New Report Finds the College Website to Be a Primary Driver for Prospective Students and Parents

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New Report Finds the College Website to Be a Primary Driver for Prospective Students and Parents

64% of Students and 73% of Parents Said a Bad College Website Experience Would Negatively Affect Their Perception of the School or Cause Them to Eliminate the School from Their List of Choices

Camarillo, CAJuly 19, 2011 — A new study has been released that reveals the influential role of the higher education website on prospective students and parents, particularly in the areas of academic programs and admissions information. The study highlights the influence of parents in the college recruitment process and the importance of reaching out to them as well as their children. In terms of key content, parents and students showed a fair amount of agreement. Approximately 60% of both groups said that the first link they looked for on a school's website was either academic programs or admissions information.

This finding comes from the new report, "The Online Expectations of Prospective College Students and Their Parents," sponsored by OmniUpdate, the leading web content management system (CMS) provider for higher education; Noel-Levitz, the leading higher education consulting firm in North America; and the National Research Center for College & University Admissions (NRCCUA), a non-profit education research organization that conducts the nation's largest educational planning survey among high school students. The report is the latest in the ongoing E-Expectations series, a research project analyzing the online expectations and behaviors of college-bound high school students. The 2011 E-Expectations study surveyed more than 1,043 college-bound high school seniors throughout North America and 517 of their parents.

In addition to reporting that they were researching colleges together, 49% of students and 61% of parents said the final decision on where to enroll would be done together. "It's clear that, at least half of the time, a college is not just recruiting a high school student. The parents are also involved, and they bring a different perspective and perhaps a different set of expectations," said Kevin Crockett, President and CEO of Noel-Levitz. "With the escalating cost of attendance, too, it's likely that parents also want reassurance that an institution is a good investment, which probably explains why 42% of parents said they look for information on academic programs first."

Overall, a college or university website that provides visitors with a poor site experience may see lowered enrollment numbers as a result. The study found that 47% of students and 57% of parents reported that a bad experience on a school's site left them with a negative impression of the school, and 17% and 16%, respectfully, said they would drop that school altogether from their consideration list. Most institutions can ill afford 64% of prospective students and 73% of their parents walking out their virtual door unsatisfied.

Lance Merker, President and CEO of OmniUpdate stated, "What we're seeing here is that the website is a primary driver for information about an institution, and website content plays a critical role in recruitment and admissions. This study validates our belief that a CMS is a vital tool for institutional success, and I can proudly say that our CMS, OU Campus™, has been designed specifically with the needs of higher education in mind."

Additional report findings include:

  • 59% of students said they researched colleges with their parents, while 66% of their parents said they were researching colleges with their children.
  • 36% of students and 26% of parents said they had used an online cost calculator; the numbers were 28% and 20%, respectively, when asked if they had used scholarship calculators. Surprisingly, while the new federal mandate for online net cost calculators takes effect in October 2011, a large number of study participants reported that they could not find such calculators on college websites. For those who had used neither, nearly 50% of students and 67% of parents said they had not seen one.
  • 80% of students and 48% of parents said they had a Facebook account. While 27% of those students said they had visited a college Facebook page, only 12% of parents on Facebook had done the same. Twitter participation was far lower, with only 9% of students and 5% of parents saying they had a Twitter account.
  • 27% of students and 17% of parents said they had searched for schools on their lists on YouTube. More importantly, 55% of students and 43% of parents said they watched videos on the websites of prospective colleges.
  • 14% of students and 5% of parents said they had browsed a college site via a mobile device.
  • 93% of students and 81% of parents said they would give campuses an e-mail address, and nearly all of those students said they provided an address they checked at least once per week.

About the Sponsors

OmniUpdate, Inc.
OmniUpdate is the leading web content management system (CMS) provider for higher education. OmniUpdate's enterprise web CMS, OU Campus™, empowers institutions to effectively manage and enhance their web presence and take advantage of the latest web and mobile technologies. OU Campus is secure and scalable, offering a complete feature set, extensible tools, and deployment flexibility supported by exceptional customer service and extensive community resources. More than 550 college and university websites are managed using OU Campus.


Noel-Levitz has consulted with 2,700 public and private institutions, helping these campuses and systems reach their goals for enrollment, marketing, and student success at the undergraduate and graduate/professional levels.

NRCCUA (National Research Center for College & University Admissions)
NRCCUA conducts the nation's largest educational planning survey among high school students. This valuable program facilitates a key link between the individual educational goals and preferences of students and the vast offerings of colleges and universities. Services include student search programs, printed and online recruitment publications, and web-based communications resources.

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