Top 3 Topics to Talk to First-Year Families About (HINT: It’s not Financial Aid!)

Parents are an important part of the equation when it comes to new student orientation. Today’s parents are often driving the move-in process, navigating financial options for growing higher ed costs, and supporting their student emotionally through the transition.

We know that helping parents help their student get off on the right foot is critical. That’s why we’ve pulled a list of our most popular content, classified by type, to share with families of first-year students. With more than 200,000 families using our engagement platform, and email open rates exceeding 68%, we know what parents want to read.

We analyzed over 261,000 clicks to help you best support your first-year families.

1. Parent & Family Weekend Information

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Parent & Family Weekend was by far the most popular topic among first-year families. Articles detailing where to stay, things to do, and what to expect on campus were opened by 80% of first-year families. Many of our partner institutions used CampusESP to manage event registration for Parent & Family Weekend, send out reminders to register, and update parents on the schedule of events.

Example Content:

Why should you care? Parent & Family Weekend is a revenue source, and promoting the event and its benefits is a good way to boost ticket sales. It’s also a critical opportunity to build community, prepare for future parent giving, and further support the students’ transition with a visit from home.  

2. Move-In Information

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Moving into a residence hall is one of the most overwhelming aspects of the first-year experience, especially for out-of-state students and their families. We found that first-year families were most interested in reading about what to bring, how to coordinate with roommates in advance, and other details of residential life.

Example Content:

Why should you care? A more prepared move-in leads to a smoother transition and a happier student overall… not to mention a decrease in calls from concerned family members!

3. Important Upcoming Dates

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Many CampusESP partner institutions use our announcements feature to send out reminders about important dates, deadlines and upcoming events. First-year families, who are new to the college process, appreciate a little extra nudging about what needs to get done… and when. We like to say that we “nudge the nudgers.”

Example Content:

Why should you care? A missed financial aid deadline or a past-due bill might be the reason a student doesn’t return to campus. Sending reminders about upcoming financial deadlines can help boost persistence and get bills paid on time.

What else do first-year families want?

There’s no one-size-fits-all model for first-year families and what they need. Below is a list of the remaining topics (in order) of the articles most-read by parents who enrolled a new student this fall.

    4. Financial advice

    5. Career and internship support

    6. General advice

    7. Shopping recommendations

    8. First-time student advice

    9. Campus news

   10.  Dining information

   11.  Financial aid information

Key takeaway: Share information when the time is right.

To our surprise, financial aid information was the least-read content at the start of the Fall 2018 semester. Information about FAFSA deadlines, tips for scholarship applications, and understanding a parent’s role in financial aid process was only opened by 10% of first-year families.

While financial aid is one of the most important factors of student access, financial aid advice is only helpful when it comes at the time advice is needed. By the start of the fall semester, it’s often too little too late. Most decisions about financial aid for the current term have already been made… and families focused on helping their student through the first semester of college are not thinking ahead to the following year just yet. The key to a successful transition is to send relevant information to students and their families when the time is right.