Karine Joly No Comments

Exclusive Preview of the 2017 Student & Parent E-Expectations Survey in 7 Parts

The results of the April 2017 Ruffalo Noel-Levitz survey on the E-expectations of high school seniors, juniors and sophomores (n=4,274) will be officially released on July 27.

I got access to the results of this survey about 6 weeks ago – before anybody else – courtesy of Stephanie Geyer from RNL. Stephanie will present these findings first at the end of the month at the NCSRMR Conference in Denver, Colorado and later this year at several other conferences (eduWeb, HighEdWeb, etc.) This research is the result of a collaboration between Ruffalo Noel-Levitz, the National Research Center for College and University Admissions (NRCCUA), CollegeWeekLive and Omniupdate.

This annual survey launched in 2005 has become a staple in audience research for higher ed marketers and communicators. It’s the gold standard for digital expectations and habits of the new class of college freshmen (high school seniors), the new crop of prospective students (high school juniors & sophomores this year!). Considering the increasing role they play in the college decision process, RNL has also surveyed parents of seniors, juniors and sophomores (n=3,530) this year as well.

The data is super fresh (April 2017) and reliable due to the size of the samples for students and parents!

Since there are so many great insights in this research, I’ve decided to break them down into 7 different posts:

Here’s the key to understand the labels for the series used in the charts:

  • 2017: High school seniors, class of 17 – or their parents
  • 2018: High school juniors, class of 18 – or their parents
  • 2019: High school sophomores, class of 19 – or their parents

Exclusive Preview of the 2017 Student & Parent E-Expectations Survey Part 1: Email & Text for Students

Top Insights on Email & Text for Higher Ed from the 2017 Student E-Expectations Survey

So, let’s start with the findings about email and text!

Email still alive, kicking and influencing prospective college students

Emails from schools made it in the top 3 influential resources when it comes to the college decision process for students. After websites and financial aid calculators (for the obvious reason), email takes the 3rd place this year.

This makes it a valuable higher ed marketing channel, because 84% of seniors check their email at least a few times a week as you can see.

Frequency at which students check their email

And, we can all thank smartphones for it. 🙂

Not only do prospective students check their email often – contrary to popular belief, 96% of seniors and juniors are also willing to share their email address when they request information from colleges via a form.

Type of information students are willing to share when filling out an online form on a college website

This makes email the preferred channel to interact or share more information about college admissions when students initiate the first contact. But, it does NOT mean that they welcome all messages sent to them by colleges that bought their addresses.

Best ways to get get back to a student after the submission of a request for more information on a college website

Texting: the untapped higher ed communication channel

If 96% of students are willing to share their email address when they fill out a request for more information form, 75% of seniors and 70% of juniors will give you their mobile phone number. About half of the students sharing it will welcome a text as an answer. It’s fewer than email, but it shows that texting might be a good channel to communicate with prospective students further in the funnel.

And, actually, when asked specifically the question whether or not schools of interest could text them, 66% of students agreed. About a third will welcome messages via social apps as well. The difference can probably be explained by the fact that text might be a more formal communication channel than social apps.

Students who are willing to receive text messages sent by colleges

While a majority of students is happy to hear via text from schools of interest (“of interest” is key here), only 32% of seniors had at the end of the recruiting cycle in April. There’s definitely an untapped opportunity in this gap.

Students who received text messages sent by colleges

Yet, this opportunity is NOT an invitation to spam prospective students via text as shown in the chart below.

Students who have unsubscribed from text messages sent by colleges

If your texts aren’t relevant, students will unsubscribe.
Both word clouds below show you the top reasons for unsubscribing from text for seniors and juniors.

Reasons to unsubscribe from college text messages - students

If your school wants to use text to communicate with prospects, it’s important to meet their expectations and align your messages with the nature of the channel itself. Your text messages should be time-sensitive, to the point and personalized when possible.

Text is a wonderful channel for deadline reminders and details about student applications, but also good news (yep, you could actually text acceptance notices to give them the good news even faster).

Reasons to receive text messages from colleges - students

Next: Insights on Email & Text for Parents

Stay tuned (or subscribe to my newsletter) for my next post in this series with insights from the 2017 Parent E-Expectations Survey about email & text.

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