In recent years, the way students research and communicate with prospective universities has constantly changed and evolved, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. We examine some of the latest student recruitment trends and how they can potentially impact your recruitment.
One thing that institutions and experts in the higher education field have learned in recent years is that the "digital-first" age has seen rapid changes in trends in marketing and behaviors. What is trending now may not be a good strategy in a year, similarly to a year ago.
We discussed several trends in our webinar "Student Recruitment Megatrends," which is part of a three-part series on recruiting and converting student leads according to what strategies are most successful today.
Here are 6 key takeaways on trends in student recruitment from that webinar:
1) Meet students where they are
"At UniQuest, we've seen the usage of tools that enable quick responses to increase year over year," says Jennifer Parsons, Product and Partnerships Director at UniQuest. Parsons notes that usage of platforms like live chat or WhatsApp has increased in popularity throughout the pandemic and doesn't appear to be slowing down even as the pandemic comes to an end. In 2021, UniQuest managed over 100,000 live chats for its partnering institutions, according to Parsons, and the platform noticed that usage increased 4x while WhatsApp increased 2x.
Parsons also noted the importance of expanding communication efforts into platforms that students are most familiar with and what they're comfortable using regularly. For students in some regions, that might be WhatsApp, while for others, that could be Instagram or TikTok. As Parsons expressed: "Enable students to choose the channel that works for them, not just the channel that works for the institution."
2) Learn how to manage effectively
While Parsons' noted that expanding communications efforts into new channels can help students feel more empowered to inquire about an institution, she also pointed out that this can often be difficult and time-consuming for institutions to execute. Steven Boyd (Dean of Enrollment Management and Student Life at Unification Theological Seminary) added that a small admissions team would struggle when spread too thin on various communications platforms. Boyd's advice was to master communication on several channels and learn how to manage each channel effectively to assist both team members and students in finding the best means of communication.
3) Invest in the right technologies
Fernando Mora, the Vice President of Enrollment at Hult Business School, discussed how streamlining communication efforts could often help admissions departments communicate more effectively. Mora suggested that admissions departments can invest in the right technologies to streamline messaging and high volume communication without expecting admissions officers to work at odd hours of the day. Mora suggested finding communication tools that help make the workday more effective rather than more scattered.
4) Monitor analytics
Knowing how your traffic is funneling into your website is key to understanding your communications efforts to figure out what is and isn't working. Boyd emphasized the importance of hiring data experts if no one in your admissions office can take these tasks on. Having a good understanding of your analytics data can help you make critical decisions in student recruitment in the future and can help save you money as you navigate where to invest your time and money.
Boyd states: "Having a good CRM that has great analytics that you can look at regularly can give you a good idea of what is happening in your institution."He also suggested hiring outside experts to manage and analyze the incoming data, especially for large volumes of data, to give you the information you need to make decisions.
5) Get creative with marketing
As Gen Z comes of age and begins enrolling in higher education, universities haveto tailor their marketing efforts to platforms used most often by younger demographics. On TikTok, for example, universities can give an inside look at day-to-day life on campus, provide quick video tours of campus facilities, and even answer questions asked by prospective student leads right on the platform. These tools are invaluable to piquing student interest in your institution and can even show students that your institution is at the forefront of technology and communications.
6) Use other industry data to your advantage
During the event, Parsons also suggested looking at data collected by other organizations on points of interest that can give you a better understanding of your consumer demographics. Look at market-wide data on your target demographics, separated by geographic location, to better target prospective students in ways that will be most effective.
The webinar also discussed whether students would find it helpful to get faster responses on their applications. Parsons brought up how some universities may think it makes them more respectable to make students wait but pointed out how it could make students feel more dissatisfied the longer they have to wait.
Alternatively, admissions officers may also be plagued with more communications efforts the longer a student has to wait, and Parsons points out that it's integral to be communicating with students at this time to keep them interested.
Student recruitment is just as tricky as ever, but with more tools, at our disposal, it can be streamlined in ways that have never been available before. These are just a few suggestions for how institutions can improve student recruitment as part of a three-episode webinar series hosted by Keystone Education Group and UniQuest.