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Engaging Parents of First-Generation Students

3 min read

It is no secret that parents play a big role in the college search process with their children. 

They’re either conducting the search alongside them or doing it entirely.  In fact, 12% of parents said they did the college search primarily for their child rather than together in 2021, and 88% searched with their child according to a study conducted by Niche.

Family members can make great allies for prospective students, as some parents can recall on their experiences from attending an institution, but it’s a different story for families with first-generation college students. 

Having not gone to college themselves, first-gen parents find that the higher education landscape is new and complex. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be included in their child’s educational journey. 

When aiming to recruit first-generation students to your institution, try these unique strategies to involve their parents in the process and make them your partner in helping students succeed.  


Make Information Easy to Find (and Understand)

Tuition, add/drop dates, FASFA, digital technology fees, registration deadlines, applications FAQs, etc. are all common terms in the higher ed world, but for first gen families these terms are new and unknown. Keep this in mind when writing copy for your website. Not every audience is going to understand certain terms and acronyms at first glance and may need further explanation.

If a website visitor can’t locate the information they seek, there is a higher chance they will leave your site and not return. Ensure answers to common questions are addressed and don’t require a large amount of searching to locate. 

Tip: Having a dedicated webpage for parents is a great way to showcase important dates, tuition costs, ways to get involved, etc.  A page dedicated for parents will only amplify their involvement in helping their student thrive at your school, plus it highlights how important their engagement is. 


Explain Processes with Videos

A great way to explain more complex processes for recruits and their families is to create easy to follow, how-to videos for your site. 

Think about it: Just because you’re talking about financial aid everyday doesn’t mean others are doing the same. While some terms and processes may seem like second nature, take a step back and explain it from start to finish. 

People want to see how to do things rather than asking and possibly not understanding your response. Answers to questions can prompt follow ups and spark new conversations as well. 


Use Texting

In the 2021 Prospective Family Engagement Report by RNL and CampusESP, 46% of first-gen parents said texting was their preferred communication channel. 

Texting parents is a great way to personalize messages and consistently communicate with them, which is needed as 76% of families want to hear from prospective institutions at least once per week according to the RNL report. 

Wondering what type of texts to send? You’ve got options. 

Send texts about upcoming dates and events, reminders for deadlines, updates on new programs, awards and prestigious alumni features, and athletic team updates. You can even nudge the nudger reminders for their students. 

Texting also provides an additional medium for two-way conversations where first-gen families may feel more comfortable asking questions. 


Communication Channels Matter

Don’t assume because you have a Facebook group for parents that is a one-stop-shop for all parent-related communications. Social media is also not the best outlet to reach first-generation families specifically. 

RNL’s report shows that families with higher educational attainment and those with higher household incomes prefer the online family portal or social media. The report also highlights that even though prospective families are on social media, most of them are not using these platforms to assist in their college planning. 

Are you looking to attract more first-generation students to your institution? Level up with our best practices for recruiting first generation students. 


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