As demographics shift and colleges look to non-traditional students to boost enrollment, college marketing and recruiting efforts are more important than ever, Roger Riddell writes in Education Dive.
As enrollment leaders recruit from a changing pool of applicants, Riddell says he sees three common errors that schools should avoid:
1: A mediocre website.
If students and families researching prospective schools come across an unwelcoming website, it will raise red flags for them, Riddell says. He recommends making your website responsive, sharp, and consistent with your institution's branding. It should also be easy to navigate, particularly from mobile devices, he adds.
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2: Poor social media engagement.
Given how pervasive social media has become, schools can expect their applicants to be engaging with it. Meet them where they are, Riddell suggests, by carefully crafting an institutional approach to social media designed to target prospective students.
3: Sending the wrong message.
According to a 2011 brief by the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly three-fourths of all undergraduates have at least one trait of a non-traditional student: working full-time, raising a child, financial independence, enrolled part-time, and others.
Institutions have to make their messaging reflect this demographic shift, Riddell says. For instance, schools can implement and then promote features such as extended hours in offices like financial aid and advising.
Peter Farrell, EAB managing director of enrollment services, elaborates that colleges should often go one step further in simplifying their student outreach. "Make sure your application is reachable within three clicks. Students won't tolerate hunting around for this important transaction," explains Farrell. In addition, Farrell suggests that colleges integrate their social media strategy with the rest of their marketing efforts.
When it comes to changing student demographics, schools need to constantly evolve their recruitment strategies, explains Farrell. "Anticipating the needs of your audience is job number one for any good enrollment shop. The excellent teams then work to exceed expectations at all levels. The old ways of doing business need constant evaluation to see if they fit your current audience," says Farrell (Riddell, Education Dive, 9/18).
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