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How Colleges Can Best Support Prospective Students and Their Families

4 min read

Not only is the process of finding and enrolling in a college or university confusing for prospective students, the process is also different at every institution. Terminology changes, websites differ, requirements vary, and the process itself can be so confusing that someone decides not to apply to that college altogether.

Higher ed professionals and administrators have the best intentions to create a thoughtful and thorough admissions process. However, between the deadlines, documents, events, and meetings, there are too many barriers.

On a recent episode of For Your Institution, Mongoose enlisted the help of Dr. Liz Gross, the Founder and CEO of Campus Sonar, and Dayana Kibilds, Enrollment Strategist at Ologie, to discuss how institutions can make it easier for prospective students and their families to complete applications and ultimately succeed.


Know Your Audience and Their Goals

It’s important for you and your staff to know where you’re leading your audience. Prospective students and parents are looking to you for answers. Be ready to inform people about what your school offers and how that compares to other schools.

“Really make sure that you’re taking stock of the societal context that we’re operating in now. A student that is graduating from high school or an adult who is considering a career transition might be starting with the question, ‘Should I be considering going to college?’ The value of a college degree has been questioned more in the last five years. Is that a part of the questions you need to answer for your students?” - Dr. Liz Gross 

If you feel prospective students are ready to make a decision on college, providing proof of the return on investment for a degree in the form of job placement and alumni success stories is a great place to start with your messaging. 

“Start with the value of getting a degree, and then you talk about your institution.” - Dayana Kibilds

Use Simple Language

Most college websites are  written by an experienced higher ed professional who knows the institution in and out. But would a 17-year old high school graduate or their parents understand it? 

It’s not enough to put information online. Avoid confusing jargon and acronyms to make sure it’s easy for students and parents to follow instructions. Explain complex processes in ways that aren't only understood by your staff.

Your school’s voice can be a big selling point for parents and students. Keep language simple. Use conversational emails, text messages, and content that is not overly verbose. As a starting point, maybe don’t use words like “verbose.”

“You have to think about your unique selling proposition for your institution. The missed opportunity is being different and not looking exactly the same as every other institution.” - Dr. Liz Gross 

The best advice for writing content is to write like you speak. Communicate like a human and use a conversational tone to build a relationship with your audience.


Find Out Where Students Need Help

Between your school’s website and social media channels, and the countless messages you and your staff are tasked with sending, there’s always a need for content. The best content and the most engaging messages are the ones that actually help. Take a look at all the incoming questions you get (email, social listening, social, phone, events) and use those inquiries to craft text messages and social posts. 

Social listening is very important in helping prospective students and their families, who are often a part of the application process. By now, you’re probably aware of Facebook groups that  mention your institution, but it’s also important to dig deeper into Youtube, Reddit and TikTok conversations. 

“Make the answers to student questions the core of your content strategy.” - Dayana Kibilds

If you find the students are having trouble finding information on your site, create a short video that explains the process. Better yet, have a student create the video or respond the questions on your social channels. Content by peers and faculty members shared through social media is extremely valuable.

Ensure Information is Accessible

No amount of gimmicks and coolness will overcome lack of access. Not every family has reliable internet or multiple smart devices. If your institution has a goal of being inclusive and diverse, make sure your information is available to everyone.

“I’ve spent years thinking about barriers that can keep students out of institutions. There’s a digital equity divide. Access to devices, internet, and broadband is one barrier, especially when you look across socioeconomic and racial and ethnicity variables. Schools exclude 30-40% of the population by just making some things only available on a computer. They can’t even see it.” - Dayana Kibilds

Consider what your institution can do to reach audiences without access to digital tools. Because some families might share one single device, understand that they might need extra help and multiple reminders to get across the finish line.


Watch/listen to full episode with Liz and Dayana with the links below!

Save your spot at our next For Your Institution recording