Marketing Tips: Building Trust in Your School

Marketing Tips: Building Trust in Your School 

Just as consumers gravitate towards brands they trust, students are more likely to enroll in colleges they trust. Building trust through effective marketing and communication strategies can significantly impact enrollment at your college.  

Focusing on trust in higher education—specifically your institution—is crucial to surviving current enrollment challenges. Building trust may seem like a vague goal, but it is a worthy one. Considering the trust factor in all your enrollment marketing can increase student and parent belief in the soundness of your school, which, in turn, can be the nudge that can tip the scales and get a student to enroll.  

Trust and College Enrollment  

The simple fact is that students will only enroll in a school that they have some amount of trust in. Communicating the trustworthiness and integrity of your institution is foundational to attracting students.  

Trust is the belief that something is reliable, honest, worthwhile, and will deliver what is expected. To trust an institution, a person needs to have confidence that the organization does what it promises to do. Trusting something or someone requires vulnerability, relying on the other to not harm but instead act honorably in the relationship. 

Students seek not only a good environment and atmosphere for their studies but also quality education that will serve them well in life and career. A trustworthy school must be transparent in communication, offer quality programs, and treat students fairly. School leaders need to communicate effectively in challenging situations. The institution needs to be on sound financial footing and able to deliver on the promise of a degree.  

Public Perceptions of Higher Education: It’s Not All Bad 

We’ve all heard the negative statistics about Americans’ skepticism about higher education, but it is not as dire as the headlines. While opinions about higher education have sunk, it is part of a broader trend of mistrust in all institutions. Thirty-six percent of respondents reported “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in higher education, while Congress gets 8 percent and big businesses get 14 percent. In other words, it could be worse for colleges. 

In fact, 8 out of 10 college graduates feel their degree was worth it. However, only 64% of those who have loans felt that way, while 86% of those who don’t owe student loans see the value of college. Financial factors weigh heavily, especially in an economy where consumers are feeling the pinch of rising prices on almost everything, not just higher education. 

Taking Cues from the Statistics 

Surveys don’t give us the whole picture, but they can point in directions that can help us understand and work to overcome negative public perceptions. Consider that the prospective students inquiring about your college already have opinions that make them feel that college might be worth it. Applying messaging that inspires trust can help shift opinions about investing in a college education. 

Since more college graduates understand the value of college, one marketing tactic that can help reinforce your messaging is leaning into alumni testimonials. Alumni are trusted sources of inspiration for prospective students and are able to convey how your educational offerings benefitted previous students. Honest storytelling that includes the doubts, challenges, and hesitations alums confronted while completing their degree can help undecided students relate to the alum in the testimonial.   

Another tip from the statistics comes from small businesses, a sector that Americans feel has an overwhelmingly “positive impact” on the country. It may help to consider each college as a small business. Small businesses keep money in the local economy, give a personalized customer service experience, and stand by their quality. Many colleges and universities resemble small businesses more than corporations by positively impacting the local economy. Like small businesses, each school has a unique flavor influenced by the mission and the people who make up the school community. 

Strategies for Building Trust with Prospective Students 

Every marketing communication or interaction with a potential student or parent is an opportunity to build and reinforce trust in your institution. As you analyze your overall strategy, here are some essential places to strengthen your institution’s trustworthiness in the eyes of students: 

  • Transparency and Clear Communication: It’s impossible to overstate the weight of honest and direct communication in all your efforts, including your website, social media, printed materials, and public statements. Confusing navigation or layouts on your website could give the sense of a disorganized institution. Don’t overstate or exaggerate the benefits of your offerings.  
  • Verifiable Social and Institutional Approval:  Testimonials from students, parents, and alumni give social proof. Accreditation, rankings, and statistics like exam pass rates not only boosts credibility but also demonstrates that other institutions respect your programs. 
  • Read the Room and Respond: Listen carefully to questions from prospective students so you can respond appropriately and with empathy to develop rapport and trust. Quick responses to inquiries reinforces relationships and avoids the uncertainty people feel when left hanging. Responding in realtime to FAFSA snags or any other potential future events that could impact applicants shows you care about the process students go through to apply. 
  • Authenticity and Consistent Branding: Define a brand voice that rings true to your institution. A cohesive brand voice reflected across your website and social media channels demonstrates the character of your school and reinforces the clarity of your communications across all platforms.  
  • Know Your Audience: Get to know your current and prospective students. Create detailed student personas to better communicate with the various types of students you want to attract. Differentiate your style, tone, and content for varied audiences. Practice empathy and get to know individual prospects as they go through the enrollment funnel. 

The Upshot 

With so much uncertainty in the world—and in higher education—people crave authenticity and trustworthiness. Your enrollment marketing can communicate the consistency and reliability of your institution and help your institution stay strong to weather the many headwinds facing higher education today. 

For insights on how analytics can assist you in understanding your target students, contact us. We are there every step of the way to help our school clients find, attract, and ultimately enroll more students who are a perfect fit for their colleges.



To learn how we can help build trust in your school, contact our team today.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you adapt to the evolving education marketing landscape and ramp up your efforts, please contact us today.


The Prospective Student Journey:

Reaching Traditional College Students

We have identified four specific points in the journey where schools can make small changes that can increase the number of incoming students. Learn how to implement these changes and optimize these opportunities.

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