Student Enrollment

9 ways to optimize student acquisition effectively

The student enrollment process can sometimes be unnecessarily convoluted for universities and colleges. These 9 methods will help institutions simplify enrollment and drive valuable leads for expected undergraduate, graduate, and adult learners.

Hitting the target for enrollment can be pretty tricky for the admissions team. With numerous technological advancements and tech-savvy students, the enrollment ratio might be on the rise. But at the same time, employing and testing new methods for enhancing the enrollment numbers is equally important. A few survey results and statistics are available to show us a clearer picture of how enrollment methods work in different universities and colleges. Have a look-

  1. According to the Inside Higher Ed survey[1]survey^{[1]} of 2020, 69% and 55% of admissions officials from community colleges and private colleges respectively, are worried about meeting their institution's admission requirements.
  2. Center for American Progress[2]Progress^{[2]} reported that undergraduate enrollment fell drastically by 1.25 million from 2014-15 to 2018-19.
  3. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, community college enrollment declined by 11.3%, and postsecondary enrollment decreased by 4.2%.
  4. A 2017 survey[3]survey^{[3]} revealed that only 34% of the institutions reported meeting their enrollment goals.

There are numerous strategies to increase the enrollment ratio of universities and colleges. Let's dig into nine such techniques that can improve lead generation for universities and colleges.

9 ways to optimize student acquisition

1. Generate leads with digital ad campaigns


The great thing about digital marketing is that ingenuity and creativity can always win over big marketing budgets.

  • Advertisements are considered one of the principal instruments in increasing the enrollment ratio. But, there are a few things that universities must ensure while using this tool.
  • Lead nurturing now provides more customized content to leads as they progress through the funnel. It should not be confined to simply converting them into a sale.
  • This may be accomplished by writing to position oneself as an authority on the subject or through social media marketing to retain engagement.
  • The strength of digitalization is that it enables us to follow the behavior of our consumers. The data acquired may be further utilized to define the client’s demand and target them.
  • Marketers may also use digital technologies to analyze their customers' interactions, enabling them to better grasp their requirements and interests.
  • Advertisements can be through Google search ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, etc. Finding the right source and using it carefully is the first stepping stone toward success.
  • Here, having a landing page is quintessential. Simply put, landing pages are standalone web pages created for marketing or ad campaigns. A landing page serves many purposes, from giving details about the ad to redirecting users to the main website.
  • Designed to instigate people to go for the call to action, the landing page should be easy to navigate, simple, and minimal.
  • While the landing page consists of the request-for-information form, some people don't complete these forms, and as a result, universities face the risk of losing their leads.
  • But this problem can be solved by using the retargeting mechanism on the landing page itself. Here, ads or backlinks can be sent to their social media accounts to redirect them to the website.

2. Capture organic and direct website traffic

  • Organic search results in web search engines are query results that are calculated algorithmically and are unaffected by advertisement payments. When a person comes directly to a website without first clicking on a link on another site, this is referred to as direct access (direct traffic).
  • Making a website engaging yet simple is the first goal, but optimizing the website so that it appears in the organic search results is the second-most important point to be applied.
  • To do this, universities first need to understand the requirements of students. For example, graduate students don't want as much information on campus and student life as they do on degree requirements, course structure, etc.
  • Therefore, apart from optimizing the landing page to generate leads, other important information should also be provided to help students understand what the university has to offer.
  • This helps make the entire website more informative and increases organic reach.

3. Develop a content marketing strategy

  • While lead generation is one of the most critical factors in university enrollment, content marketing too plays an essential role in building brand identity and awareness.
  • Regular posts on various social media platforms or blogs on different courses offered by the university will increase the traffic to the website and generate more leads for the university.
  • Thus, developing proper content marketing strategies becomes pivotal to improving any university's website.

4. Improve conversations with responsive chatbots


Chatbots represent a new trend in how people access information, make decisions, and communicate with institutions.

  • Almost 60% of the students filling out university forms expect to receive a response from the academic department on the very same day.
  • Yet another survey by Drift[4]Drift^{[4]} says that colleges tend to lose their prospective students if they don't follow up immediately.
  • Though it is difficult to follow up immediately, universities can install chatbots to answer students' queries promptly.
  • If the doubts are too complicated, the query can be transferred to a human agent who can respond adequately.

5. Leverage high-profile endorsements

  • Endorsing high-profile alumni in blogs, vlogs, social-media handles, advertisements, and other platforms can help the students trust the university's credibility.
  • Several studies have also shown that prospective students can easily trust the academy's credibility if they are shown alumni employment track record.
  • Following are some ways through which one can leverage high profile endorsements-

6. Showcase campus life through Social Media Marketing

  • Social media platforms are one of the best ways to advertise a university or a college. Several survey reports prove social media to be one of the best advertising platforms-
    1. According to Emarsys[5]Emarsys^{[5]}, social media platforms currently enjoy more than 3.1 billion users.
    2. Yet another survey from eMarketer[6]eMarketer^{[6]} revealed that teens prefer using Instagram, and Facebook, followed by Snapchat and TikTok.
  • Institutions like Stanford and Texas A&M have come forward to showcase their campus life and other college activities on Instagram.

7. Make use of live streaming and video chats

  • It is easier for audiences to engage with audio-visual sources than with print mediums.
  • One of the best features of almost all social media platforms is live streaming.
  • Universities can live-stream classes, Q&A sessions, events, and other activities to improve engagement with the students.

8. Increase brand awareness using display advertising

  • Displaying ads through digital mediums is much more effective than putting them on billboards or newspapers.
  • Banner ads can be placed on high-traffic websites through the Google Display Network and presented in various engaging formats, including GIFs, photographs, videos, infographics, etc.

9. Communicate with email marketing


Social media is for reach, but email is for revenue.

  • According to a survey[7]survey^{[7]}, 70% of students prefer receiving university information through email.
  • Simply sending cold emails won't work as they would be tossed directly into spam. However, reaching out to prospective students with personalized emails can increase the engagement rate substantially (according to a survey by Ecoconsultancy, 74% of the marketers confirmed that personalization is one of the best methods to reach the target audience).

What's next?

  1. The call to move from the traditional enrollment mechanism to modern and technologically-equipped enrollment is the need of the hour.
  2. While several strategies can be implemented, the above ten strategies are core to every enrollment process.
  3. iSchoolConnect can help universities identify loopholes in their enrollment process and develop ways to boost the enrollment ratio.


[1] 2020 Survey of Admissions Leaders: A Mess of a Year, Inside Higher Ed

[2] It’s Time to Worry About College Enrollment Declines Among Black Students, Center for American Progress

[3] The 2017 Survey of Admissions Directors: Pressure All Around, Inside Higher Ed

[4] Three Charts: TikTok Penetration Among US Gen Zers, Insider Intelligence

[5] Top 5 Social Media Predictions for 2019, Emarsys

[6] Why are chatbots important?, DRIFT

[7] Distribution of communication frequency preferred by high school students researching colleges in the United States in 2016, Statista


Priyanka Rout

Content Specialist

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