College Recruitment 101: Direct Mail and College Fairs Are Not Enough
Direct mail, campus tours and college fairs have long been the center of the college recruitment process. And for years, they worked.
In the last decade, though, schools have had to work harder and smarter in a fiercely competitive market to recruit the right students. These traditional methods still have a place in the process, but they are not effective throughout all stages of the recruitment funnel. Many schools, however, have not adjusted their strategies.
Considering the Numbers
Students at Saginaw State University conducted a research study in 2015 to take an in-depth look at the recruitment process for students. They found that more than 72 percent of students in their study reported feeling brochures were effective in their recruitment process, but only around 30 percent of students reported actually being influenced by those brochures in their final college decision. This discrepancy shows that contact with students is vital, but that direct mailers themselves are not necessarily the answer to conversion.
Surprisingly, less than 50 percent of students reported being emailed from a prospective school, but of those, nearly 40 percent reported the emails as being effective in helping them make a final decision. Emails are less expensive for the school, but they are often not used in the most effective ways. It appears that when valuable emails are being sent to prospective students, they are finding them very helpful in forming a relationship with a potential school.
Additionally, more than 40 percent of students reported being highly influenced by their parents, and a little more than 30 percent said they were influenced by a high school teacher when choosing their school. So, effective recruitment plans will recognize that students are not the only target audience.
When it came to what mattered in the recruitment process, students were most likely to be influenced by the following content:
- Testimonials from current students
- Campus photos and maps
- Undergraduate and graduate program ists
- Course descriptions and fees
- Transfer credit information
Students reported liking information and hating spam. Many students wanted even more contact with their schools through email and social media. Students found direct information far more helpful than marketing taglines and content focused on recruitment.
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Adjusting for the Recruitment Funnel
It is important to send some forms of direct mailers and have a physical presence where students can see you. Don’t forget the student’s high school, since that is going to have an effect on teachers and peers as well. As students move through your recruitment funnel, adjust to their needs with your materials and message.
The awareness stage is a great time for mailers, social media campaigns and a well-designed website that will hold attention and increase engagement. When students start to move into the interest stage, mailers just aren’t going to hold the kind of information they need to move towards a decision point, so targeted emails, in-depth blog posts and a well-designed website are all going to play a major role.
During the decision stage, mailers may come back into play for a splashier reminder of the school, but personalized email marketing and school tours are going to play a far more important role in solidifying the decision. Finally, action can be encouraged with a continued email campaign, personal phone calls from an admissions officer and a website that is easy to navigate for application and enrollment and obtaining information about scholarships and financial aid.