The phrase “helicopter parent” has been around long enough (and used more than often enough) to qualify as a cliché by now. Over-involved parents, according to a string of articles in publications from Forbes to Psychology Today to The Economist to The New York Times, are driving college professors and administrators crazy, hampering their offspring’s ability to become responsible adults, and hastening the decline of Western civilization. You, no doubt, have heard story after story of parents who care just a little too much.
College and university officials around the country are trying to figure out what to do about the helicopter parents who won’t butt out. But even if they do figure it out, those of you on the front lines of admissions and financial aid will be the last to benefit from it. College admissions will surely be the final frontier of helicopter parenting.
You will not be surprised to hear that parental involvement in the admissions process has gone up in the last few years. A recent Ruffalo Noel-Levitz survey asked parents to rate their involvement in their children’s college selection process—not involved at all, somewhat involved, or very involved. In 2011, 19% of parents described themselves as “not involved.” In 2015, only 2% described themselves as “not involved at all.” In four years, almost all the “not involved” parents disappeared!
You may be happy to learn that the “very involved” parents actually shrank a bit, from 53% to 51%. But the long and the short of it is that 98% of parents are at least “somewhat involved” in their children’s college decision, and more than half of them are “very involved.” So for the foreseeable future, include parents as a key part of your marketing plan.
As you consider your 2016 enrollment communications flow for parents, both print and e-mail pieces should be included, as well as a portion of your Admissions website. Relevant content should include the school's return on investment (real-life stories and data about what your alumni are doing), testimonials from parents of current students, financial aid information, and more. Additionally, your campus preview events are courting parents, as well as students, so be sure to give parents a first-class experience.