Recruiting students to come to a college or university is a constantly evolving and changing task. Prospective students have numerous choices within in the traditional and non-traditional Higher ed models. Not only do they have a number of choices but students now are savvier and have their own demands or prerequisites in choosing the school they decide to attend. They're many considerations when devising a strategy on How to recruit college students, we'll review 5 of those considerations that can give you a frame work for a sound recruitment strategy.
When devising a strategy on how to recruit college students a good starting point is considering the "top demographic" for the school. To clarify top demographic may not be the majority demographic makeup of the school currently, it can be a bit aspirational. Think of it more in terms of if you could fill the school with your translation of the ideal prospective student what would that student composition look like. Take a look at the current student body, think about the students that are thriving and bringing value to the programs that they're a part of within the college currently. What do those students look like, what are there backgrounds, what major(s) do those type of students gravitate toward the most. Create a fictional representation of this student for your recruitment team but base it on real-life cases that you have a deal with or are currently dealing with. This picture that you create now becomes your target demo and most of your strategy and efforts will fall within this target. Any students you recruit outside of this target consider a bonus, but do not center the strategy around these prospects on the peripheral.
In-house vs. Agency
Another factor to consider is whether the recruitment strategy is going to be composed and executed in-house or will you bring in a marketing firm with experience in student recruitment to help compose or execute the strategy. A number of factors will be at play here including size and experience of current staff, budget to bring in an agency and what a working relationship will look like coordinating between the agency and the school's admission or enrollment office/team. The main advantage to strictly using an in-house team is controlling costs while bringing in an agency is a great way supplement the lack of resources or talent you may be deficient in but still have a successful recruitment effort.
There's a saying in college athletics that in order for a team to be successful a coach and their staff have to recruit their own state/region well. The same could be said for successful recruitment from admissions/enrollment offices. This can be considered "low hanging fruit" and should cost fewer resources and time to recruit a student to the school that's already in the area and could easily transition to the next step in their academic career without too many changes around and in their lives. Also, long term recruiting locally builds a strong Alumni which can help with endowments and institutional giving and advancement.
Highlight the Most Attractive Programs
Another easy win when thinking on how to recruit college students is to highlight those degree or certificate programs in the college that are successful and highly coveted. Is your college known for its medical program, nursing, dental, pediatrics etc? Maybe the college has a great reputation for its journalism program or engineering. Whatever it is use this a as a catapult for your recruitment efforts and push it to the forefront of your recruitment messaging, in media buys that may be placed on different mediums and as talking points for reps that may go into recruitment areas to meet with students or talk to students when they call or engage with a school online. This program(s) should also be taken into consideration and ties into the first consideration mentioned which is the target demographic, which program do they gravitate towards most often.
Financing options should almost always be a part of recruitment efforts. This along with the programs offered are going to be one of the top determining factors for most if not all your prospective students "How am I going to pay for this". If you address that elephant in the room and provide prospective students with options out the gate when making their final decisions they're are going to be more inclined to choose an institution that addressed financing challenges early and often in the recruitment process.
Obviously, they're other factors to consider but beginning with these 5 can give you a solid foundation to build a recruitment strategy that focuses primarily n that ideal target demo but with tentacles to pick up those on the peripheral as well. What factors do you consider when building a strategy? Feel free to share those in the comment section we always enjoy engaging with our savvy audience.