Here are some results that should be helpful to those developing content for higher education Web sites from the E-Expectations surveys conducted by Noel-Levitz, James Tower and NRCCUA. The 2006 and 2007 survey results area available as PDF downloads at the Noel-Levitz site.
The 2007 survey is titled "Engaging the Social Networking Generation." One trend that you see is that new and prospective students' concerns about issues likeÂ the cost of attending are mixed in with their expectations for Web content and functionality at college sites they visit.
They expect schools to keep up with the rest of the Net.
The surveys polled college-bound high school juniors nationwide. They were asking them about not only college sites but cell phone usage, blogs, and podcasts. The surveys asked students to select topics as well as people they would like to interact with on the site during the enrollment process.
Top 10 Topics of Interest 1. Scholarship details 2. Academic program/major 3. Financial aid 4. Tuition and fees 5. Housing/residence life 6. Student life and activities 7. Faculty and teaching 8. Job placement rates 9. Visiting campus 10. Graduate school placement
Top 10 People 1. Admissions counselor - 53% 2. Financial aid counselor - 53% 3. Current student - 46% 4. None of these - 42% 5. Faculty member - 40% 6. Alumni - 35%
The 42% who chose to interact with no one is interesting. My own interpretation is that many students don't want to deal with people but just with the site. At least, as a high school junior that is is their preference. It's probably comparable to my own preference to do some kinds of shopping and business online rather than dealing with a customer rep or salesperson on the phone. My guess is that they will want to talk with a human as the process gets further along. That means that the school site has to offer a very thorough coverage of material online for that type of student when they make their initial visits.
I know that admissions people want to be good marketing people and harvest information about prospectives (email, phone, interests), and we keep hearing that this Gen Y is very willing to put out personal information online, but this might indicate that what they tell a school is not what they are willing to share on a social network.
Thank you for your comments relative to our E-Expectations survey. Please be sure to keep a look out for the latest white paper information coming out in about a week.
Also regarding that 42% you mentioned, that is indeed very specific to early contact in the communications cycle. Once a student has applied, they are open to many types of outreach, including personal contact. We see this as a personal time management issue, in that, I need to have access to information when I want to access it. This is very much reflected in the "secret shopper" phenomenom we see where application, as first point of contact, continues to grow on our college and university campuses.
I have linked to your blog and look forward to your continued insight.