Modern College Recruitment Strategies to Reach High School Students

September 18, 2023
Modern College Recruitment Strategies to Reach High School Students

Are you treating your student recruits like a great brand treats potential customers?

Schools nationwide are starting to use corporate marketers to approach their recruits with a message that effectively sells the school's passion, mission, and capabilities.

Today’s consumers are quickly changing how they shop and how they make their decisions. Traditional marketing experts used interruptive tactics that tried to catch the consumer off guard and subliminally motivate them towards a purchase decision or brand recognition.

Today’s consumers—especially the younger generations—are too savvy for this technique.


1. Interruption Doesn't Work 

Instead, the corporate marketer is finding that the average consumer now does a lot of research before making an educated choice to buy, invest, or sign up for something.

Prospective students look at reviews, do price point comparisons, and read peer testimonials on their mobile devices to compare schools just like anything else they plan to spend money on. They aren’t impressed by the interruptive techniques, such as direct mail or non-relevant advertising, that were once so powerful.


According to the 2023 E-Expectations Report of college-bound high school juniors and seniors, 88 percent said their perceptions of a given institution were influenced by the college’s website. Additionally, 78 percent of students use social media in their college planning, while only 31 percent of seniors said they prefer traditional outreach (phone or print).

Now, younger generations are more likely to be using multiple devices in front of the TV, ignoring commercials altogether. In the same way, mailers are going into the trash and cold calls often get nowhere. Schools that aren't in keeping with the latest marketing trends are behind the eight ball when it comes to recruiting and branding.


2. Showing Value and Building Advocates

Today’s corporate marketing has shifted the focus from the company’s goals to the consumer’s needs. In the same way, the student's needs and desires should mean more to admissions officers than the university's message. In 2020 Inside Higher Ed reported said, "very few [institutions] have taken brands to the next level with eye-catching visuals and memorable messaging that expresses the true essence of the institution," and "websites are still the most important marketing resource we have." Going on to state that a responsive website is not only essential but necessary if you want to stay competitive.

When done correctly, inbound marketing and updated branding tactics provide a greater impact at a lower cost. These tactics can help show your value and convert your recruits into not only registered students but lifelong believers in your brand.


3. Creating a Modern Marketing Approach

Recruitment efforts and university branding need to start with "why" before moving to "how" or "what."

  • Why is your school different, and why do you do what you do? Consider how Apple talks about innovation and beauty long before they talk about specific products or prices.  This approach is what sets them apart from Dell, Microsoft, or any other brand in their industry.

  • What is it that you offer, and what does the student get out of it? Don’t make the mistake of answering the "what" before the "why," or you will come off with a boring approach that sounds like everyone else. The "why" is what makes you different, while the "what" is how you make it happen (great courses, excellent professors, etc.)

  • How do you make the "what" and "why" happen? When your students get down the marketing funnel to a serious point, you have to offer clear logistics and the nitty-gritty details about the process. Only at this closing stage will you want to explain registration, coursework requirements, student testimonies, financial aid options, and other detailed parts of your school’s process.

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So What?

Ultimately, college admissions officers and recruiters are focused on attracting the best students they can within a given budget and time frame.  If you have been frustrated with the process and approach used within your institution for many years, it's time to rethink both.  Perhaps you are ready to insert some "Modern Marketing" into your recruitment funnel to increase your prospective student engagement and ultimately improve your prospects-to-admissions ratios.


Author Bio

Alex Moore, MBA, is a senior partner and marketing strategy expert at Stratagon. In true early adopter fashion, Alex is passionate about marketing technology, automation, CRM and using leading tech tools to create forward movement in business and in life. Connect with him on Twitter.