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Insight Paper

Engaging Students’ #1 Influencer in Recruitment

Actionable insights from EAB's 2022 Parent Survey

Today’s parents are more anxious, more transactional, and less trusting than their predecessors. With the rise of intensive parenting, parent involvement in the college process has only increased in recent years.

To provide guidance on how to best communicate with this key audience, EAB has conducted parent surveys for more than 10 years. Our latest report includes insights from our 2022 survey of more than 2,000 parents and guardians of high school students. Read on for selected findings or download the full report.

Percentage of students naming parents or guardians in their top five sources of information in their college search and decision

EAB New College Freshman Survey 2019-2022


Today’s parents want to be more involved

Today’s parents are concerned about college cost, often uncertain about value, and anxious about their children’s safety and wellbeing. These shifts are reflected in EAB survey research, with 75% of parents saying that colleges should communicate with them directly, a slight increase from the 71% of parents who said the same in 2020.

An increase in parents interested in communicating directly with colleges

Parents indicating that colleges should communicate with them directly, 2020-2022


For many colleges, the question is not whether, but when, to start communicating with parents. In our 2022 survey as in previous surveys, we found that parents tend to get involved in college research around the same time as their children do.

Just under 20% of families have started researching colleges by freshman year, and just under 50% have done so by the end of sophomore year.

Communicating with parents early in high school caters to parents’ demonstrated desire for information on colleges and can also prompt those who had not thought to start the search process to engage earlier than they otherwise might.

Parent involvement tracks closely to student activity

When students and parents first started researching colleges, by student year


Finances are a top source of concern and uncertainty

Consistent with previous EAB research, financial concerns continue to top of the list of parent anxieties about college. One major factor contributing to parents’ apprehension about college costs is uncertainty about how much they’ll need to pay and how much they can afford. Almost one in two parents responded that they either thought of college costs in terms of sticker price or hadn’t thought about the difference between sticker price and net cost.

In addition, 25% of parents responded that they didn’t know the maximum amount they’d be willing to pay for a college education. While this amount remains sizable, it’s down from 40% in 2020, suggesting that many parents have been forced to take a closer look at budgets during the pandemic and financial downturn. In addition, we found that lower-income families are most uncertain about both cost and their maximum budget for college.

Uncertainty about the impact college will have on household finances

When you think about how much it will cost for your child to attend college, what do you think of?


What is the maximum amount you would pay for your child's college education?


don't know the maximum amount overall they'd be willing to pay


don't know the maximum amount they'd be willing to borrow


don't know the maximum amount of income and savings they'd be willing to spend