Recruiting College Students by Targeting Their Parents (Why & How)

Topics: Digital Media, Higher Ed Marketing

Posted by: Marketing

Parents play a huge role in the college decision process. Whether to attend, which college to choose, what to major in - these are huge choices that will impact students’ lives for decades to come. With this kind of pressure, many young people turn to their parents for advice. And parents, who are often financing their children’s education, have plenty of say in the matter. For this reason, recruiting college students by targeting their parents is a highly effective enrollment campaign tactic.  Learn more about recruiting college students by targeting their parents (why and how).

College Students and their Parents


Why Recruiting College Students By Targeting Their Parents Works

Parents have become increasingly important in the college choice process. According to an EAB survey of 4,848 high school seniors who graduated in 2021, 48% ranked “parental influence” as one of their top five sources of information on the admissions process (second only to specific college websites). 

Aside from creating and promoting a persuasive and informative website, reaching and influencing the parents of your target audience is one of the most important tactics for recruiting college students. Targeting both students and their parents expands your reach and ensures your message is getting across at all levels of the decision making process.



“No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than a parent.” 



How to Target Parents for Student Recruitment

According to Madeleine Rhyneer, VP of consulting services and dean of enrollment management at EAB, “Providing timely, helpful information to both prospects and family members is smart.” She recommends making information available in multiple ways on multiple platforms as a good way to bring parents into the process. 

“I’m a fan of small bites of just-in-time information that is easily assimilated by parents and students being bombarded with marketing of all kinds,” Rhyneer adds. And, according to the EAB report, “Self-service digital sources are an excellent way to influence students’ #2 go-to source: their parents and family.”


Digital Sources for Targeting the Parents of Potential Students 

Digital media is just as effective in reaching parents as it is in reaching teens and young adults. According to the Pew Research Center

  • Nearly 100% of people under age 65 use the internet.
  • 95% of millennials, 95% of Generation X, and 83% of Baby Boomers own smartphones.
  • 81% of millennials, 81% Generation X, and 73% Baby Boomers use social media.





Digital ad campaigns, paid social media campaigns, and influencer partnerships build buzz for everything your organization has to offer. They also provide a broader reach than traditional ad campaigns, often at a fraction of the price.


+ Learn three key digital marketing solutions for student recruitment.


Recruiting College Students by Targeting Parents on Social Media

Social media advertising campaigns are an excellent way to generate leads and build brand awareness in its simplest form. These paid online campaigns establish loyalty and engage users. 

  • Social ad impressions are up 20%, year over year.
  • 27% of internet users say they find new products and brands through paid social ads.
  • 928.5 million people can be reached by ads on Instagram.
  • 92% of Instagram users say they’ve followed a brand, clicked on their website, or made a purchase after seeing a product/service on the platform.
  • Facebook ads reach 1.95 billion of the platform's 2.5 billion monthly users That’s 32% of the world’s population (over the age of 13).


MSSmedia Social Media Ad Stats



The Best Social Media Platforms for Recruiting College Students

Today’s best social channels for higher education advertising are:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

While teenagers and young adults are increasingly turning to emerging platforms like Snapchat and TikTok, established social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter still have plenty of traffic, especially among the parents of teenagers and twenty-somethings. 


+ Learn 5 social media marketing strategies to increase college enrollment.


Lead Form Advertising

Facebook and Instagram lead ads allow you to find people who may be interested in your school or programs and collect information from them, including names, email addresses, phone numbers, and more. These forms also let you include custom questions to help you understand your target and reach your enrollment goals.

For organizations looking for leads among those exiting high school, targeting Facebook/Instagram lead ads to parents is essential. Not only do older generations use Facebook more than teenagers, users must be at least 18 to receive lead form ads.


Facebook Lead Form


Retargeting Advertising

Retargeting advertising allows you to engage with a "warm" audience - those who have already shown interest by engaging with the original ad (by clicking the link, the ad itself, or sharing/commenting/liking it).  Creating multiple touch points gives you a better chance of converting targets into leads/customers.


Looking for more information? See our complete guide: Recruiting Students – A Marketing Plan to Increase College Enrollment.




Here at MSS Media, Inc., we’ve been providing Education, Government, Real Estate & Lifestyle clients with succinct, optimized, and successful marketing solutions for more than 15 years. Consider MSS Media, Inc. a full-service, one-stop shop for all your Media and Public Relations needs. Your goals are our motivation. And our mission is to propel your message, further and faster, to achieve the outcomes you’re looking for. If you found this blog post helpful, please share!

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