Selling your college without sounding like a salesman
You can do everything online these days. You can order a quick dinner, shop for a custom fit shoe, or even Skype in to your parent’s 25th anniversary dinner. Higher education marketing has also incorporated more and more digital strategies, keeping up with a new college-going generation that checks their smartphones every three minutes on average. Still, we live in the real world. Maybe that’s why multiple studies show that students report the campus visit was the most influential factor in the college choice process (Secore, 151).
Having students visit campus – either by attending an open house, staying overnight, or coming for a weekend – is a critical part of strategic enrollment management. A 2017 study by Noel-Levitz shows that 85% of public institutions saw their campus open houses as a very effective marketing and recruitment practice. Over ninety percent of the same schools considered overnight visits as either very or somewhat effective recruitment practices. The importance of face-to-face contact with a prospective student during a campus visit cannot be overstated.
Effective recruitment is personal
During the campus visit a prospective student gets to experience what it might be like to go to college. They will make life-changing decisions based on the classes they visit, the people they meet, and their experience of the facilities. Yet, even though the campus visit is a critical period for recruitment, students are often turned off by an approach that seems too commercial.
Prospective students appreciate a personal touch. There’s lots of ways to deliver it with a little advance planning. For instance, visiting students can fill out a short survey as they plan their visit providing your school with some crucial information. Perhaps the visitor already has an intended major or wants to join the college debate team. Instead of handing her a generic package of admissions materials, include additional literature tailored to her interests.
The admissions department can also customize visits by arranging one-on-one meetings with professors during the campus visit. Although this is already standard practice at most universities and colleges, it’s impossible to understate the kind of impact these personal connections will have on college recruitment. Prospective students will walk away with a relationship, not just a glossy brochure.
Be honest not slick
Many campus visits involve some form of walking tour, often led by student representatives. This is a great time for prospective students to feel like they are getting an honest perspective on campus life. If the tour guide has to memorize a script, so that they sound rehearsed or forced, prospective students will feel like they are getting a sales pitch. This immediately turns off consumers (Gen Z in particular), who prefer authenticity.
Emphasize honesty. Let your student representative talk about how they hate dining hall coffee and prefer a local coffee shop. Prospective students are here to get a feel for the campus, and that means they want to know about its flaws too. Of course you want to feature the best things campus has to offer. Still, you should encourage your student guide mix important talking points with his or her authentic opinions.
Focus on career outcomes and goals
The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently featured a small case study about a college that gave visiting students the chance to meet with the career development office. Although they initially only offered this option to athletic prospectives, it proved so successful as a recruitment device that the school decided to make it standard practice. Now, every prospective student sits down with a career development representative from the school for 30 minutes.
During their meeting prospective students get specific program information, information about post-graduation opportunities, career and program outcomes data, and a chance to familiarize themselves with some basic career assessment tools. The short visit proves immensely reassuring. Students and parents have never been more focused on outcomes after graduation, and even a brief interaction with the career services office proves that the campus is as invested as the consumer.
Campus visits and enrollment
We all know that the news about enrollment hasn’t been good for a long time. Yet, if a student is visiting your campus, it shows they already consider your school a top contender. Can you make them feel like they belong? During the short time they spend with you, they will make a decision about their future. If your school wants to be a part of it, keep things personal, honest, and show that your goals align.
Strategic enrollment management is a huge endeavor. From social media campaigns to campus visits the work never ends. We know how to make it a little easier with multi-channel marketing campaigns based on solid demographic research. To learn more about how we can help you reach your ideal student, contact us for a demonstration today.
Barnes & Noble College. “Getting to Know Gen Z: Exploring Middle and High Schoolers’ Expectations for Higher Education.” Barnes & Noble College Insights. Retrieved from https://www.bncollege.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Gen-Z-Report.pdf
Noel-Levitz . ( 2017 ). “Marketing and student recruitment report of effective practices,” Higher Ed Benchmarks. Cedar Rapids, IA : Ruffalo Noel-Levitz . Retrieved from http://learn.ruffalonl.com/rs/395-EOG-977/images/2017RecruitmentMarketingEffectivePracticesReport.pdf
Secore, Scott. “The Significance of Campus Visitations to College Choice and Strategic Enrollment Management.” Strategic Enrollment Management Quarterly. 4.5, 2018. Web. 28 Sept 2018