How Your University Can Cut Through the Noise and Reach Prospective Students

In the old days, recruiting college students was easy. Visit a college fair, offer a viewbook, host a campus visit, and wait for the applications and enrollments to roll in. Today though, the university recruitment game has become much more complicated. Students, anxious about the prospect of getting shut out from the schools they apply to, are submitting applications to as many as 30 or 40 schools. They also have access to a wealth of information to research their options, and spend nearly 11 hours per day consuming that information. How we define students has changed too. Today, schools can find themselves simultaneously competing for high school seniors, community college transfers, and graduate students, across the country and across the world.

Trying to tailor your marketing to every student group can get overwhelming fast, but there are a few core strategies that colleges and universities can use to cut through the noise and engage their target prospective students.

Offer Value

“Today’s student is exposed to 30,000 hours of digital information by the time they reach their 20s.” This is both an advantage and a disadvantage for colleges. On one hand, it’s become harder than ever to cut through the digital noise and make your college stand out, but on the flip side, it’s a sign that today’s students are constantly on the hunt for valuable content.

Offer content that’s more than just a glorified sales pitch. Today, your content needs to be eye-catching, emotional, and most of all, useful. Maybe that’s an eBook on drafting college essays, or a guide to navigating the financial aid landscape. Maybe it’s a tour of a dorm room on YouTube. Whatever type of content you produce, ask yourself, “does this content actually help students in their college search?” If the answer is no, move on.

Build Relationships

While it might seem like the digital world leads to fewer and lower quality in-person relationships, your prospective students have a high expectation for personal connection and personalized products. As you create your university resources online, you need to make sure that you also have a way to connect individually with students. This could be through online chat, phone conversations, or email. It could be a Twitter chat hosted by a faculty member or alumni. Consider Periscope and Facebook Live. Start getting interactive on Snapchat. Students don’t necessarily need to get to your campus to make their decision (more on that later): what they need is information, followed up by an invitation to connect on a more personal level.

Related: 6 Innovative Colleges and Universities Using Virtual Reality Tours to Enhance Recruitment
Discover how six innovative colleges and universities, including Princeton, The Savannah School of Art and Design, and Kent State are using virtual reality to enhance their university recruitment.

Delight The User

While you don’t necessarily need to be on the cutting edge of technology to gain the best students, you don’t want to lag behind the pack either. Small moments of delight make a huge difference when it comes time to make a decision. When you’re drawing students to your website, delight your users with something unique and powerful. Here at eCity Interactive, we’re admittedly biased about this, but virtual reality tours can really give students the feeling that they’re actually on campus. This doesn’t have to break the bank; an interactive map with interviews and 360 degree visuals of your campus goes a long way to recruiting new students. An immersive tour goes even further. Get students to sign up and send them a virtual reality headset that will allow them to go on a virtual walk through learning spaces, student gathering places, and dorm rooms. Or send Google Cardboard headsets to admitted students and point them to a virtual reality YouTube video.

The university recruitment game may change on a yearly, or even monthly, basis, but the core strategies that colleges and universities can use to cut through the noise and reach prospective students don’t have to. Offer your students valuable information, connect with them personally, and delight them with interactive content during their decision-making process, and you’ll be well on your way to an enrolled class that will earn you an ‘A’ with your university stakeholders.

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