education than ever, utilizing the proper communication tools with parents should be a primary concern in most college admissions offices. In a recent study, it was reported that nine out of 10 parents value education as an investment for their child’s future. The same study stated that, on average, 36% of the money paid for college comes from parental savings, income, and borrowing, with the rest from student borrowing, grants and scholarships. As a college recruitment professional, your end-goal is catering to the consumers needs—at the risk of losing a potentially enrollment to a competitor. For that reason, Spectrum promotes a concerted, enrollment-cycle spanning parent marketing strategy (as we’ve covered in previous posts).

The glossy mailers, stunning campus, and trendy school t-shirts may do a great job grabbing the attention of the students, but when attracting their parental counterparts, we advise that a different approach must be considered. As a secondary but powerful sub-audience, courting parents is an important process that requires re-envisioned message and medium for maximum effect.

Over the next few posts, EDUIntelligence will post a series of content- and stage-specific guides that touch on what we’ve heard from our clients who use Spectrum software solutions (and who speak with parents every day) and from parents who have recently navigated the college search and application process with their own children. Additionally, we’ll posit a few suggestions to elevate your approach to parent outreach and make your institution ‘user-friendly’ for every possible user.


First steps – the inquiry stage:

  • Parent concern: “As my daughter searched for schools, we compiled a huge list and thus began the inquiry stage where she inquired with about 20 schools. She’s looking at campus location, size, majors, etc., but I’m looking at all the statistics: retention rate, four-year graduation rate, student/teacher ratio. Since applying for schools can be expensive I told my daughter she needed to cut her list down. We compromised to 10, but which 10 do we choose? During this point you need to show ME why you are any different than the other 19 schools she’s inquired with. After all, my daughter will look to me to help her make this huge decision… the ultimate decision will be the schools that ‘wowed’ both my daughter and myself.”

Try this: Don’t beat around the bush!

If parents want to find out information, they will, which could mean you’ll be getting a few hundred phone calls to your admissions office from flustered parents. More importantly, the parent quoted above clearly delineated a cut-off for application by 50% of her daughter’s list. If your parent plan doesn’t deploy until after application, your school is most likely in that discarded 50%.

Make sure that the following information is easily accessible on your school’s website for parents whose contact information you lack:

  • cost to apply
  • the average SAT/ACT and GPA of incoming students
  • tuition
  • 4-year retention rates
  • 4-year graduation rates
  • job placement
  • alumni networking
  • calendar of upcoming events

Additionally, send your print with parents in mind—it’s the most effective way to put your brand and your message in front of them, and it’s crucial that your message addresses their points of scrutiny head-on. It’s very important to engage parents at the inquiry stage—even with just one or two emails—as most schools don’t have a parent inquiry nurture program. Capitalize on the fact that you’re not only getting to this very important audience early—you’re getting to them more effectively with information that directly accounts for their concerns in the decision making process.

Lastly, get them in your CRM! Creating a space for parents in your enrollment management software (we suggest using a CRM for higher education like Spectrum’s EMP) can help you keep parent information organized – and separate – from student information. This is particularly helpful when student information like phone number and email address are private and not for family use. Capturing this information at the inquiry phase can be a powerful part of your process, and if your staff can access it within your CRM, all the betters.


Join us next time as we explore more strategies for maximizing your parental outreach during applied and accepted stages. Don’t forget to share your experiences with parent outreach in the comments!