Enrollment vs Marketing: Best People to Recruit College Students

4 min read
February 09, 2018

recruit college students  

Recently we had a meeting with a well known college in the Metro area. The meeting went well and we’re able to help them with campaigns to recruit college students. During the course of that meeting and subsequent follow up conversations the VP and provost indicated to us that they were looking to hire an individual for a new position at the school. Now the title of this potential hire doesn’t matter as much as the duties that this person would be tasked with which was essentially bolstering student recruitment and retention efforts by the school in a number of different ways included but not limited to; contracting and working with firms like ours, crafting messaging and communications internally and externally and making sure that overall school image was a positive one in addition to making sure that the recruitment and retention goals were being met semester after semester.

They asked us if we knew any candidates and if so to recommend some folks we thought would be a good fit. We’ve been working with institutions public and private higher ed, secondary ed for well over a decade so almost instinctively we started looking at our network of all the great admissions and enrollment folks that we’ve worked with over the years . To our surprise the feedback we received from the VP and provost once we began sending candidates resumes was that they viewed this position as a marketing position and would prefer “marketing people” over candidates with deep high level experience in admissions and enrollment.


To be honest this caught us off guard; why wouldn’t you want candidates who had worked at higher ed institutions prior and had a wealth of knowledge and experience when it came to student recruitment. It began an internal debate in our office and the question was posed: Do you need “admissions/enrollment people” or “marketing people” when you recruit college students?


The admissions side of the argument is where we defaulted and it’s a solid one. Obviously they have a certain skill set in a number of different important aspects when you recruit college students. Setting recruitment and retention goals and paying attention to those goals as the clock ticks towards admission deadlines. Also adjusting those goals up or down depending on the pace of new admissions and returning students offset by students who may be leaving for another institution or graduating.


This is extremely important to the overall health and well being of the school after all for most schools the vast majority of working capital is coming right from student tuitions so keeping track of these enrollment goals is key. Another strength of admissions folks is there ability to help students current or potential navigate what can in perception or reality be a very complicated system of choosing the right classes, majors, knowing whether or not certain programs are being offered what times, instructors etc.


Admissions and enrollment pros also have their finger on the pulse of what programs to market to potential students traditional or nontraditional and also to other influencers in that persona’s buying decision like parents, spouses, or guidance counselors. WHich program draws the most attention is it the new accelerated nursing program or is the the advanced accounting program these are the types of questions admissions folks are in tuned with and why they could potentially be the best choice to manage recruitment campaigns.


The other end of this argument is that the best course of action is to go with “Marketing people” After all the marketing choices made make or break any campaign whether it be for a school or a soda pop so why not bring in true professional in marketing to recruit college students. Marketing people can craft sound strategies including doing deep dives into who the best persona is for the school to target and then create a sound strategy around that persona. Marketers are also hyper aware of metrics and making sure that each tactic is measurable, therefore allowing the institution to see exactly where the traction or results are coming from. You can then make informed decisions when doing things like allocating budgets or deciding to expand or contract specific programs or course offerings.

 recruit college students


Marketers are also going to be adept at actual media choices that are chosen bc that’s where the personas are and what they react to. Marketers can also bring in other agency partners to compliment internal efforts and also bring ideas and resources to the table that the college doesn’t have the bandwidth to do itself. They can negotiate with those vendors to get the college favorable rates on media services and monitor whether those vendors are delivering as per their stated scope of work.


Both good arguments for whether you need enrollment and admissions people or marketing people when you recruit college students. There’s no absolute answer, I think a combination striking a good balance between folks who understand college admissions and enrollment and either inside employees or an outside agency who are great at marketing strategy and execution is probably your best bet.


It’s also going to be on a case by case basis, you may have a great admissions and enrollment department who’s really good at what they do but if you don’t have a robust marketing campaign focused on student recruitment that admissions dept doesn’t have enough prospective students to work with during enrollment periods. And you may have a great marketing person(s) who can make sure the proper personas know about the institution and have a desire to attend but if no ones in place to help them once they’ve made the choice to attend or are making the choice then those marketing efforts are wasted.


What have you seen work in your experience recruiting, admissions people or marketing people? Let us know by commenting below we always enjoy hearing from you.


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