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Marketing to Parents of Prospective Students

Why focusing on the whole family increases enrollment

High school students about to start college are on the verge of making one of the most important choices of a lifetime. However, the financial impact of their decision often falls on their parents, who are likely to pay a substantial portion of the tuition bill.

Prospective students are often eager to begin school and have some idea of what they want out of a college. They will likely have spent hours researching their top choice schools. Still, compared to their parents, high school students are relatively naïve consumers.

That’s why it’s so important to include parents in any serious marketing enrollment campaign, but the strategies for reaching mom and dad are a little different than reaching their students. That’s why it’s important to tailor your marketing to address parents.

Parents are focused and efficient.

High school students are digitally savvy and likely to spend time online flitting from link to link. Parents engage with online resources in a more focused way. When they get online they will go to a trusted resource and spend their time on that site.

This is partly because parents are busy. They don’t have time to waste on things that aren’t relevant or helpful as they work on the college search. They can quickly evaluate what information is helpful and what lacks substance.

If you want their attention, it’s important to provide relevant and informative content. Parents are less interested in glossy pictures than in hard facts. They want the bottom line about things like comparative costs, educational quality, and transfer programs.

Parents are tech-savvy.

Stereotypes aside, parents today are tech-savvy and looking to connect with your school online. They use web tools to research and evaluate college choices just like their children. However, there are a few key ways to connect with parents online.

  • 77% Check their emails weekly
  • 56% Use Facebook
  • 43% Will open an email from an unknown school
  • 51% Prefer web-based resources for learning about colleges
  • 28% Use a mobile device nearly all the time for web browsing

As community colleges try to reach parents of prospective high school students, marketing on digital platforms is becoming just as important as more traditional methods of communication, like brochures and phone calls.

It’s especially important to make sure your web presence is mobile-friendly, as people spend more and more time browsing the internet on smartphones and tablets. Content that won’t display on these devices is significantly less effective.

Parents care about location.

Sending a child away to school is a big change for most families. Many parents want to keep their children nearby, at least for a while, to ease the transition. That way they can continue to play a supportive role in their child’s life even as he or she becomes more independent.

Community college transfer programs, which are often close to home and offer more academic safety nets than four-year colleges, let students hone important skills on the road to independence.

Parents are likely to see this as a significant advantage of community college programs. By keeping a son or daughter nearby, parents know that they will be more aware of any academic or personal struggles that could derail their child’s progress.

Parents want to see their children succeed.

College is still a huge endeavor for many students and their families. That’s why parents want to know that the personal and financial investment will pay off in the form of a satisfying and secure career.

Parents take a hard look at the programs your school offers. They want to know that the coursework is going to be interesting and that the degree will translate into an actual job for their children.

Though statistical evidence shows that Gen Z are career-minded and interested in practical information about employment and salary opportunities as well, this sort of content is especially interesting to parents. Detailed infographics and articles about degree programs and career opportunities are sure to stand out.

Parents pay the bills.

Community colleges are getting better about pointing out the comparative costs of credits between their programs and other schools. It’s an aggressive marketing pitch, but it certainly gets parents’ attention, since they write the tuition checks.

A few years ago, Ozarks Technical Community College compared the annual cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies at their program with nearby for profit and private schools. Ozarks was only $3,300 average, less than a tenth of the cost of a nearby private university.

An impactful bar graph showed the difference, while a voiceover says “When looking at the costs, there is no comparison.” Viewers aren’t likely to forget the message.

Don’t make parents an afterthought.

Even as high school students move on to college, for many the first big step into adulthood, their parents have a huge impact on their decision-making. It’s important to include them in the college search process.

By speaking either directly to parents, or by speaking to their concerns about cost or career outcomes, you are more likely to see their sons and daughters in your classrooms. It’s especially important to provide the kind of high quality information they want in your print and digital marketing materials.

Feel like the content you’re creating isn’t actually what your prospective students want? Request a demonstration to see how you can use the materials in our content library to create powerful multichannel marketing campaigns.