For thousands of colleges and universities around the United States, open houses are an integral part of the student recruitment process. The thinking is simple: invite your prospective students to campus, and get them talking to their future peers and professors, and their likelihood of enrollment will increase.
At the same time, the popularity of using these types of events can be a downfall. You might simply be going through the motions in trying to host an open house, rather than approaching it from a strategic recruitment perspective. In other words, strategically marketing your open houses is absolutely essential.
4 Reasons Why Open Houses Work
Ask most admissions and recruitment professionals why open houses work, and the reasoning given in the introduction of this post tends to be the most familiar. And it rings true, as well: 98 percent of responding schools to one survey reported using this type of event, with a 96 percent success perception rate.
More specifically, admissions open houses work for these 4 reasons:
- They help students get to know future peers, professors, and administrators.
- They allow schools to show off the best aspects of their campus.
- They help students and their parents get specific questions answered in person, from application processes to financial aid and housing.
- They convey the atmosphere of what it's like to go to school at your university, which is especially important for parents who join their children on the visit.
Combine these reasons, and it's no surprise that campus open houses tend to increase enrollment. That is, of course, as long as you make sure that your events are actually well attended, and that the students who do attend have the best experience possible.
Strategies for Increasing Your Open House Attendance
That open houses work is an open Admissions secret. But just how do you get students to actually attend? A number of tactics can help you get to that point.
To start, make sure you get your messaging right. Communicate exactly what students can expect, from a free lunch to campus tours and opportunities to talk to professors and current students. Then, you can utilize a variety of marketing channels to get the word out:
- Local newspaper ads, especially in high school newspapers within your immediate draw areas.
- Direct emails and postcards to current inquiries and applicants, as well as any names you might have purchased from College Board and other sources.
- Social media announcements, both organic and through paid ads targeted at high school students and their parents.
- Videos on your website that showcase past open houses to entice future videos.
When your audience sees your ad, make sure they have a natural next step - ideally a digital sign up form on your website. Then, follow up closer to the event with a reminder, directions and parking information, and any other preparation your attendees need.
Maximizing the Success of Your Event
Thanks to your marketing efforts, your next open house is scheduled to be packed. Now, you have to make sure that the students and parents attending actually have an experience worthy of wanting to enroll at your school. Remember: all other universities they're considering likely offer similar events. How can you make yours stand out?
It makes sense to divide your event into two sections: a scheduled portion, and a more free-flowing optional segment.
If you regularly hold open houses, you probably already have the scheduled portion planned out to some degree: an introduction, along with talks on finances, campus life, and more. The free-flowing portion, on the other hand, can offer guided campus tours throughout the day, along with an academic fair in which your various majors have faculty available for questions.
Finally, it makes sense to offer additional bonuses to any attendees. Some schools, for example, hold Decision Days, an event designed to help students get to enrollment faster. The premise is simple: bring your application materials, and get an admissions decision on the spot.
Executed correctly, your admissions open houses can be the centerpiece of your annual recruitment efforts. By following these tips, you can help to market them better, making them more effective and increasing their value to prospective students and their parents in the process. By the time your prospects step foot on campus, you will know: chances are they never want to leave.
Clients from a diverse group of colleges and universities have found the value of working with StudentBridge on everything from marketing their open houses to creating virtual campus tours. Visit our website to learn more about our services, and how your college can benefit from a partnership with us in increasing enrollment.