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WhatsApp, IM or Email - The Importance of Personalized Communication

Julia Sachs 12/05/22 13:12
image shows students lined up against a wall and all on their phones

Whether your prospects want to be 'WhatsApped', emailed, called or IM-ed, highly personalized communication is a game-changer when it comes to turning your prospective students into enrollments.

Students need to feel comfortable in their enrollment decision, and being a trusted source of information will help prospective students feel valued. 

Communication efforts

The period between acceptance and enrollment is hugely important so institutions should increase communications efforts with student leads during this time. This communication can be used to answer any questions, discuss any potential concerns, and show students what your institution offers.

Considerations can be grouped into four:

  • Preferred communication channels
  • The age of the student and what level of degree they are applying for 
  • Language
  • Interactive vs written communication 

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What’s Up with WhatsApp

Many incoming students are leaving high school to enter college for the first time, and are likely to become slightly overwhelmed by all the methods of communication from multiple universities all at once. 

Communication tools such as phone or email have always been effective, but as younger students are increasingly using messaging apps, their preferred contact option may have changed.

Part of staying in touch with students is updating your communication efforts to meet them where they’re most comfortable. 

One of our surveys, for example, showed that Nigerian, South Asian and Caribbean students prefer to use WhatsApp to contact schools and colleges, with Nigerian students twice as likely to use WhatsApp over Live Chat to speak to an institution. 

iStock-1285462760Our data also unveiled a 233% increase in the use of WhatsApp in 2021 between students and universities, and enrollment rates were 3.5x higher when WhatsApp or Live Chat was used. 

We also know that students from different countries generally prefer different communication methods, so it is important for universities to delve into their metrics to find out which students want to be contacted where. Our annual State of Student Recruitment survey gives insights - such as these - on communication preferences. 

Offering to speak to students on the platforms they prefer most will empower them to contact you more regularly and ask the questions that could be the barrier to them enrolling with you or enrolling with another institution. 

Language of choice

It is important to be able to communicate with students in their preferred language, even if the degree language is in English.

If an international student contacts you in Spanish, then the chances are they want to have the full conversation in Spanish. Utilize your organization’s language skills to ensure students feel valued and comfortable even before they enroll at your institution. 

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If international students are taking a degree in English, they will probably have to complete an English proficiency test anyway - you don’t need to test their English when communicating. Speak to them in the language they are most comfortable using. 

‘It’s just a number’ 

Students entering a university program for the first time after finishing high school will communicate differently to students returning to school for a master’s or doctorate degree. Strategize your communication process based on age group, and expect to answer different questions for different demographics. 

Masters students may have more questions about potential placement or internship opportunities, while first-time undergraduate students will likely ask questions about the on-campus social experience, and other services they’ll want to utilize while attending classes. 

Undergraduate students are also likely to be influenced by their parents, so consider catering communications towards what parents would want to know about your institution, and the city or area. 

The channels students communicate on may also be influenced by age. If a doctoral student is working full-time and hoping to return to education, they may not be able to take a phone call during office hours or have time for a long in-depth conversation via instant messenger. 

Variety in communication 

Help your leads make the best decision for their future by offering an excess of communication tools to answer their questions. 

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For students that cannot travel to campus in-person, consider offering virtual campus tours, mock lectures, and Q&A sessions with faculty members in their program or guidance counsellors at the university. 

Students who respond better to visual presentations or interactive learning will also perhaps prefer this over reading a list of FAQs. 

By offering virtual services, you can help students visualize themselves as part of your campus or sitting in one of your lecture halls. 

Social media is a beneficial channel for using visuals and giving snippets into what campus life will actually be like. 

For more insights into what communication channels students prefer and what information will help students make a decision, sign up for our State of Student recruitment webinar - which includes data and insights from a survey of over 20,000 prospective students.