Hitting the student enrollment targets is not exactly a piece of cake for admissions teams. With so many new age study options, this tech-savvy generation is not easy to get hold of. A look at some statistics will accentuate this even better.
According to the Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Admissions Officials 2020, 69% of admissions officials from community colleges and 55% of admissions officials from private bachelors colleges are very concerned about meeting their institutions’ goals for new students.
The decline in enrollment rates has been a concern even before the pandemic. According to the Center for American Progress, annual undergraduate enrollment across all higher education institutions fell by 1.25 million students from 2014-15 to 2018-19 academic year, a decline of 5 percentage points. Also, during this period, undergraduate enrollment in public colleges dropped by 425,000 students—a nearly 2.5 percent decline.
So, you see, everything is actually set up to be quite difficult. You’re most likely working hard for each student, to get closer to your student enrollment goals. But the question remains; what really works? How can we increase student enrollment year after year? Let’s have a look at these ten tips proven to increase enrollment in colleges, universities, and schools. It is a long post so we have also created an infographic that you can browse through. :)
1) Harnessing Student Motivation
Choosing a school is a highly emotional decision, and emotion plays a huge role in motivating and encouraging a student to take the first step. Understanding what drives your prospects will empower you to create better marketing messages, ad copies, and admissions pitch which resonates with the aspirations of your applicants and promotes action. If the motivation is not decoded properly – everything else fails.
Check out this case study which compiled the data from 125,000 prospective students.
A study by the University of Rochester also reveals that the motivations behind college students seeking higher education have a big effect on not just their grades, but ultimately their ability to stay enrolled. Adequately motivated applicants have a higher chance of enrolling and remaining in the programs they choose.
However, you can be the motivator, inspiring prospects to pick your school over others. One great way to achieve this is through testimonials and success stories. Most universities and colleges that have won with motivation have done it through the success of current or past students who speak the language that students want to hear.
While putting these success stories and testimonials on your website is absolutely essential, it is also necessary to market them. To increase college enrollment using digital channels, create social media pages, optimize your website for search engines, and market your online content.
2) Storytelling As A Tool
What’s your story as an institution? In the heat of enrollment targets, education teams often forget that a school is a brand too and must be built like one. Especially when you consider the fact that storytelling is the best form of education marketing.
Sharon Aschaiek, when discussing storytelling in Education Marketing, emphasizes the importance of great stories, saying, “Audiences care about stories and characters because they want to see a journey or a struggle to overcome a problem.”
As far as you are concerned, your applicants are your audience, and telling a story may be all that it takes to change everything. It is a great tool for speaking to the emotions of your target students, which also gives them a sense of engagement and a better understanding of your institute’s values. Your stories can be told by various means and through various channels that could introduce your brand in different ways.
Check out this super creative banner ad by the College of Creative Studies. It is a parody of anti-drug ad campaigns, showing that kids are addicted to art and they can’t help it. They tell a story:
3) Online Properties: Website & Social Media
But, when you create these stories, the next question would naturally be, where do I tell these stories? This is where social media comes into play. Today’s students rely on their timelines for their news, motivation, research, and even opinions.
The influence of this medium is so strong, that a study by Social Admissions report shows that one out of every two teens rely on social media in their research for which universities or colleges to apply for. Hence, you need to take your stories to where your audience is. And also remember, applying good social media strategies will only ensure that your prospects are constantly engaged with your school. Check out this blog to know how to do social media retargeting in higher education to reach out to students who interacted with your website.
Look at what could work the best for your institute. It has been observed that videos work the best on social media, in terms of engagement. You could hire people to create professional videos for your institute, campus, students, and teachers and promote them on social media. You could capture the daily activities, cultural festivals, and influencer interviews (that might visit your institute for special events). These create a sense of attraction towards the institute and drive student motivation.
Once a student adds your university to their evaluation list or applies for undergraduate enrollment, they would often check out your website to find out more. In a survey about the initial awareness stage, 46% of the students surveyed identified college websites as the most impactful information source. Garner student attention and let them know about your institution’s values clearly.
[Also read: Best practices for college website design]
Having a well-thought-out website, in terms of structure as well as content can help influence the students’ final decision a great deal. The time spent on a university’s website is over more than 116 million hours. We can safely assume that a large percentage of these visitors would be candidates looking to learn more about the school.
Your website serves as a virtual campus tour for your prospects. When you design the website to provide answers to their questions, you increase the chances of them choosing your school. This includes a clear navigation pattern, fast loading pages, and mobile responsiveness. You can create faster and responsive landing pages using the LeadSquared landing page builder. You can create alerts if a student takes an action on the website. It is important to get your student recruitment team’s inputs in building this process.
4) Reducing Response Time Through Automation
Today’s generation wants instant answers to their queries. Education marketers who don’t adjust to this generation’s communication style may run the risk of being unable to effectively connect with them. The earlier you make the emotional connection the better chance you have because once the applicants have decided they like a particular school, it’s often difficult for them to backtrack. This is important in creating an emotional bridge between your school and the prospective student.
Most data experts say that the response time for your leads must be 5 minutes or less. This may seem nearly impossible but it’s possible.
According to a study conducted by Drift, only 7% of the surveyed companies are currently achieving an average lead response time of five minutes or less.
However, to make the whole process faster, the autoresponder or automated follow-up feature of LeadSquared Higher Education CRM offers you the best chance at making the first connection, from assigning inquiries to the appropriate team members to following up, prioritization, reminders, scheduling, and sending responses.
