College opens doors.  It provides the knowledge and skills for a person to perform in a future career and molds an individual by experiencing new activities, new ideas and new challenges.  Last year students could not partake in most non-academic college experiences because the pandemic forced them into an online learning environment.  Learning remotely did not allow students to fully appreciate or reap the benefits of campus life.

Post-Pandemic Plans Indicate a Tap the Brakes Approach

Though 90% of students are still planning on attending a four-year institution eventually, 58% are waiting to enroll in college after campuses reopen. “Students seem to want to stay closer to home and higher education leadership has looked to tighten the scopes of their campaigns.  The emphasis on enrollment has remained a priority through all the challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Chris Torok, Advance Ohio digital executive. How do these institutions mitigate lags in enrollment?

The answer lies in a two-pronged value approach:

  • More creativity is required in purposeful student outreach
  • Retaining current students will be increasingly important

NEW STUDENTS

The main pillars to enhancing new student enrollment is to build awareness and preference, increase the volume of qualified student candidates, as well as enriching the image of the learning institution.  So, imagine how challenging it is now for these institutions to provide value to their prospective students with the new realities brought on by COVID-19 and the consistent rise in tuition costs.  How can a college/university overcome these obstacles? Communication, communication, and communication!  It sounds simple, but it can be quite complex.  The thought is not to simply create a plan of ongoing communication but being very prescriptive on what messaging is being used, and when it is being used for each targeted audience.

Get Creative with Communication

Some compelling forms of outreach have proven to work in the midst of COVID-19 and will continue to work going forward include:

Social Media

Customize content to the audience and platform.  Utilize video, infographics, podcasts, webinars, other

Prominent Speakers

Address students and faculty, as well as the general community on topics that highlight the college/universities facilities, programs, partnerships. Assume that everyone is an influencer

Peer-to-Peer Digital Communication

Prospects can have their most specific questions answered by those that look just like them and speak their language

Special Events (virtual or in-person)

Spotlight students and faculty, showcase alumni, reinforce core competencies and announce new programs

Virtual Recruitment Events

Allow admission directors to connect in ways that they have not in the past

Current Students

The job is not done once a student is accepted and actually enrolls in classes.  Most businesses today are concerned with the customer experience and the same thing should apply to the student experience.  Therefore, to ensure students will continue their education with a particular college/university, that institution needs to better understand what the student body is encountering.  Said another way, which individual students or group of students needs additional tutoring, which would appreciate proactive outreach from advisors, which would like to participate in student clubs/organizations, etc.  So many colleges and universities collect immense amounts of data from targeted prospects as well as from enrolled students, but it never gets used.  When used properly, the data can be used to better understand the students and implement focused outreach as well as retention strategies.

Time will only tell what truly holds for the higher education institutions!  By leveraging a mix of personalized content, schools can generate online awareness, showcase student accomplishments, campus lifestyle, campus events, faculty, as well as explain how they have adapted since the onset of COVID-19.  To reduce the potential for any enrollment decline, each college/university should be utilizing every resource possible to create an approach that promotes growth and success of their students, that is where the true value is!

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