Eduventures Summit Preview

The Parent-Student Relationship in College Search

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When it comes to college choice, students rarely go it alone. Behind almost every stressed-out high school student is a parent-student relationship hoping to make dreams come true. New Eduventures data shows that almost half of families (46%) begin the dreaming, exploration, and worrying as soon as high school begins. And for nearly another quarter (22%), this process begins as early as middle school.

Yet many institutions don’t fully acknowledge parents as collaborators in college choice until the choice is nearly at hand. This is a missed opportunity. My Eduventures Summit keynote (June 15-17 in Boston) will explore our research on this parent-student relationship in college search. Here is a preview.

Eduventures’ 2021 Prospective Parent Research™ and Prospective Student Research™ shed new light on the parent-student relationship in college search. The analysis helps us better understand where parents and students are aligned in their thinking about college choice and where they diverge.

Figure 1 shows both parent and student responses to a question about their respective roles in college search. It indicates that parents and students are choosing a college together, with only minor disagreement about who is leading the charge.


Parent-Student Involvement in College SearchFigure 1.


More than half of parents (55%) say that they are in a 50-50 partnership with their students; 38% of students say the same about their parents. Most students (41%), on the other hand, say they are leading the way and their parents have moderate involvement; 28% of parents say this is true. . Very few parents are leading the way and very few are uninvolved.

Ultimately, students and parents will talk about colleges and decide which are appropriate to apply to and attend. Figure 2 shows the brand constructs associated with top-choice application institutions among both parents and students. This indicates the degree to which parents and students are on the same page about the characteristics they are seeking in schools to which they might apply.


Brand Characteristics of Top Consideration SchoolFigure 2.


While parents and students are in general agreement that the institution should be high quality, affordable, and friendly, they begin to diverge on other brand characteristics. Parents would like the institution to be well-known and prestigious to a greater degree; students want the institution to be career-minded and fun to a greater degree.

Thus, speaking to the family during recruiting comes with complexities—and we have not even begun to discuss cost! Cost triangulates with reputation and majors as parents work to help their children find a marketable degree.

In my Eduventures Summit presentation, I’ll elucidate this relationship further to help institutions think about the family as the unit of recruitment. Here are a few things we’ll discuss:

  • Parent mindsets. Do parents see the same pathways through college as students do?
  • The role parents play in college search. How hands-off or hands-on are parents in preferences and choices about schools, careers, majors, etc.?
  • College costs. Are the price sensitivities of parents and students aligned?
  • Value perception of college. Do parents see value in a college education? What do they want their children to derive from their college educations?

I’ll also provide strategies for building communications and recruitment that speak to parent concerns as they support their students in their college choices. We hope you’ll join us at Summit! Click here to see our full agenda, speakers, registration, and more information.

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Learn more about our team of expert research analysts here.

Eduventures Principal Analyst at Encoura

The Program Strength Assessment (PSA) is a data-driven way for higher education leaders to objectively evaluate their programs against internal and external benchmarks. By leveraging the unparalleled data sets and deep expertise of Eduventures, we’re able to objectively identify where your program strengths intersect with traditional, adult, and graduate students’ values, so you can create a productive and distinctive program portfolio.

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