How Can You Engage the Families of Current Students?

Raquel BermejoAssociate Vice President, Market Research and PlanningFebruary 9, 2023

To celebrate the release of our 2023 University Family Engagement Report, we held a webinar and were joined by an enthusiastic group of professionals who wholeheartedly answered our polling questions during the webinar (you can watch the webinar on-demand here). This poll will offer you some of their answers side by side with data points from the report. To learn more about the study, download the report here.

How are institutions engaging families of college students?

We started the webinar by asking the attendees how they were engaging the families of their current college students.Here were their answers:

  • 80% virtual events for families
  • 50% social media (Facebook was mentioned in half of these responses)
  • 40% direct mail
  • 25% on-campus events
  • 25% family weekend
  • 10% texting

How do these answers compare to the expectations of families? The findings of our 2023 report (which reflects 21,860 responses from 35 different institutions across the US) show which channels families prefer when receiving communications from the colleges and universities their students are enrolled at.

2023 University Family Engagement Report: Preferred communication channels for families

Who is more likely to prefer text messages?

  • Hispanic families
  • First-generation families
  • Family income less than $100,000
  • Families with students in the first two years of college
  • Families with students living at home

Who is more likely to prefer the telephone?

  • Black families
  • First-generation families
  • Family income less than $60,000
  • Families with students living at home

Who is more likely to prefer the family/parent portal?

  • Black families
  • Family income more than $100,000
  • Families with students in the first year of college
  • Families with students living on-campus

Families want to hear from you!

We also learned that 85 percent of families are open to hearing from their students’ colleges or universities at least once a week, which has steadily increased since 2020.

2023 University Family Engagement Report: Number of families that want to receive weekly communications from colleges.

Three-quarters of all families surveyed were satisfied with communication from their students’ college or university (although the satisfaction varies a little by topic, check our report to learn the details on that)

Meeting expectations of families: suggestions from our webinar attendees

When we asked our webinar attendees what institutions could do to ensure families are satisfied with communication from universities, these were their ideas:

  1. Ask families what they want to know, collect data, and test often.
  2. Offer bilingual communications.
  3. Communicate often.
  4. Create spaces where families have easy access to view specific areas in question.
  5. Identify needs and exceed expectations via personalized communication.
  6. Offer virtual appointments in the evenings to troubleshoot issues.
  7. Make website and communication easier to read.
  8. Have a dedicated staff member who answers families’ questions.

We all agree that families are an essential part of students’ college planning experience (our Prospective Family Engagement Report offers details on how involved prospective families are). However, families also remain very involved once the student enrolls. In fact, we firmly believe (and our attendees agreed!) that family involvement and family satisfaction are part of the student’s success. We need to strive to continue to communicate with families post-enrollment often.

We also understand that not all families are the same. Still, their need for information remains a high priority, and we have in our charge and care the most precious asset these families will ever have: their children! The love, care, and concern for their students (their children, no matter how they hold the students) unify families across income levels, education, races, ethnicity, and any other demographic. They want to know; they need to know!

However, research shows us that first-generation families, low-income families, and in some cases, families of color may have different perceptions, satisfaction, and need. It’s important for institutions to address those needs, and here are ways you can do that.

Read the full report for more findings

You can download the 2023 University Family Engagement Report and explore additional findings on family satisfaction with the college experience for their students, concerns about college financing, and other key issues. I also encourage you to watch our webinar and learn more about how you can engage families of your students.

In the end, the best thing you can do is make all families feel included, welcome, and part of a larger community with one goal—to provide their students with the best education possible!

About the Author

Dr. Raquel Bermejo

Dr. Raquel Bermejo analyzes existing search, inquiry, and conversion data in addition to conducting original research with college-seeking students and parents to understand trends and student behaviors. Her research informs and enhances the services the...

Read more about Raquel's experience and expertise

Reach Raquel by e-mail at Raquel.Bermejo@RuffaloNL.com.

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