03 Jun Three easy steps small campuses can take to sustain parent/family communication after Freshmen Orientation
With the spring graduations now in the rear-view mirror, college and university staff are putting the finishing touches on the agendas for the upcoming Freshmen Orientation programs. Many campuses, even those with student populations under 3,000, hold simultaneous parent/family orientation sessions focused on helping parents/family understand the academic landscape and what to expect as a parent/family member of a first-time college freshmen. These parent/family orientation programs are a great beginning to what can be an important factor in the student’s academic journey. However once the orientation sessions conclude, it’s not uncommon for parents/family to have limited to no communication with the campus until registration begins for the Parent/Family Weekend. What steps can a small campus take – with limited staff time and resources – to open lines of communication and to begin to cultivate parents/families as educational partners? There are many easy strategies that you can employ this summer. Here are three recommended by Parent Education Partners, an educational consulting firm that teams with colleges and universities to develop proactive parent/family engagement programs without costly new investments in technology and staff:
- Update your webpages before the fall term begins. Make sure the tone of the writing is welcoming and free of educational jargon. Your campus’ website is the go-to resource for parents/families. Yet, many busy administrators simply forget to routinely check the website to ensure all links and information are relevant and working properly. There’s nothing more frustrating to parents/family than to visit the campus website and, specifically the student services pages, only to find broken links and outdated information.
- Leverage social media to engage parents/families. If you write the post, your campus’ PR team will generally be happy to post it on the college and/or university’s social media channels. Include a photo, if possible, to increase the visibility of the post. Periodic posts are a way to share information without the investment of a lot of your staff time. And, it’s a great way to keep the lines of communication open.
- Piggyback on eblasts pertaining to tuition payment reminders and other student services related issues. Parents/families open these emails! Ask your colleagues if you can include a link and/or short messages in their routine digital communication. It’s possible your parents/families receive communication from student life, residential life, the Health Center or other departments on campus.
The most effective parent/family efforts are customized, employ multiple strategies and allow for parent/family feedback. That said, why pass up an opportunity to initiate communication and begin a relationship with the very people who have the greatest personal investment in your students? Parent/family programs can be launched with minimal staff time and investment and are vital to persistence and completion. Even if your efforts are initial, parents/family will appreciate the effort.