When it comes to college recruitment strategies, various approaches work for different institutions. But at the core of all of them is one thing– detailing.
Take Kenyon College’s acceptance letter, for example. They add detailed personalization, including the student’s achievements and experience, in the letter that makes the student feel valued. Such detailing can then inspire them to secure admission to the Ohio liberal arts college.
As shared online by a student. Source: College Confidential.
If as an admissions office head you are struggling with recruiting students for college, here are some strategies you can implement.
We will go over
- College recruitment strategies that suit the new normal.
- How to recruit students for college even in ordinary circumstances.
- Mistakes to avoid while finalizing college recruitment strategies.
College recruitment strategies that suit the new normal
2020 has ended. But we might be taking some customs from last year into the next one. Not for the threat of the pandemic but because it makes things more convenient for everyone. So while we settle into the new normal, here are some college recruitment strategies you must implement.
Conduct online campus tours
Harvard University offers a virtual campus tour that enables prospective students to sneak peek into the campus without actually visiting it. Complete with a virtual tour guide, the tour provides a basic understanding of what students can expect.
Of course, replicating the Harvard tour will require heavy technology and sophisticated production. If you are restricted for time and resources, perhaps you could follow the example of the City University of London– the UK university registers attendees beforehand and creates a tour with pre-recorded videos and a live Q/A session with academics and current students.
Make sure your online campus tour covers:
- Dorm rooms
- Activity centers
- Locations of historical importance
- Sports and arts centers
- Libraries and laboratories
- Other facilities.
Give prominence to direct conversation
Slow responses, lack of feedback, and generalized messaging can cause frustration among young generations, like the Gen-Z. Thus, the need to accommodate speedy personal and direct conversations in your college recruitment strategies.
Direct conversations are even more crucial since traveling, shifting cities, and regular in-person classes have become risky, forcing colleges to change the way they operate.
This nurturing and recruitment stage of indulging in personal conversations occurs when a prospect has shown keen interest in your college and has shared their contact information with you. There are three effective ways to initiate direct conversations with them:
- Text messages: Higher educational institutions have reached a consensus that text messaging prospects are effective. And that’s because 85% of students agree that text nudges help them by prompting to complete unfinished tasks and sending useful information.
Even so, 40% of public institutions and 20% of private institutions have still not adopted this communication method.
- Emails: Emails are a popular communication tool for colleges and universities. But how attentive are prospects to them? If you have sent an email and maybe a nudge after getting no response, you may have concluded that the person is not interested. In fact, it takes an average of five emails to get the desired response from students.
But once the wheel of email conversations is set in motion, your efforts are worth it. A 2015 study revealed that 87% of students prefer emails for correspondence with colleges if their other options are academic programs, websites, and social media.
- Phone calls: Phone calls are usually reserved for prospects who are most likely to secure admissions with colleges. They help you give detailed information to contacts and enable deep, meaningful conversations.
When you are looking to connect with hundreds of prospects, manual dialing and winging conversations can do more harm than good. What you need is a calling tool that can
- Automate the dialing process while staying TCPA compliant.
- Give agents a script to follow.
- Integrate with your CRM and import contact data.
Advertise special programs
How does your institution plan for
- Minority enrollment,
- Nontraditional enrollees (e.g., adults, transfer students, or international students),
- Accommodating students and classes while battling the pandemic.
Gen-Z is generally more concerned about the first two points than any other generation. The third one has become imperative since 2020.
Include your special programs that give a leg-up to deserving students who may be disadvantaged economically, socially, or physically.
The University of Pittsburgh partners has a special program helping students with autism or learning disabilities. This program helps needful students manage time, stay on track with assignments, and overcome communication and social skills barriers– all factors that can contribute to better academic performance.
Advertising such programs as part of your college recruiting strategy will encourage students with disabilities and others who care for the causes to consider you for higher studies.
How to recruit students for college even in ordinary circumstances
The above student recruitment strategies emphasized the need to accommodate the new standards of operation. Now, we discuss college recruiting techniques that are also suited for more ordinary circumstances.
Colleges can combine multiple strategies to target a variety of prospects and students.
According to a 2019 study, about 76% of American children get their first mobile phone by the time they are 14 years old. As a result, they say they “learned about the world” through these phones. For young generations, a smartphone is the default device instead of the desktop, which might be the default for older generations.
When recruiting students for college, make sure your online content and outreach channels are mobile optimized. Here are the steps you can take:
- Put data at the heart of your efforts. Use analytics tools (e.g., Google Analytics) to track the traffic that comes from mobile phones. Take that to further track the pages they opened, visit time, conversion rates, etc. Create a mobile marketing strategy based on these metrics.
- Optimize website content and forms to be operational on mobile devices. This includes page load speed, layout, buttons, and pop-ins.
- Create content (images, videos, articles), keeping the structure, functions, and ergonomics of a mobile phone in mind.
Source: University of Georgia.
Set targets to get inquiries from your productive feeder territories
Colleges and universities partner with consultancies, high schools, and other community establishments that have close ties with student prospects. If you have such partners, that’s a great start!
Now, give them specific targets to
- Get inquiries: The productive feeder territories can host college fairs or other events to direct people to your college. Have your representatives be present at the events and generate leads. At this stage, you can get them to opt-in to your SMS or email lists.
- Nurture prospects to shortlist your university: Feeders discuss the benefits of studying in your country, state, and university in particular with prospects. At this stage, the feeder territories can direct prospects to your events, such as virtual campus tours, and introduce scholarships.
- Guide them to complete formalities: Consultancies and your representatives can help prospects in the bottom of the funnel fill out college forms and loan applications, get documentation in place, and finally, secure admission.
