Enrollment for postsecondary institutions is on the decline, making colleges and universities work exceptionally hard to stay visible and relevant. With over 3,000 higher ed institutions in the U.S., there is no shortage of competition. The only option that schools have is to maintain a distinct identity that allows them to attract new students. Without this, colleges and universities can easily fall into the dreadful cycle of trying to captivate new interest to limited success.
How can your college or university create a strong presence and fascinate young students? Though there are many marketing options available, the one that has the most impact is your college website. Your website is the place where you can talk about your institution and the various types of degree programs offered. You may share photos and videos of your campus and its students. You can put prospective students in direct reach with someone from your administrative office.
Let’s discuss some of the ways that you can dust off your website and give it new punch, drawing students to it like moths to a flame.
1. Explain how your school can be affordable.
All over the media are stories of students and young adults drowned in debt. Where does the debt come from? A postsecondary institution. This debt has been accused of holding back the millennial generation in every way possible. Millennials are delaying homeownership, marriage, kids and more because of this debt. As you can imagine, the thought of having these loans after college is terrifying, particularly with a tough job market.
Here’s where you can make the difference. Be honest and upfront about tuition costs. Provide students with information for grants, scholarships and financial aid packages. Share stories about current students and how they’re making their college education affordable. Also be clear about opportunities to make money on campus such as by working at the bookstore or front desks. Even talking about where some of the tuition goes (renovated dorms and buildings, nutritious food, new computers) helps students to see the bigger picture.
2. Share the various course options that are offered.
Though the typical college student remains a recently graduated high school student, this isn’t the only student persona out there. Some are returning to school after being in the work world; others are young but juggling a family. There are many types of students out there, so be clear about the types of courses that are offered and how.
For instance, perhaps you have classes that are held on the weekends, at night or over the summer. These courses are ideal for students who are balancing their time with work or family and want to further their education, advance their career or learn new skills. Accelerated classes are also worth mentioning since these are highly attractive for those who are short on time and money. An accelerated format gets students in and out in less time.
Also highlight flexible transfer policies and credit for prior work. No college student wants to see their past efforts dismissed, so establishing flexibility in this area heightens your chances of getting serious-minded, qualified transfer students.
3. Share the qualities that make your college distinct.
This is nothing new; colleges and universities have been doing this for decades. Large universities promote their wide selection of majors and student diversity. Small colleges boast their small class sizes and individualized attention. Ivy League schools stress the importance of strict admissions standards and widely-known reputation. What makes your school unique?
Don’t let anything slip by when talking about your college or university’s growth. Share the latest stories regarding new buildings and renovated dorm halls. Talk about the local community and the culture of your school. Upload photos of students taking part in sporting activities and other events. Bottom line: Leave interested students with a complete picture of what they can expect when being a part of your school.
4. Target certain groups of students.
Many colleges and universities have certain groups of students that they target more than others: first-generation college attendees, working adults, military service personnel, people who work in public service and so forth. Don’t be afraid to run campaigns that target specific groups of students, especially if you’re looking to expand certain programs such as international or transfer student programs.
With so much competition, it can help to focus on particular groups of students rather than the typical high school graduate. Though you will still be marketing to these students, you can distinguish your higher institution from others with some of your unique programs.
It can also help to separate your school from others even when it comes to the typical high school graduate. Maybe your program offers flexible financial aid packages, work-on-campus opportunities and other programs to help young students afford college on their own.
5. Promote the various career opportunities that become available.
Some higher education institutions have career opportunities that are available for graduates such as employer partnerships, internships and international study abroad programs. This is a huge selling point because most students are scared of what will happen after they graduate from college. Again, with all the hype about student debt and a competitive job market, a student’s worst nightmare is having four years of debt and no job at the end of it all.
Promote the various opportunities that students have open to them when graduating from your college or university. If you don’t have much in the works, now is the time to reach out to local businesses. Many will be receptive to working with newly educated students or establishing an internship program for qualified students. If you’re having trouble finding these partnerships on a local level, take the time to expand the real-world experience you can personally offer students such as with international study abroad programs.
6. Establish a signature program.
One of the best ways to attract attention and distinguish your college or university is to have a signature program. This could be a specialized major or accelerated degree program that is truly unique to your school. Therefore, if a student is interested in this program, the only school that they will be able to attain it from, especially of your caliber, is to select your institution.
It’s possible that your college or university already has a program that is highly specialized, so refresh it with a new logo or a motto. Or perhaps your school is equipped to offer certain programs but hasn’t really delved into them yet. Fermentation sciences, comedy or decision sciences, for instance? Today’s higher education institutions are becoming more vocal about the students they want, and they aren’t afraid to not appeal to everyone. Find what makes your school unique and go after students who are the right fit.
So what is the point of attracting the right students to your college or university? The obvious benefit is more applicants and higher enrollment rates, which equates to more visibility and an increased bottom line. But even more important is that highlighting your school’s strengths and finding students to appreciate them leads to a more targeted student base. These students will in turn be more committed to their education, more loyal to your community and more likely to excel and complete their education with high marks.
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