Student Enrollment Strategy: Reduced Student Names Doesn’t Equal Reduced Student Reach
One year ago, my family had been adhering to the official lockdown order for one month already. As college and university campuses sent students home and closed their doors, that meant an end to my work travel and many hours spent in my home office getting familiar with Zoom. My daughter, a high school junior at the time, had to adapt to a new way of life with her school closing and all classes switching to online instruction. We were also making adjustments because the ACT she was supposed to take on April 4 was canceled and rescheduled for June 13. It was a mere inconvenience at the time—little did we know that it was the first ripple in a giant wave of standardized test cancellations that would span six months.
Once testing centers opened back up in September with strict social distancing rules and limited capacity, that meant fewer seats for a backlog of students, which pushed their dates out even further. In order to get a seat for the October test, we had to drive almost 200 miles and get a hotel so she could be there early Saturday morning. We were lucky to secure that date, as many additional centers continued to close or offer very limited seating. I talked with other parents who couldn’t get their seniors in for their first ACT or SAT until December 2020.
Dealing with the lack of available student names
Our situation is an all too familiar story for countless high school students across the country. Closed centers and canceled tests have affected the entire recruitment cycle as we know it (though some would argue for the better). Many colleges adopted test-optional policies and a holistic application review, which turned out to work pretty well for most of them. However, many schools will still be actively chasing their yield number throughout the summer. Also, as many schools purchase names this spring for junior/senior search campaigns, they’re finding available names are reduced to almost a third of what they were in previous years. Alas, 2020 is the gift that keeps on giving.
What can you do to increase student recruitment with limited names?
You might be feeling like I’ve crushed your hopes and dreams for breezing into the 2021 recruitment year. However, if you already know me, and if you’re familiar with Carnegie’s archetyping model, I’m Red/Maroon/Pink, better known as the Determined and Engaging Enthusiast. So I’m going to give you the tools to forge a new path to success, excitedly cheer you on along the way, and celebrate with you as you build your class! Here’s what you can do to help keep your pipeline full and supplement the lack of available names to purchase.
- Using demographic information and census data, consider hyper-focused IP Targeting for households with high school–aged students. Audience Select is a service offered by Carnegie that allows you to also layer in academic data profiles to further narrow your household focus.
- Look-alike targeting allows you to create custom audience segmentation and reach prospects through social media using historical accepted student data. This is a great and affordable way to utilize current data and expand your reach into current or new geographic regions.
- Increase spend with outside lead generation services such as CollegeXpress. With over half a million visitors each month—and over 1.5 million leads sent to partner schools since this January alone—CollegeXpress should be on everyone’s list of partners this year. With a database of students cultivated through smart SEO and targeted outreach, CollegeXpress gives schools the ability to reach students outside the normal test providers and is consistently one of the top providers of pre-qualified leads to participating schools, yielding between 10%–15% of enrolled students on average.
“As an institution that relies heavily on data to make informed decisions, we find CollegeXpress to be one of our top-performing resources for generating inquiries and interest for TCU. Not only do we receive significant volumes of qualified students from CX, but our data also shows the students we connect with via CollegeXpress are some of the most likely to enroll at our institution. You can’t argue with data, and when it comes to yielding the class we need year after year, we trust and rely on CollegeXpress to play a vital role.” — Liz Rainwater, Director of Admissions Marketing at Texas Christian University
- Increase storytelling and feeling in your digital marketing by adding an overall digital theme to your current creative set. Students are getting bombarded with messaging from all angles. You can make yours stand out by going beyond facts with authentic and engaging ads that convey emotion and create an intrinsic connection with students. Keeping your creative fresh and engaging will lead to increased conversions and higher engagement in your campaigns.
- Offer virtual tours of campus, including your dorms. I cannot stress enough the importance of updated virtual content. Students are hungry for new and updated tours of campus, especially where they’ll be living. Use this opportunity to work with your current students and create some new video assets. Many students haven’t been able to visit campus and are going to rely on your online content to make their final decision. So many schools have videos that haven’t been updated in years…but this is low-hanging fruit, and with access to video cameras everywhere, this should be an easy project. Consider including video reach in your digital campaigns with YouTube as well as video ads through social platforms.
- As you expand your reach and continue feeding your pipeline this year, don’t let off the gas when it comes to list-based digital campaigns! Whether it’s continued yield efforts that will continue into the summer months, initial exposure to younger names, or tour and application outreach this fall, as you add students to your database, consider adding them to any list targeting you might already be running. As long as you update your lists every few weeks and keep your creative fresh, you can continue that targeted marketing well into the fall.
Let Carnegie help with your student recruitment strategy
2020 was a year like we’ve never seen, and we’ll probably be feeling the impact for the next few years. However, with some thoughtful budget shifting, there are still plenty of ways to keep your student pipeline flowing. If you need more assistance with your student recruitment strategy, contact us to learn more about our services!