It's the time of year when colleges and universities around the world get ready to compete for promising new students. Everyone in higher education goes through an exercise of prioritizing enrollment and marketing activities. When making decisions, how important, really, is an institution's website to accomplishing admission and enrollment goals?
Turns out, it's hard to understate the importance of websites in influencing prospective students. The 2015 E-Expectations survey of more than 3,000 college-bound students found that 80% of high school seniors and 77% of juniors said college websites influenced their interest more than any other resource. College planning sites, magazine rankings, and print trailed far behind.
The survey shows college websites influence prospective students' interest the most. That's pretty profound. But it gets even more interesting. Nearly 80% of seniors and juniors say college websites make a difference in their perceptions of the institution.
What does this mean for higher education?
- Focus on web content strategy: First, prospective students' high reliance on websites means institutions should put a priority on content strategy. Keeping websites up to date, with fresh content to keep students coming back, should be part of the mix. Colleges and universities should build persuasive landing pages and optimize those web pages for search.
- Learn to love mobile: To serve students coming from mobile devices, sites should be responsive or mobile-friendly. Forms, like requests for information and open house registrations, should be as easy to complete from a mobile device as they are from a desktop computer.
- Unify your brand: Consistent branding across the site is important. Presenting students with a cohesive look signals a level of professionalism.
Making a website a "hub" for communication with prospective students is easier with a solid content management system (CMS) like OU Campus. A CMS can give staff and faculty the ability to update website content without technical know-how and make it easier to unify branding across campus. Plus, responsive templates make it a breeze to cater to your audience on the go.
Admissions is a high-stakes game. This new data should give institutions guidance on what they must to do to compete.
The 2015 E-Expectations Report, titled What 10 Years of Research Has Told Us about College E-Recruitment, is sponsored by Ruffalo Noel Levitz, OmniUpdate, CollegeWeekLive, and the National Research Center for College & University Admissions.
Figures above are copyrighted by Ruffalo Noel Levitz and used with permission from the 2015 E-Expectations Report.