When my children entered the college-process window, I became an active researcher for them, providing background information, sending for publications (the Internet was not yet in full bloom [yeah, I'm old]), and making broad suggestions, while trying, in general, to help them work through the maze of college selection decisions.
Today, with the massive power of the Web available to virtually every family, the task of researching potential colleges has become much easier and efficient. Parents can help out their kids in a number of ways, but their main tasks involve scouring a huge number of Web sites, blogs, discussion forums, etc. that can provide almost unlimited information--and opinions--about almost any college or university.
In an interesting article on TodaysCampus.com, Joe Dysart, an internet speaker and business consultant, states that 90 percent of parents choose their kids' colleges on the Web. Here's the rest of the story:
Nearly all parents (90 percent) researching colleges and universities for their kids are turning to the web for information, according to a recent survey from a number of market research groups.
Of the surveyed parents, 82 percent said they plan to play a pivotal role in helping their children make the final decision about college. Only 17 percent said they will entrust their child to make that decision independently.
The study, Circling Over Enrollment: The E-Expectations of the Parents of College-Bound Students, points out the increasing role the web is playing in higher education recruitment, and the need for institutions to make explicit overtures to parents on the web.
The study also revealed that colleges and universities may want to re-tool their sites to include heavier emphasis on the information that most interests parents: academic programs, majors, scholarships, admissions requirements, tuition and fees, and campus safety.
Interestingly, some parents are so web-focused, they will dismiss an institution outright if its web site is not up to snuff. In a chilling rebuff to colleges with inadequate web sites, 10 percent of parents said they would not recommend a college to their child if the institution's web site did not answer their questions.
Parents also greatly preferred (84 percent) communicating with institutions via email while researching a college. They also expressed nearly as strong a preference (76 percent) for follow-up, letters or brochures sent by mail.
The least-preferred (5 percent) communications medium for parents was Live Web chat.