In Part 2 of our series on college recruitment marketing, we dig into the results of a recent survey we conducted of prospective and current college students to find out what they care most about in choosing a college – and the most effective ways to tell them what they want to know.
In case you missed it, don't forget to check out Part 1: Design Thinking for Better College Recruiting. Following this article will be our finale to the series, Part 3: 7 College Website Essentials to Drive Enrollment.
Deciding which college to attend is one of life’s most difficult decisions, and today’s students have higher expectations than ever.
For many, it’s not just a school, but an entire lifestyle that will be part of their identity forever.
We surveyed prospective and current college students to determine what mattered most to them, and summarized the top 6 factors for you – along with some creative techniques for communicating what your school has to offer.
1. Robust Curriculum
It’s no surprise that academic offerings continue to be the biggest factor when choosing a college. Although it’s great to have a few standout programs, students really want to see variety. It’s best to have a good mix of classic courses, as well as trendy ones that grab attention.
According to our recent survey of students and influencers, 85 percent say they find information about a college on its website. That means having an informative, easy-to-navigate website that works across all devices is vital. Have a list of programs prominently displayed, rather than making users search for it.
And don’t forget about students who are undecided. Exploratory programs, along with counselors and other resources dedicated to these students, will help guide those who are still searching for their calling.
Feature different programs prominently on your website, including program overviews, industry growth, average starting salaries and other key statistics – and include faculty profiles and student success stories to bring the program to life for your prospective students.
2. Social Life
It’s important that students can see themselves fitting in and have a fulfilling life at your college. Are there organizations and clubs for students of a wide range of backgrounds and interests? Does your school celebrate the diversity of LGBTQ and international students?
Newcomers want to hear about it directly from the source – current students. This is their best chance to get a true feel of what their day-to-day life would be like on your campus, and to visualize themselves in your environment. And thanks to the rise of social media, this is easier than ever. YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram are by far the most used social platforms by traditional-age prospective students. Creating short videos (10 seconds or so), repeating videos or memes that reflect your college brand, and photos that highlight students, faculty and staff engaging on campus are all great ways to reflect social life and help your prospective students see themselves feeling at home on your campus.
3. Campus Amenities
A whopping 93 percent of teens and parents we surveyed say a college visit is important. This is a college’s best opportunity to make a good impression - when campus visits are done well, they’re transformative for prospective students. At the same time, a sub-par campus visit will put a damper on even the most intriguing academic and social offerings. Students feel excited attending a college that boasts beautiful architecture and cutting edge technology. Clean and cozy dorms and an outstanding safety record also matter to overall campus feel.
But what about those who can’t make it or live too far away? Thanks to ever-evolving technology, schools can now let prospective students take virtual tours via their website. There are a lot of different ways to create a virtual tour – some are great, and others not so much. Spend time understanding what your prospective students want to see by talking to admissions counselors and campus tour guides: what questions do students and parents ask most often? What do they want to see on the tour? Finally, ensure your virtual tour is widely accessible across all platforms – especially mobile.
Gone are the days of college kids living off ramen and soda. Students now expect healthy options in the food court and top-of-the-line fitness facilities. Besides staying in shape, they also care about full body wellness. Resources such as a counseling center, a health center, and drinking awareness programs are all important to prospective students as well. Let concerned parents know their children will be in good hands by making this information easy to find throughout your marketing materials – online and off.
The cost is an obvious factor when deciding on a college, with 79 percent of people surveyed saying it’s something they consider, and more and more prospective students are questioning the value of a college education overall. According to the College Board, 59 percent of students who attend a public community college graduate with no debt, compared to only 34 percent of students who attended a public four-year university. However, graduation rates for four-year universities remain higher overall.
For some, cost isn’t that big of a deal if they’re getting excellent amenities, whereas others will pass up on these benefits for a cut-and dried academic experience at a low price. It’s all a give and take. Either way, good financial aid packages, scholarships, and work opportunities while in school are all things students take into consideration. Prominently feature “paying for college” on your site, with clear, easy-to-understand information, checklists and statistics. Be sure to emphasize the value proposition of attending your school, and the return on investment students can expect – career opportunities, graduation rates, time to employment, and salary information are all relevant and important factors in communicating and reinforcing the value your school offers.
6. Career Guidance
It’s important to both parents and students that college is an investment that will pay off in the form of a job. But a recent Pew Research study discovered that 44 percent of grads were working in jobs that didn’t even require their degree.
Colleges must do their part to help grads find guidance even beyond graduation. Does your school have a career center where students can learn more about themselves, as well as their projected career path? Is there a strong alumni network that students can connect with upon graduation? Do professors and advisors help students set up and utilize a LinkedIn profile? Find internships?
Consider staying in touch with students via newsletters and emails, or creating a web portal dedicated to alumni. Services like these help students feel your institution cares about them as individuals – as well as solidly reinforcing your value proposition, so highlight them on your website and in other marketing materials.
These are just a few of the things you can do to help prospective students and their influencers better understand your value proposition, engage with your college or university, and apply.
Want to learn more about smart ways to market your college or university? We can help.
Up next is our finale to this series, Part 3: 7 College Website Essentials to Drive Enrollment. You can also go back a review Part 1: Design Thinking for Better College Recruiting.