Today’s high school students live online, spending more time on their digital devices than they do sleeping, doing homework, or participating in extracurricular activities.
It’s no surprise, then, that your digital presence is the most important strategy for engaging Generation Z. Yet with ads, videos, and messages competing 24/7 for their attention, how can you make your college’s messaging stand out?
The 2019 E-Expectations® Trend Report surveyed high school students to find out. This year’s report informs the latest trends in higher education marketing, recruitment, and technology by providing key insights such as:
- Teens’ attitudes toward artificial intelligence (AI).
- Search terms students use when researching colleges.
- Communication methods preferred by sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
Knowing how prospective students use digital technology can help you refine your school’s online marketing strategy for recruitment, admissions, and retention.
1. Admissions Recruitment Strategy: Offer Multiple Recruitment Resources for Students Searching for a College
It’s no surprise that your website ranks highest as a source of information for all high school students, but it is interesting to note that other resources vary by the age of the student:
- Results from a financial aid or scholarship calculator ranked #2 for sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
- Phone calls from admissions counselors was #3 for both sophomores and juniors, while seniors considered videos of campus, classrooms, students, and residence halls as third on their list.
- Sophomores ranked texts or live messages from admissions counselors as #4, and juniors and seniors preferred emails from a particular school.
2. College Admissions Recruitment Strategy: Learn How Students Contact Colleges to
Students aren’t shy about completing forms when they want to get more information about a college or university. The most obvious place they see forms is your admissions page, but they will also complete a form on college planning sites, athletics pages, and in your financial aid section. Email is the second way students will contact a school; making a phone call is a last resort.
3. Higher Ed Recruitment Strategy: Involve the Parents
Parents continue to be very involved in their student’s college decision, with 62 percent of students reporting that parents help them assess choices. Make sure that you have complementary college recruitment information that also speaks to their concerns.
4. College Admissions Recruitment Strategy: Focus on Email
A commonly asked question about your prospective students is, “Will they read and engage with emails from our institution?”
The answer is yes, especially as they move closer to the application process. A whopping 98 percent will share their email address with you. College admissions recruitment strategies should include emails, but with a caveat: they must be engaging and informative. Our study found that compelling graphics win out over text-only emails.
5. College Admissions Recruitment Strategy: Use Texting to Recruit and Market for
Survey results indicate that you’ll have the best luck if you text prospective students before an application deadline and after submitting an application. Upon admission, 74 percent of seniors report responding to text messages from colleges.
6. Higher Ed Recruitment Strategy: Understand How Prospective Students Search for
Colleges and Universities Online
The 2019 E-Expectations Trend Report identified three key discoveries about search intent:
- A specific major is the top search criteria entered by prospective students.
- Students use superlatives like “best colleges for math” as search terms.
- Students tend to conduct searches without reference to a specific institution.
7. Your Website: A Crucial Higher Ed Marketing and Recruitment Tool
Tuition, financial aid, and scholarships continue to be the top pages students read, but if you streamline your site’s navigation, you can lead them to additional relevant pages throughout your site. More than half (54 percent) report that they like websites that allow them to personalize content to meet their interests.
8. Admissions Recruitment Strategy: Tell a Story with Images
Students expect high-quality photos on your website, in emails, and on social media. Make them count by telling your story with compelling shots of campus and student life. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors all selected images of the quintessential college campus with classic architecture as their first choice. For the second ranked spot, sophomores chose pictures of students engaging in campus life, juniors preferred shots of college graduates, and seniors liked campus beauty shots.
9. Admissions Recruitment Strategy: Create Videos about Campus Life
Video content is no longer an extra—it is an essential component to student recruitment strategies in higher education. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors all rate the medium highly, and they show increasing tolerance for the time they will spend watching a video. Anything under three minutes is okay.
The top videos students prefer to watch include:
- Experiences showing the classroom and campus life
- Campus activities
- Campus tours
- Residence hall tours
- Classroom tours
- Customized content about programs and activities
- Faculty talking about classes
Conclusion: Technology is Vital to Your Higher Ed Marketing and Recruitment Strategy
Prospective students are digital natives with technology fully integrated into all aspects of their lives. Choosing a college is no exception. Your messaging must be on point to not only attract but keep their attention. The more you can understand what prospective students expect from digital technology and how they interact with it, the stronger your recruiting and messaging efforts will be.
This post highlights only a few of the topics discussed in this year’s data. Download the full report now for access to other topics such as artificial intelligence usage, social media insights, and other data that you can use to devise tactical strategies to help increase traffic on your website and drive your school’s enrollment.
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