Think about it: today’s rising seniors don’t remember a world without the Internet. These “screenagers” -- a term coined by Richard Watson -- have more or less grown up online, sending and receiving dozens of texts, using tablets and laptops at school, and spent time on their phones or computers both for homework and socialization.
When they have questions, they don’t go to the library -- they go to Google. When they are thinking about a problem, they don’t ask a real, live person -- they pull out their phone and search for the answers. And when they’re thinking about buying something, they check out online reviews and poll their friends on social media: “do I get a Kindle Fire or an iPad mini? Pros/cons?”
Analog Admissions in a Digital World
Professionals engaged in enrollment management in colleges and universities across the country don’t always realize that their student recruitment methods may well be misaligned with how today’s students are making their college decisions. For example, today’s students are wary of traditional marketing’s interruptive and marketer-centric approach. They don’t want to be cold-called, and they’re probably as likely to delete unsolicited recruitment emails as they are to toss that expensive, glossy view book in the recycling bin.
After all, today’s ‘screenager’ is used to ignoring advertisements. When she wants to know about a product or service, she knows how to find what she’s looking for on her own.
And, because so much of her life unfolds online, she’s far more likely to want to do her college research on her own time and using her own devices than to talk to a real, live admissions counselor.
The College Decision-Making Journey
These days, prospective students are likely to go through most of the steps leading to their college application decisions on their own, with the help of the Internet. The beginnings of their awareness of their need (“I’m a junior in high school. I guess it’s time to start thinking about college”) probably won’t lead them to put in a phone call or send an email to your admissions office -- it’ll probably send them on a web search.
Which is why your institution’s web presence has got to stand out.
Get them Searching for You
It’s not enough to have a great institutional website.
It’s not even enough to have a great admissions blog.
Why? Because even if a prospective student lands on it, she’s likely to bounce away quickly -- unless, that is, you draw her in with irresistible, attractive content.
We’re not talking about better photos and nice graphics -- although that’s important, too.
We’re talking about creating and offering content that’s valuable and attractive to your prospective students, based on solid research about what they’re looking for. We’re talking about anticipating the questions and concerns that are sending them to their search engines, and implementing the best content creation and SEO practices that will bring the right students to you, offering them the right message at the right time.
Timing is everything
Don’t expect your great website and social media presence to do it all, because it won’t. Remember, prospective students today are great at ignoring what they perceive as irrelevant to their needs. If they’re just starting to become aware that they’ll soon be making college decisions, it’s definitely not the time to hit them with a hard sell -- that’s likely simply to turn them off.
Instead, you want to draw students in with content that’s tailored appropriately to where they are in their college search journey. A blog post or web quiz designed to be responsive to queries like “how do I decide where to apply to college?” is a good place to start -- and it’s not the place to push ads and “apply now!” buttons.
Responsiveness is key
Some of the biggest student recruitment problems arise from the faulty assumption that “the way it’s always been done” is the way it must always be done. Just because you met with admissions counselors in person and scheduled campus visits before applying doesn’t mean that today’s rising seniors will do the same. Pressing them into a preconceived idea of how the college decision process is made will only alienate them.
The key is responsiveness: know your prospective students and how they gather information and make decisions. Tailor your content to attract them early in their decision-making process, and focus your efforts around each particular stage in the process -- don’t offer them an application all at once; draw them in with friendly, quality content that builds their trust and converts them into leads.
Summing it Up
The world has changed, and colleges and universities who are committed to content based, responsive marketing are the ones who’ll succeed in solving the challenges facing enrollment management professionals today.Learn how to beef up your college recruitment with our free Inbound Marketing checklist.