On-campus participation in today’s digital world

How Stetson University uses social media to boost enrollment

Walk into any high school auditorium, mall or fast food restaurant and see Millennials obsessed with their smartphones, tablets and laptops. But are they really that consumed? In a survey conducted by Intel Labs, 61 percent of young adults believe their relationship with technology is dehumanizing. That statistic is clear to many enrollment managers struggling to increase, or even maintain, enrollment.

Colleges and universities should engage with students before, during and after their time on campus. It will increase student participation in activities and provide a more personalized experience for prospective students.

At Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., we have developed a blueprint for helping students navigate the college admissions process, with a laser-focused approach to generating campus visits. By engaging with prospective students through a personalized, multichannel approach to recruitment, Stetson has increased registration for campus visits and open houses. We’ve implemented successful outreach programs on Facebook and

Instagram, and converted 90 percent of all attendees to their 2013 “accepted student day” to enroll. The campus engages prospects via personalized print and digital messaging before, during and after their visit, through Hobsons’ Connect and VIP pages. This approach raised our number of applicants from 2012 to 2013, from about 5,000 to more than 10,000 freshman applications. We have also increased enrollment from a class of 715 to 852 freshmen, a 19.2 percent increase in two years. Previsit and on-campus experiences

Before prospective students visit our campus for an event, digital marketing tactics encourage engagement. The on-campus events students are drawn to range from open houses and on-campus orientations to homecoming week events. Digital marketing efforts include personalized email campaigns for each event as well as promoting events via social media. Stetson brings a new layer into its recruitment process by personalizing its prospective student VIP Page to include:

  • Reminders and a checklist of outstanding application materials to be submitted.
  • A link to the accepted student event for those who have not registered, and a checked box for those who have.
  • Personalized and customized information about the student’s intended major and extracurricular interests.
  • Recruiter contact information.
  • Email and text message alerts once the student is accepted.

By personalizing communications, we were able to heighten the level of tracking for outcomes of previous campaigns while discerning the best times to communicate with prospects by email. While all events are posted a year in advance on the website, students and their families were invited to admissions events two months before the event and are sent reminders every two weeks.

To engage the prospective family upon arrival, Stetson uses social media during all events. This allows students to evaluate each event in real time with other families. Students and families document their visit by posting photos, which are entered into a contest for that day using the hashtag #VisitStetson. This encourages people to stay for the whole day to engage in friendly competition.

A social media student intern attends the day’s program components, and posts observations and questions. Students and parents can ask questions throughout the event and receive information such as the day’s schedule of the day, website links and tips on activities for after the event.


Some 90 percent of prospects who attended the most recent Hatter Saturday event enrolled. More than 200 photos were submitted to its “Pic of the Day” contest, which allows prospective students to connect with like-minded peers. The 2012-13 fiscal year was a record-setting year for undergraduate enrollment at Stetson. More than a third of the enrolled class attended Hatter Saturday and found their new home at Stetson University.

Using personalized digital outreach builds and manages student relationships throughout the lifecycle, not only achieving enrollment goals but also attracting the best applicants to succeed at your institution.

Joel Bauman is vice president for enrollment management at Stetson University.

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