7 Strategies for Increasing Student Enrollment
Discover how to attract prospective students and boost enrollment.
Prospective students today face a lot of anxieties surrounding higher education enrollment. Between worrying over student loan debt, academic pressures, and future career prospects, many students seem hesitant to hit the enroll button.
Enrollment has declined in the past couple of years, with higher education institutions losing around 1.3 million students between the spring of 2020 and the spring of 2022, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
To recapture the attention of prospective students, institutions need to rethink their enrollment strategies. In this article, we’ll explain the importance of creating a strong student enrollment strategy and provide seven ideas for boosting enrollment.
The importance of developing a strong student enrollment strategy
Building strong enrollment marketing strategies will help connect institutions with the students who are most likely to be successful and happy there longterm.
An enrollment strategy is all about showcasing what an institution has to offer and how students can grow and thrive there. Prospective students want to know what’s in store for them after they accept an offer to attend an institution. A strong enrollment strategy eases uncertainty by painting a clear picture of campus life.
It’s very important that leaders across the institution are aligned on enrollment strategy. Enrollment is more than just admissions — it’s also about financial aid, academics, housing, and student life. When setting enrollment goals and metrics, make sure all departments are aligned and working toward them together.
An enrollment strategy should be tied to the mission statement of the institution, and how a college or university is marketed should ladder up to its values.
A strong enrollment strategy will not only help boost the number of students choosing to attend an institution, but it will also pave the way for student retention and higher graduation rates.
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7 student enrollment strategies
1. Understand why students choose an institution.
Before a higher education institution can attract students, it’s important to understand the reasons students choose one school over another.
Salesforce’s Connected Student Report reveals the top five factors prospective students considered when deciding where to enroll:
- The location of a college or university
- Future career prospects
- Academic focus
- Total cost of studies
- Social life/campus activities
With an understanding of the motivations behind student enrollment, institutions can focus their marketing strategy on these factors.
For instance, to highlight the location of a university, create materials featuring the benefits of living in an institution’s city or town. To showcase career prospects, spotlight what alumni have accomplished after achieving their degrees. Featuring alumni in newsletters and other forms of content has the added bonus of making them feel valued and improving alumni engagement.
2. Optimize for search engines.
Many prospective students turn to Google to initially research potential schools, which is why search engine optimization (SEO) is critical. Developing an SEO strategy that extends through an entire website will help your institution appear in search engine results and get noticed by more prospective students.
Start by performing keyword research to discover which keywords the institution’s site is already ranking for, which ones competitors are ranking for, and which keywords are ideal for targeting. Next, ensure every piece of content created for the site is optimized for search engines by including internal and external links, adding descriptions to photos, and incorporating target keywords throughout.
Improve local SEO by ensuring the institution’s Google My Business profile is completely filled out and up to date. Google My Business will help the institution appear as a local result and in Google Maps when students search for a university or college in a specific area.
3. Cultivate a consistent brand.
Developing a strong and consistent brand for an institution is one of the most important enrollment strategies. Branding helps build familiarity with potential students and gain their trust. It also sets an institution apart from the competition and increases the likelihood of finding students who are a good fit.
To build a consistent brand, a university needs consistent brand guidelines. These brand guidelines should include both the visual and written elements of your brand such as logos, colors, fonts, image choices, and content voice and tone.
Brand guidelines will help everyone on the team who creates content understand how to present the institution. The institution’s visuals and voice should remain the same across its website, emails, and social media platforms.
4. Incorporate financial aid messaging.
Affordability is a huge factor for students when deciding whether or not to attend a college or university, and it’s a major factor in how successful students are once they enroll.
According to the third edition of the Connected Student Report, 40% of students said they needed “more financial aid” in order to be successful.
To attract potential students, incorporate financial aid options into the institution’s enrollment marketing. Showcase any scholarships, grants, and need-based financial aid options that are available.
It’s a good idea to personalize this messaging for students by major or industry of interest. For example, email students interested in English available creative writing scholarship opportunities.
Use your marketing materials to demonstrate how the institution can help fund students’ learning experience from the day they enroll all the way through graduation.
5. Take a mobile-first approach.
According to Statista, 63% of search engine visits come from mobile devices, and that number is growing yearly.
Convert prospects to enrollments by connecting with potential students in the palm of their hand. Send SMS alerts to remind prospects about application deadlines, open house opportunities, or upcoming campus events.
Optimize web content by ensuring all landing pages, forms, emails, and digital ads load quickly and translate well to mobile devices. This will allow students to learn about the university, conduct more research, and fill out their applications on their smartphones.
Adding 24/7 chatbots to an institution’s website is a highly effective strategy for increasing student enrollment. Chatbots help students get the answers they need when they need them with no delays. Chatbots can answer simple questions and keep students moving through the application process without waiting to speak to a representative.
6. Win the support of parents and family members.
When planning your marketing strategies to increase student enrollment, don’t forget about parents and families of prospective students.
Support from family and friends is a key factor in student success, and parents can play a large role in helping students research and choose a college or university.
Start by tailoring content on the institution’s website to prospective parents’ interests. Create a page for families that outlines important details about family weekends, convocation, financial aid, and chances for families to get involved with the institution. This kind of content will make parents feel included and like they’re a valued part of the university community.
Also, highlight topics that matter to parents such as safety on and around campus, mental and physical health resources available to students, and career prospects.
The Connected Student Report
Discover the higher education trends that will help students connect and thrive at your institution.
7. Sharpen the social strategy.
Social media optimization is one of the most useful marketing strategies to increase student enrollment, connect with prospective students, and show off what a college or university has to offer.
Collect user-generated content by creating a hashtag for campus life activities. Encourage students to tag their posts with the hashtag and then repost the best ones to their institution’s social channels. User-generated content is a great way to build trust with prospective students by showing authentic content straight from their peers.
Get prospective students aboard the social media train by incorporating “selfie stops” into campus tours. Ask tour guides to pause at the most picturesque locations around campus so prospective students can stop, take in the views, and upload pictures to their social accounts.
It’s important to always be listening on social media as well. Monitor the institution’s profiles regularly and be sure to respond to questions and comments promptly.
Reach new enrollment goals with Salesforce.
Salesforce’s Student 360 helps institutions build stronger relationships with prospective students so they can meet — and exceed — enrollment goals.
With Student 360, higher education staff can build brand awareness through targeted marketing campaigns, connect with students on their preferred channels, and keep your strategy relevant with real-time marketing data.