Aim to play offensive in this college recruitment strategy and actively get prospects interested in your college. The targets set for feeder territories will help you populate the top of the funnel and nurture interested parties to the following stages.
Use financial aid as an enrollment tool
An average college student will borrow over $30,000 in educational debt. This is a substantial financial burden for most individuals, and thus, it helps to advertise your financial aid opportunities as part of your college recruitment strategy.
Here are some ways you can help students understand how your college can financially support them with their education:
- Mention special scholarship programs that you have for minority students.
- Advertise scholarship opportunities for international students and eligibility criteria for the same.
- Discuss FAFSA financial aid programs for domestic students.
- Mention economic benefits for public-out-of-state, public-in-state, and community colleges.
- If you are a private institution, arrange for financial management programs during recruitment stages.
Aim to develop relationships with prospects
Among the thousands of colleges that offer similar courses and opportunities, why should a student choose you? The simple answer is, because you know what they want and aspire.
In reality, the choice of securing admission in your college depends heavily on how strong a relationship you have with the prospect.
Take the Kenyon college example cited above. Every college sends an admission confirmation letter (or email). However, Kenyon college established a strong relationship with prospects by adding one paragraph dedicated to the students’ experience and achievement.
Similarly, with the right marketing and communication, you can develop lasting relationships with prospects from the very beginning and inspire them to take admissions. Let’s understand how:
- Personalized marketing: Set marketing metrics (social media ad targeting, email marketing) to provide answers to online queries. For instance, instead of advertising your university to all high school graduates in your area, you advertise specific courses suited to particular online search queries.
- A consistent presence at local communities: Partner with local high schools, churches, and other community programs and have a consistent presence there. Get interested parties to opt-in to your SMS or email lists so you can send broadcasts and begin your nurturing process. Request contact details of individuals who have shown interest in higher education and reach out to them via P2P texting or phone calls.
- Touch base with ghost contacts: Send text blasts, emails or initiate phone calls with prospects who have stopped communication but haven’t mentioned that they aren’t interested anymore. It shows that you value them and may encourage them to resume contact.
- Personalized conversations with contacts: Initiate personal conversations with engaged individuals and understand their needs, aspirations, and expectations. P2P texting is an excellent way to do this. Invest in a tool that syncs with your CRM to import contact data and update it when you acquire more information.
3 Mistakes to avoid while finalizing college recruitment strategies
When finalizing college recruitment ideas, make sure you don’t commit the following mistakes. They can cost you valuable prospects and stop you from achieving your admission targets.
Mistake 1: Keeping college recruitment strategies that suit older generations
Gen-Z is here! The way they perceive the world is vastly different from how older generations do. They communicate mostly on their phones, have a short attention span, and know exactly what they want from their future.
Keeping your college recruitment strategies the same as suited older generations may be a grave mistake.
As we discussed above, it is essential to adopt the following practices in your recruitment strategies:
- Being mobile-optimized.
- Personalizing conversations and keeping in constant touch with prospects.
- Being inclusive and active during recruitment stages.
At the same time, you cannot afford to completely exclude millennials or older adults who may want to pursue higher education. One way to cover both bases is to make your content, processes, and forms simple to consume.
Mistake 2: Not giving importance to simplicity
International students (and sometimes even domestic prospects) often find navigating through college websites tiresome, thanks to the complicated jargon and acronyms used in the content. Replacing complex terms with simple explanations or providing a handy directory for words or acronyms can simplify your content and make it user-friendly.
Similarly, the application process can be quite daunting. GPA scores, AP and IB classes, and SAT or ACT scores may seem common acronyms to the initiated. However, that is not always the case with international (and sometimes even domestic) students.
In fact, since different countries use different scoring systems, GPA scores may not even be valid metrics for some. Adding calculators or simplifying the scores to help students understand can create a valuable user experience.
Here are some initiatives you can take to simplify the navigation and application process:
- Adding tutorial videos on your website.
- Adding links to useful FAQs, blogs, and articles in every stage of the registration process.
- Designing your website, so it looks clean, organized, and user-friendly.
- Maintaining the right proportion of information, links, and buttons on every page.
- Accompanying pages with “help desks” like dictionaries, calculators, chatbots, etc.
Mistake 3: Not studying the ROI for marketing channels
Look at the outreach and advertising mediums commonly used by educational institutions Vs. their effectiveness:
Data Source: RuffaloNL.
In many cases, colleges and universities tend to go with marketing channels that they think are effective. That could be fatal during the recruitment phases. You can take these steps to avoid this mistake and instead choose outreach and marketing channels that give you a healthy ROI.
- Create and maintain a buzz about higher studies, life at campus, career opportunities, and more with blogs, podcasts, and videos all year round. Use paid promotion for content that has been a “hit” when you put your recruitment strategies in motion.
- Study your past year and look at the channels that have been successful for you. Look at the conversion rates for each and the dollar per admission they cost you. Set the budget for the upcoming cycle accordingly.
- Look for content that is currently in vogue. Make a place for it in your marketing plan (if it’s not part of your current strategy).
- Invest in texting and calling tools to ease your personal outreach efforts.
- Set targets for every marketing channel for return on your investment. Track progress throughout the recruitment process to see if any crucial changes are needed(e.g., abandoning one channel due to 0 returns).
Whether your college recruitment strategies succeed or not heavily depends on how you respond to prospects’ needs and expectations. The trick is to focus efforts on them rather than on you.
In order to understand these needs, you need communication tools that ease all other work (such as filtering out bad numbers, sending automating nudges, and updating data on your CRM). CallHub offers texting and calling solutions designed for higher educational institutions. Try for free here.
Feature image source: William Iven /Unsplash.