05 October 2020
Top 5 student recruitment strategies for Higher Ed

A popular question among many top institutions is how to recruit more students and how to create a student recruitment strategy. Both of which are great questions but have very few answers. 

Now more than ever, we’re all looking for new ways to support our student recruitment: reaching students wherever they are, and giving them the confidence and knowledge to succeed in their higher education journey.

But reaching them is no easy task. With global competition, changing demographics, chaos within the admissions process, and diversifying your institution, standing out in an increasingly competitive crowd is becoming a challenge.

To help you cut through the noise and answer those important questions, we have put together a list of student recruitment strategies that have been adopted by top universities around the world:

Use Student Ambassadors

  1. Student-Generated Content
  2. Virtual Events
  3. Create a Sense of Belonging
  4. Be Authentic

Let’s jump in!

1. Use Student Ambassadors

Peer-to-peer guidance is part of our routine and decision making in everyday life. From Netflix crowdsourcing film recommendations through reviews, to basing our holiday decisions on TripAdvisor feedback, we are prone to listening to guidance if we do not have our own personal experience. Facebook even built recommendations into its posting functionality as users were commonly asking one another similar questions.

So, naturally, it works directly within higher student recruitment and their marketing strategies. That’s where student ambassadors come in.

Universities like Erasmus School of Economics have encouraged their current students to act as the best advocates for the university, sharing their experiences with prospective students, and ultimately providing them with the guidance and feedback that most higher ed student recruitment strategies overlook. 

They found that by connecting an accepted student with a student ambassador increases the likelihood of the student to enroll. In fact, an incredible 90% of accepted students that are connected with an ambassador go on to start at the university. 

Aleksandra Stuip, Online Marketing Adviser, says: “We received a lot of requests from prospective students who wanted to get connected to our current students, but we couldn’t find an efficient and effective way to do this until we came across Unibuddy.

“Then it all fell into place: prospects could get all their answers from our students and we as an institution get to see all the stats and measure the outcome.”

At the end of the day, students want to feel like they are a part of the school they decide to go to. By utilizing peer-to-peer guidance and communication, prospective students will feel more confident and comfortable making these life changing decisions. 

2. Student-Generated Content

User generated content provides a significant impact on a students decision making and brand recognition. Here are some of the stat highlights from Trend.io that support this:

  • 86% of millennials say that user generated content is a good indicator of the quality of a brand.
  • 70% of consumers trust online peer reviews and recommendations more than professional content and copy.

Using the authenticity that comes from user generated content is a great way to boost brand trust, and engage prospective students.

In addition, universities have utilized their students’ creativity through content creation. Not only does this support higher ed recruitment initiatives, it also highlights student engagement and encourages other current students to get involved.

Newcastle University’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences decided to utilize student-created content  in their marketing efforts. Since then, students have written over 600 blogs on a range of topics – and generated 12,000 unique views from prospective students!

Valentina Terrinoni, Marketing and Student Recruitment Officer, said: “We really wanted relevant information we can use to support prospective students from shortlisting to making their final choice.”

Going digital gives universities the ability to curate a personalized experience for prospective students, in addition to blogs, vlogs, and other video content that support the student recruitment process.

3. Virtual Events

We all know that in-person events like Open Days and Applicant Visit Days are the most effective tools for conversion – but have you considered making some of them virtual?

The aim of these virtual events is to connect with your students and create a sense of belonging – providing them reassurance and guidance on their Higher Education journey. That’s peer-to-peer in action, so making these events digital is a great way to get started with online peer-to-peer.

Across education and all sectors, virtual events are replacing and complementing many events in the calendar. Why? Because when done well, they deliver the same impact as in-person events and more, with in-depth information, a truly personalized experience, and a record of important conversations.

Also, it’s completely accessible. Unlike a traditional events that require travel for most prospective students, virtual events connect students from around the world – including countries you may never have recruited from before.

When the University of Exeter ran a fortnightly virtual drop-in, they were able to attract 8 times as many students in comparison to their in-person events.

Emma Heady, Recruitment and Admissions Coordinator, said: “We’ve had a lot more students from overseas. Even for domestic students, Exeter can be a longer journey than getting to some other universities,. We were able to increase our accessibility via these online events with students being able to sign up moments before the start.”

4. Create a Sense of Belonging

Finding the right school is hard. What’s even harder is feeling like none of the schools are meant for you. This is often the feeling of many prospective students simply based on a first impression or feeling from a visit, conversation with an admissions member, or even viewing an institution’s website.

Creating a sense of belonging is one of the most important aspects of a student recruitment strategy. When a student walks into their dream institution for the first time, they want that feeling that they’ve created in their mind to come to life; and it starts with the admissions team. 

Establishing an environment that is inclusive, comfortable, and welcoming should be at the heart of all operations. Follow up with prospective students after a tour or event. Offer personalized chat rooms for students to connect. Design events that you would’ve loved during your search for a higher ed institution, and remove the standard lecture jargon that intimate most students. 

Put yourself in their shoes and the rest will come naturally.

5. Be Authentic

Authenticity is way more interesting than perfection.

Students apply to the schools they find most engaging and this doesn’t happen from copying or replicating another institution. 

Being authentic requires vulnerability, transparency, and integrity, and while it may seem appropriate to appear to be ‘perfect’, this will only distance prospective students from relating and connecting with your school.

Share the quirky traditions your institution has; and if they don’t have one, create it! Broadcast the authentic student and campus life, and encourage current students to express their authentic selves as well. 

Final Thoughts

The benefits from these new student recruitment strategies are hard to ignore, and implementing a system that works to enhance the student experience is becoming more necessary as the higher ed world goes digital. Did you know that Unibuddy can power all of this, and more? Book a demo to see how the Unibuddy platform can enhance your higher education student recruitment process.


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