November 18, 2021

3 strategies to improve summer and fall recruitment this year


Chris Langone

3 strategies to improve recruitment and enrollment for colleges, universities, and community colleges.

At this point during a normal recruitment cycle, high school seniors have chosen where they will be attending for the fall and are gearing up for orientation, and admissions teams can turn their attention to summer campus tours and fall Open Houses. This year, however, many high school seniors are weighing gap years, looking at colleges and universities closer to home, or looking to options outside of higher education. 

A recent analysis found that enrollment could decline between 5%-20% for some institutions for Fall 2020. To stop this decline, colleges and universities need to become creative and sensitive to the growing needs and expectations of prospective students and parents. This provides a tremendous opportunity for institutions to create hyper-personalized marketing campaigns and experiences to show all that an institution has to offer a student and to improve this fall’s enrollment.

Here are 3 strategies for institutions to improve their summer and fall recruitment efforts this year:

1. Execute hyper-targeted marketing campaigns to drive prospective students to show-up

Prospective students and parents are able to see through blanket marketing campaigns that attempt to offer one message for all audiences. Hyper-targeted enrollment campaigns need to focus on offering something unique to the student and parent. Focusing on opportunities provided by the institution, specific majors, outcomes, and other differentiators allows for prospective students to get a true feel for your college or university and become enticed to learn more. 

It is also crucial to use the right technologies to drive prospective students to show-up. Text messaging is the expectation. While students open emails, they are more likely to read, click, and perform some sort of action from a text message. This means a robust, targeted marketing strategy needs to provide valuable information through the technologies that students demand. 

2. Build engaging, interactive virtual experiences

Today, we are all bombarded with Zoom invitations, Google Meets, and FaceTime calls. Virtual experiences need to be more than an invitation to a PowerPoint presentation or a broad session. Prospective students have a lot of options, so virtual experiences need to be highly engaging and interactive. This means involving faculty, administrators, current students, and alumni into your virtual experiences. Think about facilitating complex virtual events, with multiple sessions and opportunities for prospective students to meet various members of the campus community. This will go a long way towards making your institution the right choice. 

3. Ensure prospective students and parents have the ability to easily communicate with your team for authentic engagement

This sounds simple, but many teams struggle to create easy and authentic communication opportunities between their institution and prospective students and parents. A recent study found that people demand “real conversations,” and 83% of people prefer text messaging to email when something is urgent. This is critical in higher education as prospective students and parents are trying to make a massive life choice in attending a college or university, and they are trying to get answers to all of their questions from financial aid to housing and course registration. In many cases, time is of the essence. By providing both email and text message communication opportunities, your institution can have real conversations with prospective students and show how ahead of the curve you are in providing tremendous customer service. 

Read our case study of how VisitDays helped one institution achieve high return on investment from marketing campaigns and hyper-personalized virtual experiences

While it may be difficult for admissions teams to achieve all of these strategies on their own, it is key to provide hyper-personalized outreach and experiences in order to stand-out from competitors and show the value of an institution during this time.