eExpectations Insights

E-expectations Season

Welcome to the 2017-18 season of E-expectations! Granted, you may think of it as “welcome the new class” season or “get ready for football” season, but for those of us working to develop survey instruments, analyze data or produce infographics, PowerPoint decks and research reports it is a delight to finally be able to share and discuss the findings from our latest research.

New to E-expectations? Ruffalo Noel Levitz, in partnership with NRCCUA, CollegeWeekLive and OmniUpdate, has been producing national research to better understand what college-bound high school students and sometimes parents want from your digital recruitment marketing resources as they consider their options.

We just formally* released the results from our 2017 study of high school sophomores, juniors and seniors AND parents of the same class years at the National Conference for Student Recruitment, Marketing and Retention and now it’s time to take our show on the road. This week we’re presenting at the EduWeb Digital Summit in Boston and doing an episode of HigherEdLive. In October we’ll be at HighEdWeb in Hartford, CT and in Orlando at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education in November. There will be lots of webinars scheduled this fall and plenty of opportunities to engage with the team via blog posts like this, Twitter (#eexpect) and on our new website:

I thought I’d share a few of the results that have my wheels spinning. Let’s get your take on these findings.

Parents are completing applications for their student

Not really news, but a good reminder. 28% of high school seniors said their parents had contributed to their college selection process by completing applications but 62% of parents of seniors said they had done so. So what should you do about that? Collect and use parent e-mail addresses to inform them about the process, reinforce your unique selling propositions and remind them of pending deadlines and visit opportunities. In another question, we learned that between 59-69% of parents are open to receiving text messages. Are you including them in your text message campaigns?

Those kids are clicking on paid links!

We’ve been asking about use of search engine marketing links for a few years now (steadily increasing rates of use by high school students since 2014 or so), but this study marked the first time we asked sophomores. Sixty-one percent (yes, 61%) of sophomores report they had already clicked on a paid ad, like those you see in search engine results, on social media or through other online display advertising.

Here’s the thing that makes me curious about what’s happening on campus. We asked what they did after clicking on the paid link and not enough of them are really engaging. Just 21-29% said they filled out a form to get more information. The highest response was “looked at a website” (76-84%) followed by “watched a video” (28-34%). Sure enough, not every link clicked results in a perfect match between the student and the school inciting them to share contact information, but it makes me wonder if schools using paid interactive marketing campaigns are using landing pages effectively, or even at all.

If parents hate it, must students love it?

As the parent of two teens and a young adult, I know the strategy to get my girls to like something…I need only to indicate that I might not like it. In our photography research this year, I see an interesting result that reminds me of this.

For years we’ve been astonished at how consistently prospective students favor drone shots or other “empty” campus shots. Qualitatively they tell us that these images give them a sense of place and allow them to visualize themselves walking across campus. This year we asked parents to rate the same collection of images and while their favorites lined up with those of the students there was one notable exception, this drone shot. It was in the “least appealing” ordering by parents of sophomores, juniors and seniors. Conversely, it was in the “most appealing” category for each class year in the student study.

In some smaller settings, I’ve had colleagues and clients suggest that this image might evoke feelings of fear and trepidation in parents as they think about releasing their dear children into this big world. I think there might be something to that. But how do we select effective images for our website that will tell the story of campus and community without alienating parents? I think the solution is in providing a variety of images across your website, e-mail and social assets and captioning with benefit-focused messages whenever possible. In the case of this image, maybe referencing the proximity to public transportation, safety resources or experiential learning opportunities given the proximity to a metropolitan area.

This is just a smattering of the results we’re sharing during the beginning of “E-expectations Season”. We hope you’ll join us in person or virtually. Don’t forget, we’re always open to your ideas for new questions. Reply here or tweet them out using #eexpect.

*Our friend Karine Joly of did a remarkable job with the sneak preview data we shared with her in May. You can read her seven-part series about the study here:

8 Surprising New Facts: How to Engage High School Students and Parents Online

Digital marketing is hard.  Digital marketing for higher education is harder.  For this year’s e-Expectations report we sought out to uncover some of the key things getting in our way when trying to find, engage, and attract prospective students (and their parents!).

The below infographic is the first in what will be a series of insights and findings we publish from our survey of college-bound students and their parents.  Be sure to subscribe for updates as we’ll be publishing new insights and findings throughout the year.


Welcome to!

As part of a collaborative research partnership between Ruffalo Noel-Levitz, NRCCUA, CollegeWeeklive and OmniUpdate (market leaders in enrollment strategy, planning, student engagement and web development respectively) the 2017 edition of the annual eExpectations report will be released at the National Conference for Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention in Denver on July 27.

The report will uncover key issues facing enrollment and marketing; leveraging insights gathered from an online poll of thousands of students and parents across the MyCollegeOptions college-planning program; the largest college planning program in the country.

Among the insights, focused on key topic areas like social media, virtual reality, digital display advertising and more, will be clear distinctions between not only what online resources students use to connect with colleges but also what resources are used by their parents.

In addition to the top insights to be released in Denver, the eExpectations report will be expanded this year to include additional insights published throughout the year on a new website at This new, and free, online resource will empower enrollment professionals to do their own on-demand discovery as well as consume role-specific research.

Click here to subscribe to future releases and updates as new findings are published!