Class is in Session: Marketing Tips to Increase College Enrollment

Although the peaks and valleys of the COVID-19 pandemic continue, more places continue to open, albeit guardedly. These include colleges. In addition to extra efforts to open up and get classes going, colleges have an overall challenge where enrollment is concerned. Still, whether students and teachers attend classes via Zoom or are able to visit their schoolrooms, there are those who want to respectively learn and instruct.

Challenge: the decrease in college enrollment

In a recent edition of Bloomberg, Aaron Brown, former managing director of AQR Capital Management, stated that while forecasters thought admission rates would rebound after the pandemic, the numbers have steadily decreased in the last several years. Enrollment rates were down 2.5 percent in 2020, followed by 2.7 percent in 2021, and are predicted to continue this downward trend by autumn of this year. What can be done to overcome these challenges? How can admission counselors attract the attention of students who might even be only at the consideration stage of attending college? And, finally, how to stand above and apart from the competition? Here are some lessons to learn…

Practices to perfect

There are some effective practices that college admission recruiters should follow in order to attract the attention of anyone interested in pursuing higher education; from high school students who are graduating to those looking to switch schools. As observed by Emily Arnim in EAB, these practices can work in even the most competitive enrollment environments…

Recruit early and often

The majority of college-minded high school students are eager to learn as much as they can about their prospects, and earlier than expected. A reported 60 percent of these students will start researching colleges as early as their junior year. So, college administrators should be even more proactive and consider promoting their schools to sophomore students who may be interested.

Make recruitment emails as personalized as possible

As students research colleges, admission recruiters should in turn research students. What are their goals? What are their interests? How have they been researching colleges? The answers to these questions may be answered through “responsive marketing,” which reaches out to both students and their parents via email—personalized email, that is. Ms. Arnim points out that recruiters should not become discouraged too soon, as sometimes it takes as many as five personalized emails to get a response. 

Make parents part of the process

As mentioned above, the “responsive marketing” process connects to both students and their parents. That’s because many students—at 55 percent—consider their parents as being strongly influential in helping them decide on which path to pursue when making their choices of which college to attend.

Reminder: Focus on the student first (and the college second)

As with any type of promoting, it is almost instinctive to focus on what the brand has to offer over how it may benefit the intended customer. College admission recruiters who were mindful enough to reverse this equation and focus primarily on the student witnessed a 50 percent increase in response rates.

Online college presence should be mobile-friendly

Regardless of how attractive and informative a college’s website might be, there will be a loss of interest if the site has not been adapted for optimization on mobile devices. Like many people, high school students are checking for information when they are on the go. Should they get the sudden idea to learn about a college possibility while they are in transit—and its website is not mobile-friendly, that college will likely lose the interest of these students. Taking the need for mobile one step further…

The power—and demand—for digital and voice search capability

The preferred methods of how students search and find information have extended beyond email to include conducting a basic search—via online and voice. Approximately 81 percent of high school students who want to learn about a college will go to Google first, which means that investing in paid search is worth the price to appear near the top of the page results. And to strengthen this opportunity for increased awareness, colleges should look into being “voice search-friendly,” as this technology is used by 44 percent of students on a monthly basis.

Search message service (SMS)—better known as texting

Prospective students use a variety of advanced technologies—mobile, search, and voice search—to research and communicate with colleges they are considering. Search message service (SMS)—a.k.a. texting—is emerging as a popular choice among these students. When conducting research for a client in higher education, the EGC Group discovered that 71 percent of college-bound students wanted to communicate via text—and the schools they were considering were not doing this. EGC then layered in an SMS campaign, which created a better connection with students and the higher education client.

So, knowledge is indeed power.

The EGC Group has extensive experience in helping schools connect with students. Learn more about our expertise in enrollment marketing and see some examples of how we have helped some schools get to “the head of the class” in being discovered by clicking here.

And, check out EGC’s “futureproof” campaign for client Vaughn College, which integrated both traditional and digital media to elevate its perception as a “two-year aviation school” to one that could provide a transformational four-year education to students interested in technology, engineering, management and aviation.

Vaughn ImageGet in touch with EGC today. We can help with the reading, writing, and ’rithmatic of enrollment.