Higher Education Marketing – Front line lessons for Pre-college program marketers

Being the mother of teenagers is an invaluable tool for my other role as an education marketer.  Here’s some of my recent findings from an informal search of about 50 websites aimed at summer programs for pre-college students. Heed them.

1) It’s the dates that matter first.

News flash: Parent s plan their summers by dates. If you offer a four week program, that means I’ve got to figure out what to do with him the rest of the summer.  So tell me on your home page how many weeks your program is and what your start and stop dates are. (One college even required my email before I could get the PDF of the brochure with the program dates in it!)

I can’t even consider how fabulous your faculty is or how amazing an experience other teens have found it until I know it’s even a scheduling possibility.

This is a partial screenshot from a pre-college educational program homepage. No dates are given.

This is a partial screenshot from a pre-college educational program homepage. No dates are given.


2) Kill the SEO-purposed keyword-stuffed aggregated lists!

Directories have their place, but college sites that scrape the same information are not only doing themselves an SEO disservice, they make parents crazy.   After Googling “German language summer pre college” I found several college sites that had pages that looked like directories.  If I go to your school site and encounter a seven-page directory of other colleges that might have the word “German” buried somewhere on it, how do you think I feel about your institution?  You’ve not only wasted my time, you’ve shrunk your reputation to a pea.

Education Marketing Agregated Lists

Not sure if the purpose was SEO on this PDF. But it does not help me as a parent.


Please, please, focus on what you offer.  The random lists aren’t helping anyone.


3) Keep your pre-college listings separate from higher education marketing pages

Many colleges direct viewers to a singular course portal, which causes huge confusion for the pre-college market.  Even if you have to create another page on your pre-college site that lists the available courses, do it.  You can always link me to the course portal as a reference once I’m in the application phase, but figuring out whether or not pre-college students are allowed in any given course is your job.

4) Tell me what you mean by ‘pre-college.’

It’s a mixed bag out there. Some schools offer a ‘chance to try college life’ which could mean anything from a kid’s first time doing his own laundry, to sitting in a seminar with competitive college co-eds.

Be clear.  If your course is customized for high schoolers or a full college-credit program, let me know so I can gauge what my kid wants and what he’s ready for.

And keep in mind that this is about the college application.  Nobody’s naïve about this.  We want to help our kids look good, without burning them out.  That’s a tricky balance between serious learning and a chance to enjoy their summer.