We’re seeing an exciting and interesting trend in prospective student behavior on CollegeXpress so far this year. Through the first two months of 2018, there have been twice as many high school sophomores engaging with the platform compared to the same time last year, and overall site traffic on CollegeXpress.com is up 36% year over year.
That in itself is really exciting.
The interesting thing, though, is that last year at this time, sophomores on CollegeXpress were indicating interest in an average of 24 schools each. This year, that number is down to 18 schools per student. So while these members of the Class of 2020 are twice as likely to be actively searching for and researching colleges—again, based on the significant sample we’re observing on CollegeXpress—they’re being much more selective at this point in their journey than what we saw from the Class of 2019.
For you, that means opportunity and maybe urgency, depending on whether or not you have a sophomore communications plan in place. If these sophomores are being 25% more selective, it stands to reason they are that much more serious about the colleges and universities they’re selecting, which means they’re more ready to hear from you than they’ve been in the past and more likely to seriously consider your school as juniors and seniors. But they do need to hear from you…now.
I know that’s hard. It’s really easy to let sophomore inquiries simmer on the backburner while you’re more worried about junior search, promoting visit events, senior application generation, and yield. We hear all the time from schools who ask, “What do we send a high school sophomore? What do we ask them to do?”
You don’t need them to do anything, but you do need them to feel a growing affinity for your school over the next two years. If a high school sophomore has taken a step to tell you they have any level of interest in your school, don’t keep them waiting, because that interest will quickly evaporate.
These kids have short attention spans and expect an immediate response, but they don’t know what they’re expecting beyond that. Fifteen-year-old kids also don’t have an extremely high standard for content, and we know they’re very, very visual. So give them a monthly touch point—an email, a student-produced video, a photo slideshow, or an update on exciting campus news. Another way to stay in front of them is with digital list-targeting strategies, reaching them online with Display advertising or on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat.
Bottom line: give them something. Keep your institution top of mind. Now is the time to build that affinity because their lists get shorter and shorter, and before you know it, you will have missed your chance.