One of the biggest audiences schools tend to ignore is…do you want to guess? It’s the audience that students generally listen to the most (especially Millenials). Yup. Parents. But even though most colleges and universities are well-versed in the traits and characteristics of Millenials—from their group ethic to their buying habits—institutions rarely engage the parents in a meaningful and impactful way.


Although some schools will profess their budget can’t afford another communication piece, the reality is generally more about time and confidence.  Admissions and marketing offices are already so stretched to address the needs of their primary audience the thought of adding another group, especially one that requires a different approach, can seem daunting. And so it goes, another year when the Communication Flow is assessed and the statement is made, Yes, we really do need to do a better job communicating with parents. Maybe next year.”

Seriously. You wouldn’t go to a dinner party and only talk to the guests, right? You’d make a point to talk to the hosts and thank them for inviting you and make sure you followed up with an appreciative note. The same holds true for the relationship schools should be trying to build with parents.

At a minimum, open the channels with your parents by asking for their contact information as well as that of your students. Send a note of thanks to both parents and students after a visit or tour. Make sure each audience knows about events, that they can ask questions anytime, and that your school may be able to help the parent converse with the student about college search issues. A college that wants to serve as a partner with parents is a college that gains trust and credibility.

And if we return to the dinner party metaphor, when the hosts begin making the guest list, the college that has maintained a dialogue and communication channel is the one that will once again have a seat at the table.


Karyn Adams is vice president and creative director for H·A ThirtyOne, working closely with the enrollment leadership and strategic communicators on campus. Have some ideas you’d like to test? Contact Karyn at | 865.207.6944