Back in my early days in student affairs administration, I remember thinking to myself on numerous occasions that, “this job would be great if it weren’t for those pesky students!” As I moved up the food chain and into a more senior role, my perspective changed and I often found myself thinking, “this job would be great if it weren’t for those pesky parents!”
The prevalence of helicopter parents in our society has grown incredibly over the last 10 years. I have even heard numerous tales of millenials in the workplace that involve parent calls when their kids get a bad review or a smaller raise than expected. Yes, this does happen and it is scary. And inappropriate.
Back in my undergrad days, I remember calling home and asking my mom to call the dean’s office because my roommate and I had the second to last number in the housing lottery. My mom, without missing a beat, said that at least it wasn’t the last number. Then she told me that it was random and someone had to be at the bottom—and this time it was me. So, while I was upset, I decided to take matters into my own hands and try to work through the system on my own. I advocated for myself and got involved in student government, where I promoted a housing lottery system that wasn’t so random. I learned a lot and gained a great appreciation for the administrators, which lead me to become a Director of Residence Life and a Dean of Students myself. In the end, the fact that my mom did not get in her helicopter and swoop in was a very good thing for me.
On the flip side, I think we can all agree that parental involvement in the admission process is important. No matter how intelligent or mature a student is, the decision of where to go to college is best made as a joint one: parental guidance is suggested. Recognizing this fact and figuring out how to market to both students and their parents is not easy—but it is getting easier. The ability to create separate, targeted online display campaigns that are strategy-specific for either parents or students is changing the game. Through our work with many graduate school, continuing ed, and private K-12 clients, we have honed digital networks that work for adults in specific search scenarios. On the print side, we have several publications that are mailed directly to student homes and we know through both research and anecdotal conversations that parents are reading these publications. We can work with our clients to find and target parents of prospective students in addition to targeting the prospective students themselves, thus magnifying and growing the effects of a digital and/or print advertising campaign.
Reaching parents online or in print, before they have the chance to warm up the helicopter, is an ideal scenario that will only help reinforce your brand and messaging.
As for me, I can only hope that I have the strength to keep the helicopter on the tarmac when my own kids go to college!