According to a study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, postsecondary school enrollment has been on the decline since before the pandemic. Total postsecondary enrollment fell to 16.2 million this spring, marking a one-year decline of 4.1 percent or 685,000 students. Enrollment declined last spring at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Following a 3.5 percent drop last spring, postsecondary institutions have lost nearly 1.3 million students since spring 2020. Pre-pandemic, college recruitment strategies relied on in-person campus visits, college fairs, and face-to-face networking. Now, the demand is shifting to online webinars and virtual campus tours, forcing recruiters to get find new ways to connect with prospective students.
To help your recruitment efforts, Transact Campus compiled a list of five creative ways to help you attract more students:
When in Rome…. Pew Research data reveals the top 10 most popular social media platforms in the U.S. in 2021 were YouTube; Facebook; Instagram; Pinterest; LinkedIn; Snapchat; Twitter; WhatsApp; TikTok; and Reddit. An EAB study shows students are increasingly likely to discover and engage with colleges on social media. The study revealed nearly 30% of students have used a school’s social media site as a gateway to that school’s website, and more than 85% say every school should have a social media presence.
Tips to reach students on social media:
Establish a presence on popular social media sites, and regularly post engaging content
Recruit student leaders and ambassadors to post student videos showing “a day in the life” and relatable content
Paint a picture of campus life by creating several virtual campus tours, featuring dining halls, school buildings, sporting venues, residence halls, and lots of smiling students
Create a dedicated social media for admissions, making the application process easier and more accessible, and answering students’ questions
Demonstrate what sets your college apart from the rest using stunning images, videos, and testimonials.
Highlight your core values, student culture, and mission through descriptive social media posts
Feature student, alumni, and faculty success stories
Post student blogs on your website. Create a section on your site that’s dedicated to student/alumni bloggers, who can demonstrate what campus life is like, exciting programs and events, where to dine and shop, etc. Talk to students who come to campus or reach out online about what they’re interested in, and what questions they have. Tailor your blogs around these topics and encourage an open dialogue through a “comments” or “contact us to learn more” section. Make sure your blog is optimized for mobile and can be easily viewed using any computer or smart device. Lastly, promote your blogs on social media. Many Gen Z have blogs themselves, so it makes sense to use blogs as a recruitment tool.
Collaborate with influencers and content creators to build trust. An influencer report from Morning Consult revealed 72% of Gen Z follow influencers, and “authenticity” is the most important trait they consider when deciding who to follow. Influencers have become a central part of social media for young Americans, and social media is an increasingly central driver of consumer decisions. A few key findings from the report:
For Gen Z, top YouTube influencers are as popular as major celebrities
Influencers are more trusted as spokespeople than celebrities
88% of Gen Z learn about products they’re interested in buying on social media
56% have purchased a product after seeing a post from an influencer they follow
While you’re not selling a tangible product, your institution is your “brand.” By working with social media influencers to drive your message across, you’ll gain more traction with your target audience and reach a larger pool of student prospects.
Optimize online content. Research common keywords students are Googling and include SEO content that will drive more traffic to your website and social media pages. Studies show 95% of all search traffic is derived from page one results. Use phrases such as “best colleges,” “best universities to apply to,” and “easiest financial aid process” in your content with links to specific calls to action, prompting inquiries and applications. “
“Billions of searches occur daily across global search engines through desktop, mobile, and voice search devices. These organic searches are the largest drivers of website traffic, particularly for higher education institutions, making SEO the most essential ingredient in the recipe for generating student leads. A student’s journey toward enrollment is a roller coaster of considerations. From looking at financial costs and career opportunities to assessing workload and faculty projects, students turn to search engines to answer their questions,” reads an excerpt from “Six Higher Education SEO Strategies for 2022.”
Target and recruit students with paid digital ads. It’s a good idea to spread your marketing dollars across multiple social media sites, versus a single platform. For example, Farmingdale State College created an integrated marketing campaign including digital ads, social ads, display ads, and YouTube ads, in their efforts to recruit local transfer students. The campaign resulted in 370K+ impressions, 93K video views, and 649 clicks, and their social media ads garnered 235K+ impressions, 942 clicks, and 1.2K engagements. While you can gain some followers and prospects leveraging free social media platforms and your own website, in order to stay competitive and find the “best of the best” college recruits, you need to invest some of your marketing budget into paid digital ads that are engaging and targeted.