Universities Need to Embrace New Recruitment Strategies

Colleges and universities have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and new variants. Many are still struggling to better engage their students and experiencing significant drops in enrollment disrupting their entire business model.

In fact, only 23% of high school students said they visited a university campus between March 2020 and March 2021, according to recent research by Silverback Strategies. This has stinted the campus visiting experience and have put many students in a holding pattern.

Colleges and universities need to get creative in their recruiting practices and better customize their outreach and communications. One place to start is to evaluate their website content.

“With more parents and students finding and evaluating higher education alternatives online, content on a university's website is key to capturing valuable search traffic. For instance, about 1,200 people every month search the term “types of nursing degrees.” Colleges or universities who offer nursing degrees should create a page about their nursing program to answer that search query,” said John Tyreman, Director of Marketing, at Silverback. “Pages that add detail about courses or curriculum may be untapped opportunities to reach parents and students during the education stage of their buying journey. In fact, 44% of high-school students and 50% of clients said they found this kind of content most valuable on a university website,” he said.

Silverback surveyed 1,071 parents and students in the U.S. in March 2021. Questions focused on their experience searching, finding and evaluating higher education alternatives.

Here are some of the key findings of the research:

  • More than 90% of high school students surveyed plan to enroll in a college or university. And more than 70% of high school students went online to evaluate alternatives.  This means colleges and universities will need to have a digital presence that meets both parents and students at different stages along their buying journey.
  • More than 91% of parents said they visited multiple .edu websites during their search for a higher education institution, with 35% visiting five or more. The school-provided resources that both students and parents found most helpful on these websites included: admissions information, course overview, curriculum, and materials. Students were mostly aligned with parents but found loan and financial information most useful.
  • Social media became an important channel to reach both students and parents. In fact, YouTube was the most popular platform used by both college and high school students. More than 80% of these groups reported using YouTube actively (multiple times per week). This channel was also used significantly by parents, with nearly 70% actively using the platform. However, there were notable differences in platform usage between parents and students. For instance, students were much more likely to use Snapchat and TikTok. Parents were more likely to be active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • 50% of parents who have achieved at least a 4-year degree reported their child is considering their parent’s alma mater. Higher education marketers have an opportunity to work alongside alumni relations to share data and attract new generations of students.

The study also provides actionable tips for higher education marketers who wish to put this data into practice. To download the 2021 Higher Education Research: The Parent and Student Journey click this link.