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Beyond Enrollment: Marketing Schools to Millennial Parents

As the first generation raised in the age of supersizing, millennials are the quintessential “subscription generation.” Weaned on the mindset that bigger was better and all-inclusive was ideal, these parents often instinctively gravitate towards experiences that arrive in a tidy, replenishing bundle. 

For public schools and educational institutions, adopting a subscription and customization approach can be beneficial. This helps reframe how the educational experience is packaged and presented to millennial parents.

Raised on Bigger, Better Bundles

Who could forget slavishly filling out those Columbia House CD stamps to get 12 albums for a penny? Or the intense diet program packages like Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and Atkins that sold entire lifestyles encapsulated in a box?

From streaming services to meal kits, curation crates to software subscriptions, millennials instinctively gobble up anything that arrives in a complete or replenishing package. This inherent attraction to the “supersized” subscription model is fundamentally rooted in how they were conditioned to consume as kids.

Millennials love subscriptions because they provide convenience, flexibility, and an ever-changing experience without commitment. For schools and businesses alike, ignoring this subscription mindset when marketing to millennials is a missed opportunity.

Subscription Mania by the Numbers

  • Nearly 40% of Millennials Rely on Retail Subscriptions for Shopping (Pymtns).
  • The subscription e-commerce market grew over 100% annually the past 5 years (McKinsey).
  • Gen Z Opts for Subscriptions, for Sustainability, and Brand Connection (Zuora).
  • Millennials Lead, Gen X and Boomers Lag in the Subscription Economy (Vantiv).

Those stats aren’t just numbers, they’re a window into the Millennial and Gen Z psyche and spending habits. These generations crave access over ownership, curation over choice fatigue, and malleable, personalized experiences over rigid commitments.

Applying the Subscription Mindset to School Choice

Deloitte Insights notes that despite considerable emphasis on communications, public skepticism about the value of higher education continues to rise. “In the past decade, the share of Americans expressing high confidence in the value of higher education fell sharply, from 57% to 36%.7.” This sobering statistic reinforces the need for public high schools to strengthen their value proposition to families. It’s no longer enough to laud just your academic program and college acceptance rates; families need to understand how you’re preparing their children for the future, which looks very different today than it did even 10 years ago.

Ashley Winter, Content Marketing Coordinator at CEL, offers a unique perspective on school marketing and family decision-making:

“As a school marketing professional, I’ve seen the remarkable opportunities available to high school students—fantastic college credit and career experience options that weren’t available when I was a student. However, as a parent of a kindergartner, I’ve noticed that information is often siloed by grade level. This creates a gap in families’ decision-making processes.

Choosing a school isn’t just about the present; it’s a long-term commitment that shapes our future. Families, especially those with multiple children, are making a decision that affects their next decade—or two! But parents of younger children are often unaware of the opportunities that await their kids in later years.

This realization has changed my perspective as a marketer. We need a more holistic, forward-thinking approach to communicating with families. When parents enroll their children, they’re potentially planning their family’s entire future. It’s important to provide a comprehensive view of the educational journey from kindergarten through high school, showcasing all opportunities. Only then can families make informed decisions that align with their long-term goals.”

These insights highlight the need for schools to market themselves not just as institutions but as long-term, evolving experiences—much like a premium bundled service.

Marketing Strategies Aligned with the Bundled Mindset

  • School Choice as the Ultimate Subscription
    Savvy enrollment marketing means highlighting your school not just as a place kids attend but as an educational experience they’re joining. These parents want to know about your culture, what makes your school special compared to one down the block, and ultimately, how you are positioning their child for success. Instead of generic overviews about academics, think brochures, websites, and online tours that showcase your campus amenities, enrichment programs, and other opportunities as an enticing suite of benefits included in their enrollment “bundle.”
  • Membership Perks Beyond the Classroom
    While academics are the core component, millennial parents also crave opportunities for their kids to learn life skills, discover passions, and feel connected to an inclusive community. They want well-rounded enrichment. Highlight things like coding clubs, music programs, maker spaces, and student organizations as “value-adds” available exclusively by enrolling in your school experience. Market the intangible benefits of belonging – school pride, networking, social-emotional growth – much in the way subscription boxes entice with promises of passion-stoking.
  • Get Creative With Customization
    Millennials expect customization and flexibility in their subscription services. As a school, you can tap into this desire by showcasing any ways students and families can adapt offerings to their child’s interests and learning styles. Do you offer online supplemental classes? Have career pathways that students can select? Language immersion? Magnet schools? Play up any options that allow students to curate a personalized educational path. Don’t wait for families to reach your high school to find out that you offer these special opportunities—include your offerings in your early enrollment and Kindergarten recruitment efforts, emphasizing the long-term value of your educational “subscription.”


For school marketers and administrators, the key is to position your school not as a rigid, one-size-fits-all system but as an opportunity for parents to custom-build an enriching experience aligned with their needs and values. By doing so, you’re not just filling seats—you’re cultivating a community of engaged, committed families who see your school as an indispensable part of their children’s future.

Take action today: Evaluate your current marketing materials and school communications. How can you incorporate the subscription model’s best features—customization, regular updates, and long-term value propositions—to better appeal to millennial parents? Start by redesigning one aspect of your outreach with this mindset, and watch as engagement and interest grow.

Published on: June 24, 2024