Universities have to market themselves in the same way as any other company—ultimately, they’re selling a service, albeit one that’s important for the human condition. If a university doesn’t have sizable enrollment, then they won’t be able to sustain their overhead and keep their doors open.
Students, much like consumers, need to be enamored by a specific college, directing their resources and attention towards its programs.
A New Wave of Students
Yet, students today are unlike any generation prior. With Gen Zers being the current target, the average “student” has accustomed to a way of life spurred by digitization, technology, and society’s focus on the individual. Point being: they want to be courted, catered to, and appreciated. All of which are, of course, entirely natural.
Thus, how do universities best promote schools to incoming freshmen?
The most important facet of promoting a university is trying to step into the mind of an incoming freshman. Amidst the advent of the smartphone, the way people interact, communicate, and process information have changed. In which case, when creating stratagems, it’s important to ask questions like:
- What mediums are they most likely to engage with for information?
- What are their current standards of living and how does our campus compare?
- What amenities are they used to?
- What campus qualities seem to attract most of the current enrollees?
- With advertisements popping up on every platform they use (all day long), does our language read authentic and truthful?
To aid universities in their promotion, here’s a compiled list of 10 ways to promote the school to incoming freshmen, piquing their interest and enticing their consideration.
#1 Social Media | Twitter
To increase awareness and create a personal dialogue, meet incoming freshmen where they live—on social media. Consider marketing campaigns that boast the individuality of your campus. Tweet about the campaign and create hashtags around it. Allow the students to respond back and engage with them. If they feel that—while having more insight into the university—that they’re also heard, they’ll be more willing to consider the programs.
- Fun Tip: Try to create a challenge or giveaway to inspire conversation! For instance, if existing students retweet the campaign, then perhaps they could receive a free meal coupon or book credits.
#2 Bring the College Tour to Them
Students do not always have the capacity to visit the campuses they’d like—particularly if they’re across the country or on a different continent. Thus, investing in an online tour can be an amazing way to promote schools. Is there an architectural aspect of the campus that stands out? Is the student housing by a body of water or a beautiful landscape? Showcase these areas in one easily digestible video so potential candidates can experience the campus from afar.
- The Age of VR and Augmented Reality – With VR and augmented reality on the rise, why not invest in an experience that is as encompassing as it is immersive? Colleges are already using VR in the classroom, so why not take advantage of the new technology to promote the physical campus?
#3 Dorm Room Amenities | The Smart Locker
Marc Robillard, the Director of House at Boston University, says:
Students are willing to pay more money if they’re able to have an apartment, a single room in an apartment, and be close to activities on campus.
He’s saying this in relation to the amenity-filled, 26- and 19-story towers they built for their academic institution—a structure heralded by universities across the country.
Of course, not every school can invest this type of money. But a university can solve problems with technology, furthering the convenience of the freshmen’s living situation. How? One simple consideration is by installing intelligent parcel locker systems to help organize, protect, and guarantee their mail.
A Parcel Pending Smart Locker System
Parcel Pending offers the latest in smart locker technology that will not only improve your students’ experience in the dorms but will:
- Streamline the package delivery process, which is notoriously chaotic at college campuses
- Keep packages safe and secure from theft to avoid student internet package issues
- Alert students their parcel has arrived with instant delivery notification via their smartphone.
- Create efficiencies, ensuring students always receive their mail
It’s small changes like these that speak volumes to potential enrollment candidates—like when Gen Z goes to college, they are used to such convenience in their lives.
#4 Use Data
Incoming students want to know that the college they’ve chosen will yield a great career after graduation. What better way than to compile salary data (if applicable) and showcase the types of jobs former students have been able to obtain post college? Or, if the programs are catered to a specific industry, why not showcase the success of the alumni as a whole?
- A Guarantee – The job market is constantly flooded with recent graduates. The reality is that a college degree no longer equates—in totality—to a high paying job. To that end, use data to promote schools! The closer a candidate feels to a guarantee, the more inclined they’ll be to consider the university.
If it’s not apparent, there’s trends in college student housing here. Today, it is imperative that a college has a strong online presence. Instead of asking candidates to meet at the campuses (to learn more about the university), why not invite them to a webinar? This will allow students from all over to interact with the staff, ask questions about the school, and gain a better understanding of the campus and school community.
A few great webinar platforms include:
#6 Pay for The Trip
Colleges are now offering fly-in programs—often geared towards students with a low socioeconomic status—to pay for candidates to visit their campus. This ties into the “bring the tour to them” suggestion, yet it’s a lot more personal. If a student feels valued from the onset, knowing that this college is ready to support them, then they’ll be likelier to enroll.
- A “Taste Test” – By creating a program that welcomes these potential candidates, universities foster a sense of community. Students can begin to create connections, network, and become attached to the campus prior to enrolling.
#7 The Phone Call | It’s Now A Novelty
In decades prior, the telemarketer ruined the intimacy of the phone call. Today, however, the phone call is regaining its appeal. As Gen Zers and other smart phone generations are used to communicating via text, receiving a phone call from a campus could be an extremely personal, rewarding, and even exciting experience.
- Empowering the Students – If a candidate receives a personal phone call, not only will they feel unique, but they’ll be further willing to communicate. Promote schools the old-fashioned way and universities might be surprised as to how they’re received.
#8 Reinvent the Cafeteria
A common thought might be that a student would hardly ever consider a campus specifically for its food choices—and it’s not irrational. Yet, it’s not entirely correct, either. In a world growing increasingly environmentally-conscious, young people are eating healthier. Not only do they want to reduce their carbon footprint, but they also want to treat their bodies well.
- Set the Right Intention – If the university is willing to invest in their students’ health and well-being, this action is indicative of how a school regards its pupils. A student might be likelier to enroll when they know a school goes out of their way to cater to their students.
#9 QR Code, Anyone?
As colleges continue to experiment with their promotion tactics, QR codes are beginning to gain popularity. What’s a QR code? QR stands for “Quick Response Code” and, once someone scans it with their phone, it’ll take them directly to the college’s website (often specifically to a landing page).
- Posters! – If a university designs posters with a given barcode, then a prospective student can walk up to it, scan it, and land immediately on the website. This is a process they’re familiar with. Additionally, they can create different landing pages for different poster variations, testing them against each other with direct, measurable data (the traffic to each specific page).
#10 Try for Viral
If a university has a film program, they should consider trying to incentivize students to create content promoting the school. Today, the short-form video is digital marketing’s not-so-secret weapon. It can yield the same efficacy for promoting a college. What better way to showcase a university than by the students themselves?
If this video is a success, then it has the potential to go viral—meaning the university will experience tons of exposure, spotlighting their campus, school culture, and student housing amenities in the process.
Capturing the Hearts of Incoming Freshmen
At the end of the day, things college students want include feeling valued, heard, and catered to. By flocking to social media, installing smart lockers for colleges, paying for their visit, and personalizing their experience, there’s no reason why a university can’t up enrollment.
There are students just waiting to hear about their dream school. By utilizing these ten tips, a university can improve their promotional efforts for the school community.
- Campus Technology. 9 Amazing Uses for VR and AR in College Classrooms.
- Phase Zero Design. Colleges Have Entered An Amenities Arms Race To Attract New Students.
- News. Diversity Fly-in Programs Make Campus Visits Accessible.
- Fast Company. “It’s A Snap” Changes the Face Of College Recruitment Advertising.