By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
Improving parent communication continues to be one of the top action points when I’m working with an admissions team.
Everybody knows how important it is, yet I’m continuing to find just like I did at this point last year (and the year before that) that most colleges and admissions counselors have not communicated with this group in a way that feels personal – or in some cases at all.
Parents continue to be the biggest outside influencer for most students, and we’re finding that many are exerting more influence than ever on the direction of their son or daughter’s college search. And just like students, parents have things they’re scared, worried, or stressed about. They want more information and a better understanding of topics like cost, financial aid, safety, and how your school will prepare their child for life after college.
Now, are there challenges gathering parent contact information prior to the student applying? Absolutely. If you want a few tips to help you out with that problem, email me after you’re done reading the rest of this article.
Today I want to focus specifically on the parents of your admitted students – a high priority group.
If you’re an admissions counselor reading this, how many of your admits’ parents have you made contact with? Do you know how they’re feeling about everything?
Generating and leading a conversation that uncovers those feelings is critical if you want to maximize your chances of yielding the student.
For the parents that you’ve never spoken with or done personalized outreach to, the first thing you should do is craft a counselor introduction/congrats email. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, be sure and choose a subject line that creates curiosity, feels personal, and sounds helpful.
Start your message by expressing excitement about the student getting admitted, and offer congratulations. From there, I want you to make it clear that the counselor values their input, and is the entire family’s go to person for everything moving forward. After that, I want you to mention that the next big step in the college search is completing the FAFSA and talking about financial aid, which is typically the hardest, most confusing part. Reassure them that your school will do everything it can to make coming there affordable, and remind them that they do not have to go through this part alone. They should not be afraid to raise their hand and say they have questions or need some help at any point and time.
Finally, end your message by asking the following direct question as your call to action – “Are you and <Student’s First Name> open to having a 1-1 conversation with me about financial aid and your plan to pay for college? I would like us to do that together.”
Make it clear this will not be an hour long, in-depth discussion, but rather a 10 to 15 minute conversation to make sure they stay on track, as well as provide tips and information that may be helpful right now. That conversation can be a phone call or video chat, and it should include the counselor, student, and one or both parents. Be prepared to lead the conversation and attempt to figure out if they have a plan to pay for college (or need help coming up with one), as well as ask if they’re aware of the FAFSA (what it is, why it’s so important) and if they’re planning to complete it.
If you’ve already spoken with some or a lot of this parent group, but you haven’t had a 1-1 conversation about financial aid, the FAFSA, and paying for college, I encourage you to take the same approach, minus the counselor introduction and congrats language.
This personal and helpful strategy will not only differentiate you from other schools, but the answers that the parent(s) or student give you will tell you how to recruit the entire family moving forward.
Please don’t wait until your school’s financial aid award is released to have conversations like this. Most admissions counselors currently have a manageable number of admitted seniors. The farther along we go, the greater that number will get. Eventually it will become impossible to do this kind of personal outreach with the majority of parents.
Want to talk more about something I said, or would you like some quick feedback on the parent email you create? Just hit reply or you can email me here.
And if you found this article helpful, forward it to someone else in your campus community who could also benefit from reading it.