The smell of evergreen trees lining the pathways between buildings. The sounds of chatter as students criss-cross their way to class. These sensory experiences have a huge influence on individuals when they’re deciding which college or university to attend.
Prospective students have been increasing the amount of time they devote to campus visits in recent years, and an estimated 80% of high school juniors say those tours are an extremely important part of their college selection process.
So, what happens now?
As in-person visits are replaced by virtual tours in the midst of COVID-19, schools need to engage in new ways.
Thankfully, there are some relatively simple ways to do just that.
Based on Formstack’s collaboration with colleges and universities around the country, here are some higher education marketing strategies that have proven to be especially helpful when it comes to keeping the student enrollment process moving along.
Connect students to the right information
As students turn to virtual campus tours in record numbers—high school seniors are taking tours at a rate that’s 228% higher than last year—much of the focus has been on creating polished presentations that help mimic in-person experiences.
But that’s not the only consideration to factor in.
It’s important to remember that virtual campus tours are part of a much larger journey—one that is sending many students to actively seek ways to engage on a more personal level. They’re signing up for special virtual events, joining groups on social media, subscribing to mailing lists, and looking for contact details they can use to get in touch.
You can help connect them get the right resources by placing this information prominently on your website. Whether you create easy-to-use forms or add call-to-action buttons, now is the time to do a quick audit and see where you can streamline and simplify the online journey for prospective students.
Better yet, many colleges and universities are beginning to embed calls to action within virtual tours themselves. In one recent analysis of more than 650,000 students, individuals who shared their contact information while on a virtual campus tour were twice as likely to apply to that school compared with students who called, emailed, or filled out a form on the school’s website.
This last tip is especially essential at a time when so many people are finding virtual campus tours through aggregators such as YouVisit. Students may not come directly to your website initially, but they can still discover your virtual tour elsewhere. If they like what they see, there’s a good chance they’re going to want more information.
The easier you make it for them to register for events or sign up for lists, the better positioned you’ll be to engage effectively and increase student enrollment.
Increase student access to faculty and staff
With the constraints of social distancing, many colleges and universities are giving prospective students greater access to faculty and staff online. If your institution hasn’t already taken steps in this direction, now is the time to start.
By opening the door to one-on-one communication with financial aid officers, admissions staff, and even professors, you can help give serious students the meaningful conversations they need to fuel their decision-making. Whether created through videoconference meetings, calls, or emails, these personal connections can have a big impact on enrollment—particularly for individuals who are nearing the end of their searches.
Keep in mind that creating meaningful connections with students doesn’t always have to be a time-consuming process. With incoming classes increasingly reliant on digital experiences, student expectations for colleges and universities are currently being shaped by the online interactions they have elsewhere.
That means something as simple as a personalized followup message sent to students who take your tour can help influence what they decide to do next. Members of Gen Z in particular, who have no memory of a world before smartphones and mobile networks, tend to be highly responsive to digital touchpoints that are executed well.
By automating and personalizing communications, and by creating recruitment emails that are likely to be opened and read, you can help strengthen connections—whether a prospect is deep in the enrollment process or has a newfound interest in your institution after an impressive virtual campus tour.
The future of higher education may still be unfolding. But for now, there are concrete steps any college and university can take to engage and excite prospective students.
Looking for more ideas you can use to enhance the digital experience for prospective students? Explore Formstack’s range of workflow automation and data collection tools designed especially for higher education institutions.