Heather Sumperl Jul 27, 2020 11:00:00 AM

5 Digital Strategies For Updating Your Student Recruitment Plan

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We thought we were worried in March, but now as we round the corner into August, admissions professionals are holding their breaths as they prepare for drops in enrollment and severe budget cuts amid the pandemic.

Last month, StudentBridge hosted panel discussions with a dozen of our university partners to try to understand the impact of coronavirus on enrollment numbers in light of cancelled campus visits and events. What we learned was that colleges and universities were overly dependent on a traditional recruitment model that was not sustainable in a COVID-19 world. 

If and when life gets back to “normal,” one thing is certain, higher ed institutions must embrace this accelerated digital transformation to ramp up their recruitment plans. Here are five digital strategies that will serve you now and post-pandemic:

1. Boost Your Budget For Paid Ads

According to the 2020 Digital Admissions Report released by TargetX, nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents have noticed college or university ads on their computer or mobile device. And of those who have, 56% have clicked on at least one.1

Long gone are the days of printed mailers as a primary marketing tool. Paid ads on social media platforms can help you meet any number of objectives from promoting a program to increasing brand awareness and applications. Student consumers spend a staggering amount of time staring at a screen so it is critical to remain present and visible throughout their online journey. 

And while paid advertising may seem to come with a high price tag, it is important to remember that you have the ability to target your exact demographic resulting in higher qualified leads. You are in the driver's seat with a full set of data at your fingertips. Not getting the reach you had hoped for? Try a new graphic or video, tweak your target audience or rethink how you allocate your budget.

2. Strategize Your Social Media Campaign

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When done correctly, social media serves as an invaluable resource to university marketers and students alike. But, creating a social media campaign that produces results requires work.

  • Define Your Goals -- recruitment, brand awareness, student engagement
  • Create a Target Audience -- rising seniors, transfer/graduate/international     
  • Establish your Brand Voice -- the adjectives are endless
  • Engage, Engage, Engage!
  • Analyze and Tweak -- use your data to drive your continuing strategy

Know where your students spend the most of their time, right now it’s Instagram and YouTube!

3. Work Your Website

54% of students surveyed said the college website was very, or extremely, important in their decision about whether to apply to that institution.With the onset of COVID-19, students are going online to visit more schools than ever before and rising seniors will most likely make application decisions based on their online experiences. As such, many colleges and universities are turning toward microsites to host integrated video content, live chat and virtual events. 

Students consume an average of 2 hours of video everyday, and to top it off, 46% of students polled said they had watched a college video in the past week.1 Through interactive and immersive virtual campus experiences, you can showcase everything that differentiates your school from other options and help interested students get a good sense of what you offer.

4. Virtual Visits & EventsUntitled design (24)

It’s safe to say that campus visits and large in-person events won’t happen in the same way, if at all, this year. In fact, only 1% of college professionals anticipate the fall campus visit to resume as it was pre-coronavirus. 

However, you can still promote what truly sells your campus -- the people, stories and value -- through the use of interactive campus maps and immersive virtual event experiences.

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As the lockdown took effect, our friends over at University of New Haven hosted a virtual Accepted Students Day which welcomed 856 unique visitors, a 35% increase over the prior year's in-person visitors!

5. Dissect Your Data

Whether it’s coming from your newly launched social media campaign or your web host’s analytics platform, collect, analyze and base future strategy on key insights derived from metrics. Ensure you have the right technology in place to capture key data points that will be beneficial to your overall game plan. Don’t get caught up in analysis paralysis or best-guess decision making, but gain insights from raw data and develop effective KPIs to measure success.

Our mission is to help institutions drive enrollment through unique and memorable digital engagement solutions. Our virtual experience specialists have created award-winning digital solutions that have helped over 250 colleges and universities achieve their enrollment goals. Let us help you reach yours.

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Source: mStoner & TargetX. (2020). Digital Admissions: How Prospective Students Use Online Tools For College Research and Choice. [Whitepaper]. https://www.targetx.com/higher-ed-insights/research/digital-admissions/

Topics: Admissions, Virtual Campus Tour, Higher Ed Marketing, Student Recruitment, Campus Tour, Higher Education

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