Need to Rethink Student Recruitment?

October 17, 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education, change is inevitable. Institutions constantly adapt to advancements in technology, discovery, and student expectations. However, a new and unprecedented challenge looms on the horizon – the enrollment cliff. As demographics shift and student preferences change, it’s imperative for universities and colleges to rethink their student recruitment strategies. There are many ways higher education will need to adapt, but we’ll be looking at the upcoming student recruitment challenge through a marketing lens. 

Here are three things institutions need to consider if they want to survive the projected 15% drop in college-going population.


Attract New Audiences

Research is showing that enrollment of the typical high school graduate will be on the decline. So, are you considering new audiences? Or perhaps even new geographies? Look to people who have partial college credits, look to dual enrollment students, or try reaching people who are looking for a career change. There are many audiences out there that will still need further education. Don’t overlook them. 

  • Reach New Demographics And Geographies With Digital Campaigns

In fact, there’s already a lot of data available about these additional audiences. Targeting them might be easier than you’d think through a strategic digital marketing campaign. We can put your message in front of the people who actually want to read it. With this kind of placement, we can track performance, boost well performing ads and use real-time reporting to pivot anywhere along the way. 

  • Engage Earlier

If your first contact with a potential high schooler is during their senior year, you may be too late. Students are twice as likely to apply to college when they’re engaged during ninth or tenth grade. So, what is your communications plan for feeder high schools? Is your message strong? Are community relationships positive? Capture the interest of potential applicants and purposefully nurture their interest over time.

  • Strategically Target Career-Oriented Specialties

With the job market evolving rapidly, many students are prioritizing career-oriented education. Universities can tailor their marketing strategies to highlight specialized programs that align with emerging job trends. By showcasing how these programs provide tangible skills and pathways to promising careers, institutions can attract students who are focused on entering the workforce.


Build a Brand Of Value

Effective branding is not just about logos and colors, (though we do that and then some) it’s about conveying the unique benefits and culture of your institution. To attract the next generation of students, universities must clearly brand their offerings and create a narrative that resonates with the evolving values and expectations of young adults. This might involve stepping out of the norm and embracing innovative, non-traditional approaches.

  • Tell a New Story

Your institution might have the greatest story to tell, but you might not be telling it right. Through our research and discovery process, we learn what truly resonates with your audience and what they want more of. It could be time to do a gut check and see if you’re telling a story worth listening to.

  • Brand Your Benefits

Are the benefits of your institution clear to your audience? Or is your message muddled? Through the branding process, we’re able to distill the most important differentiators of your institution and provide a guide for the creation of future content – content that will ladder up to the same, strong message that’s unique to your university.

  • Showcase The Culture and Lifestyle

If students are enrolling in college, it’s because they’re attracted to the culture and lifestyle  as much as the academics. Is the culture coming to life through your marketing? This is another crucial layer we can build into your branding and integrate with the overall perception of your intuition. 


Rethink Your Strategy

To prepare for the enrollment cliff, institutions must rethink their strategies from the ground up – going further than just marketing. Students’ wants are changing and academic offerings will need to adapt. But, how else can you rethink your student recruitment strategy?

  • Start With Research

First, you must understand what makes your institution stand out in the first place. What makes your offering different and worthwhile? Conducting thorough research will pave a strong foundation for future efforts.

  • Extend Beyond The Campus

Don’t limit yourself. Engaging with the local community, partnering with businesses, and offering off-campus experiences can help universities create a more holistic education journey. This approach not only attracts students seeking hands-on learning but also positions the institution as an integral part of the community.

  • Leverage Alumni Success

Alumni are a living testament to the institution’s impact. Their success stories, experiences, and research can become powerful tools in recruitment. By showcasing real-world examples of how the institution has transformed lives and careers, universities can build credibility and trust with prospective students.

The Enrollment Cliff sounds scary. But we believe there’s a way to prepare. This is a pivotal moment for higher education institutions to reinvent their student recruitment strategies. Through the lens of marketing, universities can attract new audiences, redefine their branding, tell compelling stories, and create strategies based on thorough research. And ultimately, pave the way for thriving futures.

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