2011 Conference

E-Expectations 2011: The Online Expectations of Prospective College Students and Their Parents #heweb11

View Session Description and Presenter Bio

Photo by trudeau, Flickr.

In February 2011, Noel-Levitz called 1,089 high school seniors and 517 of their parents. They asked them about how parents and students are different in their use of e-recruitment, how they are using mobile, how are they using social media, what online tools are most useful, and will email still work as a communications tool.

One interesting thing they found was that as late as February, 25% of college-bound students were not yet engaged in the college search process. This tells us we have a lot of opportunity to get these students into our enrollment funnels and convince them our universities are the best choice.


  • 82% of students and 86% of parents own mobile phones. Meanwhile, 14% of students and 5% of parents had viewed a college or university website on their mobile phone.
  • What these audiences said they wanted to do when accessing a mobile website was calculate college costs (77%), calculate scholarships (75%), schedule a visit (65%), watch videos (64%), access social media (62%), and IM with admissions reps (62%).

QR Codes

  • Only 15% of students and 14% of parents have seen QR codes, but only 6% of students and 4% of parents have used them.

Interactive campus maps

  • 40% of students have used an interactive campus map; 54% used the map to explore campus, 17% to make their way through campus, 8% to get a sense of campus layout, 7% as an alternative to a campus visit, 7% to find a specific location, and 2% to explore dormitories.
  • 30% of students and 39% of parents said the interactive campus map changed their opinion of the university for the better.

Calculator use and influence

  • 36% of students have used a cost calculator while 28% had used a scholarship calculator. Of those who used the scholarship calculator, 47% said it improved their positive perception of the institution.
  • Of those who hadn’t used a calculator, 50% of students said they haven’t found one yet. Meanwhile, 67% of parents had not yet found a calculator either.

Social Media

  • 80% of students and 48% of parents use Facebook; 27% of students and 12% of parents have viewed a school-specific Facebook site.
  • Interestingly, parents are more likely to use Facebook to ask a question or post a comment. Anecdotally, Stephanie Geyer shared that parents (typically moms) often use Facebook to express their displeasure or to raise a concern about the institution.
  • 53% of students said they were interested in comments on Facebook from current students that shared insights into student life. Meanwhile, parents were generally more interested in general information, such as news and events.
  • 65% of students say that Facebook had no influence on their perception of a school; however, a worrying 7% of parents found content on a Facebook page had a negative impact on their perception of a school. Geyer noted that some of those parents may be using the content on Facebook to “weed out” colleges.
  • While only 19% of students in the February 2011 reported that they follow the Twitter stream from a specific college or university, Geyer noted that the most recent study has seen that number creep up to 24% in eight months and she expects that to continue to grow.
  • 27% have gone to YouTube or another video site to watch videos from schools on their list. Meanwhile, 55% will look at videos on our websites. Geyer shared that students are using videos to determine what campuses look like, what the campus looks like, and what student life is like at the institutions they are considering.
  • Students and parents are not using blogs in a significant way. Only 1% of students and parents read university blogs on every college site they visit. Meanwhile, 68% of students and 65% report they NEVER read blogs on university sites. Geyer thinks this is a problem of access. The content is valuable, but parents and students may not know where to go to find them.


  • 93% of students and 81% of parents will give schools a legitimate email address that they check at least once a week; more than 50% of students and parents will give their email addresses BEFORE they apply to a specific college. Geyer noted that we often do a bad job of gathering this data from parents. They are interested, but we aren’t asking until students apply.
  • 24% of parents “pose” as their student when submitting an email address to a university.

 Other interesting figures:

  • Students whose parents went to college were 10% more likely to be considering a private institution. Students whose parents did not attend college were 10% more likely to be considering a public institution.
  • Lance Merker shared a worrying statistic: 64% of students and 73% of parents said that a bad experience on a university website would have a negative effect on their perception of the school. He noted that the decades we’ve spent building brand equity can be undone with a single bad experience on the web.

Coming Soon!

In November, Noel Levitz will be putting out a micro study that looks at how students and parents use mobile in the college search process. This study will look more closely at the type of devices students and parents are using to access our websites.


Share this:

By Liz Gross

Liz Gross is the Director of Campus Sonar. Her professional super powers include designing and analyzing market research, applying social media strategy to multiple areas of the business, explaining difficult concepts in simple language, and using social listening to develop consumer insights and assist with reputation management. She received her Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education at Cardinal Stritch University.

One reply on “E-Expectations 2011: The Online Expectations of Prospective College Students and Their Parents #heweb11”

Comments are closed.