The (First) Three Things Parents Want From Their Kids' College

Running a college admissions office isn't easy. Colleges attract students with gorgeous postcards, up-to-date social media campaigns, and lots and lots -- and lots -- of phone calls.

Students may love this approach, but their parents are another story. That sleek college mail that comes in bushel baskets is a landfill concern. College marketers on InstatwitterBook are just this side of stalking. College phone calls at dinnertime prove that the twenty-something work study students on the other end of the line are clueless about the real world.

Parents who have been in the college application trenches come back with flesh wounds in three critical areas. Fix these, and they may be willing to reach an admissions armistice:

Put Your Net Price Calculator on a Web Page They Can Find It's been a couple of years since Congress required each college to post a Net Price Calculator on their Web page. Using the NPC, parents can enter some basic financial information and get a ballpark idea of costs for that college, tailored to reflect the family's financial situation.

NPCs are still a work in progress-- and for most parents, the work involves finding the NPC without going back to school and getting a degree in Website design. Sure, parents can directly link to the NPC of most colleges by going to Still, wouldn't it make a strong statement of support and transparency if a college put their NPC link on the first page of their admissions Web site, or even--dare we dream?--the front page of the college's entire Web site? Put it in the upper right hand corner, like the postage stamp on an envelope. Once that's done, work on the formula that powers the calculator. Some could use some serious fine tuning.

Tell Them What You Do With Low Test Scores Many colleges require students to submit ACT or SAT scores with an application. Since students can send scores directly to four colleges for free when they register for the tests, this should be cheap and easy...

...but it isn't. Students have "heard" that "some" colleges will hold a low set of test scores against a student, even if they later send along a higher set of scores. While most colleges will only look at the higher scores, this isn't every college, and no one knows which colleges are on which list. As a result, kids only send their top test scores once they've seen them--a peek that costs time and money.

Families don't really care if a college considers low test scores; they do care that they don't know who does what. Put your policy on your front admissions page for all the world to see. It will save time, money, and confusion.

Let Them Know if Ability to Pay is a Factor in Admissions Decisions As much as they'd like to, many colleges just can't help every family pay for college, so they have to consider a student's ability to pay as part of the application. That isn't great, but it's understandable--or, it would be, if the parents knew which colleges do this.

Colleges that are members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling are required to publish their "need conscious" policy, but it's too often posted on the Web page right behind the Net Price Calculator. Since there's no, it's time to put an Ability to Pay link right underneath your newly placed Net Price Calculator on the front page of your admissions Web site. If they're going to trust you with their kid, you should trust them with the truth.