Thanks to digital platforms increasing students’ awareness of postsecondary opportunities, colleges’ recruitment processes have become crowded with other suitors. With nearly three-quarters of students (69%) finding the Common App as the most appealing method to apply for college, it’s no wonder that this year’s graduating seniors sent out an average of 10 or more college applications, according to a new report from Spark 451, an enrollment strategy firm.
While email and institutions’ college websites still dominate as students’ preferred mode of communication and point of contact, it can be difficult for colleges that aren’t already on students’ radars to make an impact by using these tools. Forty-one percent of students wouldn’t open an email from a school they weren’t interested in, and more than a quarter shrug off those with generic subject lines that lack personalization.
For schools that lack brand awareness or struggle with grabbing students’ attention using their current recruitment strategies and need a powerful disruptor, social media is proving to be an unexpected yet ripe medium to hook students. More than 60% of students spend more than three hours daily on various social media platforms, an increase of 4% from Spark 451’s report last year.
The Class of 2027 College-Bound Student and Parent Surveys gathered responses from over 5,800 students and 1,100 parents, analyzing their social media habits and marketing preferences to discover what information best piques their interest and drives students’ decisions to enroll.
Utilize popular social media channels
In Spark 451’s sister report that studied parents’ preferences, they recalled seeing college Facebook ads at the second-highest rate, behind only direct mail. Grabbing parents’ attention is vital to a student’s college search process, seeing that family is the most consequential person affecting applicants’ college-making decisions, according to the report.
But the kind of social media platform an institution uses to reach a student is vital. Reaching out to students through Facebook may prove ineffective. Instagram, YouTube and TikTok are students’ most utilized social media platforms in their college search process. The latter is particularly interesting; despite TikTok facing a swath of state bans and regulations to student use, its popularity in the search process has increased from 23% of students in 2021 to 42% this year.
However, it’s essential to know how to properly utilize a social media platform to best speak to students, writes Allison Minutillo, senior vice president at Primacy, a full-service digital experience agency. “Not all social media platforms are created equal or attract the same demographic.”
Know what’s driving student enrollment decisions
Colleges should know what their content should consist of once it pops up on a student’s social media feed.
To incentivize students to apply, waiving application fees and standardized test score mandates can prove beneficial. Specifically, 55% of students applied to some schools because they received an application fee waiver. Additionally, nearly half of students (45%) found schools being test-optional as an essential ingredient to apply.
When it comes to motivating students on where they should ultimately enroll, these were the most critical factors on the weight scale.
- Academic quality
- Cost/financial aid
- Scholarship offer
- Campus appearance
The power of campus visits helps explain why location/setting and campus appearance are so consequential for students on this list. A quarter of students say they knew they’d found the right school after their first visit.