To make this much easier for you, we at LeadSquared thought of the best possible way and came up with the Student Workflow Builder. This automated student enrollment management platform enables automated allotment of leads to your admission reps, generates notifications on lead activities and asks your admission reps to contact the applicants immediately as per their needs.
Read more about the education workflow automations you can create in LeadSquared.
5) Dynamic Engagement Strategies
Your applicants come from different walks of life and with different perspectives. With this in mind, your engagement strategy needs to be flexible in approach. Millennials and Gen Zs have grown up in a digital world, where everyone is trying to sell to them. They are pretty smart at judging the intent behind the messages sent their way. Among so much noise, the students look for something that is personal to them and can add value to their lives.
Higher education marketing automation and engagement platform solve this problem by personalizing at scale. First, it fetches the background information of the prospect, and then it tracks their activities and behavior. Based on that it sets the series of engaging messages which can be completely different, but equally relevant for two different prospects.
Moreover, you need to understand that not everyone has the same needs. You must add this in your strategy that you must segment your incoming applicants or inquiries according to their stage in the enrollment funnel. Target them in groups with applicants in the same stages, check their background information like location, language preferences, engagement sources, financial aid details, etc.
6) Leverage Technology
The use of technology is becoming increasingly more decisive. Marketing and admissions teams don’t just utilize it —they rely on it. And, with the availability of technology that does the hard work of automating, analyzing, and sampling, recruiting teams can modify their strategy more effectively than ever before.
While generally a positive trend, technology also holds its challenges—especially for the not-so-techie schools that do not have the resources or the time to implement a Higher Education CRM for universities or a marketing automation system due to integration and training challenges. The good news is the technology is getting intuitive with plug-and-play models which is a real deal for schools that don’t want to heavily invest in infrastructure.
In recent times, we’ve had enrollment teams use chatbots, enrollment notifications, and autoresponders to serve the applicants better. Technology also helps to widen the reach of our marketing and engagement efforts to hit enrollment goals. Social media channels like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Mobile Apps, etc. are examples that technology, when combined with the right tool and messaging can create magic.
7) Mobile Application Process
Mobile device usage is on the rise, especially among the younger crowd. Imagine opening a poorly designed non-responsive website on your phone where you need to constantly zoom in and out. Forget applying for inquiry, anyone would just abandon the website simply out of frustration. You can check out the best education website designs here.
This responsiveness would allow them to apply from any device, at any time, without ruining the user experience. Having a mobile responsive application process and form will only bode well for your university and have a direct impact on your application rates.
Even the communication channels you choose should be mobile compatible. For example, if you are writing them emails, make sure they have been optimized for mobile devices. Your website, contact information forms, applicant portal, etc. must be well suited for mobile devices so that it doesn’t ruin the user experience.
8) Do More With Enrollment Analytics
There was a time when enrollment marketing was wholly measured by absolute success or failure. Now, marketing has much more clarity. You can analyze the best sources for lead generation for higher education, the drop-off points for applicants, the messages they like, and where they take action.
These reports ensure that you’re allocating your resources in the right direction so that mistakes can be quickly corrected and proper decisions can be made.
But these cannot be achieved without the help of a proper reporting mechanism. I refer to a student enrollment system with strong reporting and dashboard capabilities. Not only do you gather information about your prospects, but you’re also able to analyze the performance and the happenings of your admission reps, campuses, and courses.
Being an educational institute, your marketing budget might not allow you to spend recklessly. Therefore mapping what works best for you and where you should put more or less money is necessary for better results. You can check out this free webinar where Jenn Lyles, Enrollment Marketing Expert talks about the marketing hacks to save dollars and get fantastic results.
9) Improve Your Visibility With SEO
67% of prospects use search engines as the initial source of getting information about prospective schools. To increase your school’s visibility online (unless you are an ivy league), you need to invest in search engine optimization for your website and all content therein. Every single page needs to be designed with the intent to rank on search engines, and not just your homepage. While discovering schools, prospects usually search for terms such as “Best art programs” or “Business courses” instead of the name of the school.
Perform keyword research. Identify a bucket of keywords or phrases that your school or college offers and that your candidates would be interested in. There is a myriad of tools that let you know what your target audience is searching for. Use this data to your advantage, so that when prospects “Google” you, your school appears on top.
10) Hype Your Graduates
People don’t trust what you say. They trust what other people say about you. Student testimonials, successful case studies, awards, recognition are some of the examples of trust elements that add credibility to your brand. Showing prospects the success of your alumni can do a lot in convincing applicants that your school is the right one for them.
Real stories and culture keep the students engaged during their admissions lifecycle. Check out this great example by Georgetown University that uses this acceptance story in their marketing campaigns.
Higher Education CRM – The Centre Of Student Enrollment
Enrolling students has never been tougher. And the reality is that it will continue to be tough. Hence, the need to move on from traditional means of enrollment, which ultimately slows down the whole process of admissions. The simple solution to this lies in the automation of the student enrollment process viz-a-viz technology, especially when it is readily available to your team for an ultimate turnaround in student enrollment.
Check out LeadSquared Higher Education CRM which comes with an applicant portal, landing page builder, built-in calling and texting solutions, email campaigns, and student workflow automation. Integrate your CRM to SIS to manage the entire student journey from website visits until they complete the course. Manage your complete enrollment process, from inquiry to application to enrollment.