What Do Parents Want from Colleges? Where Do You Fit In?

Students have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to choosing a college.  There are many factors to weigh – and then after the logical decisions have been weighed, there is the issue of finding the right “fit.”  But most students do not make the college decision entirely alone.  They turn to their families for advice.

As a parent, you probably have some clear ideas about what you want for your student as she makes the college choice.  Although the decision should ultimately be hers, you will weigh in and share your feelings and opinions.  Of course, your student may, or may not, listen.

A recent poll conducted by Noodle Education surveyed nearly 1000 middle class parents about what they consider important in choosing a college.  Two-thirds of the parents surveyed had college bound high school students and one-third had students currently in college or less than one year out of college.

Consider the findings of this poll and think about what your responses might be.  What do you consider important?  Then consider asking your student.  Do your responses match?  If not, this might be a great opening to a conversation – not to change your student’s mind, but to explore her thinking – and learn more about her.

What do parents consider important?

Parents were given several choices and asked to rate their importance on a scale of 1-10.  The following results indicate those categories which parents rated as “highly important” – a 9 or 10 on the scale.

  • A safe environment – 74.5%
  • Acquisition of real-world marketable skills – 73%
  • The college is a good fit for my child – 72.5%
  • A first-rate academic experience – 70%
  • Affordability – 63%
  • Quality of career placement support services – 56%
  • Job placement rate – 55.5%
  • Four year graduation rate – 40.5%

Interestingly, in spite of the current emphasis on college rankings, only 18% of parents found this “highly important.”

What do colleges provide?

This survey went on to ask parents about their perception of the services that colleges provide for students.  On this scale, parents were asked to rate characteristics of what the college delivered on a 1-10 scale of how satisfied they were.  By comparing those areas which parents considered “highly important” to those areas where parents were “high satisfied” some significant disconnects appeared.

The following are the areas which showed the greatest differences.

  • Acquisition of real-world marketable skills – 29 point difference
  • Ability to get into a good graduate or professional school – 26 point difference
  • Quality of career placement support services – 23 point difference
  • Job placement rate – 20 point difference
  • A first rate academic experience – 19 point difference
  • The college is a good fit for my child – 11 point difference

Does any of this matter?

What other parents think, based on a national survey, may or may not matter to you.  You may find that you fit in closely with the majority of other parents, or that your priorities are wildly different from the opinions of others.  It may be mildly interesting to you to see what others think.

More important, however, is that the information in this survey may help you think about your own priorities as a college parent.  As you talk to your student about her choices, your priorities and biases may come through – whether or not you realize it.  Consciously knowing what those priorities are may be important in helping you to articulate your feelings to your student.  Exploring your student’s priorities is probably even more important.

As your student makes her final choice of school, helping her think about what she is seeking in her experience will help her make an informed decision.  Thinking about some of these categories and priorities may even help your student formulate some additional questions to ask on a college visit or at an Accepted Student Day.

As always, we think that anything that can prompt you and your student to explore the world of college and talk about the journey ahead is a good thing.

Related Posts:

Has Your Student Found the College With the Best Fit?

Parents and College Admissions: What to Ask During Your Campus Visit

Is Your Student Heading to College for the Right Reasons?


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