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July 23, 2021

As we inch toward the end of summer and what will be the beginning of a new school year, we’ve got education on the mind. And we know that for our education clients, this time of year usually comes with a sense of relief. 

Why? Because new students are finally on campus (or online) and pressing go on their experiences after what can be a grueling process of both recruiting and navigating the challenges of the admissions process (until it’s time to start it again, because the right time to start thinking about recruiting applicants for next year is now.)

Whether you’re recruiting applicants for a university or a K–12 school, reaching the right students and families with the message of why your school is the perfect fit for them can be challenging. We’ve been to the student recruitment rodeo more than a few times over our decade-plus of business, so here are our five key components of a successful admissions campaign.

Strong strategy and targeting

First and foremost, the most crucial part of any effective campaign is a thoughtful and well-informed strategy. Based on your school’s goals and budget, plan out the different tactics you want to utilize, from social and programmatic placements to advanced platforms like streaming audio and OTT/CTV. 

Then, use your institution’s unique positioning and historical data surrounding demographics and past campaigns to build target audiences for both students and parents based on geography, interests, and more. (Does this sound like a lot of work or a little intimidating? Don’t worry — this is arguably the area where we help our clients the most!)

Dynamic creative showcasing students 

At the end of the day, an admissions campaign is about enticing students to attend your school. And what better way to do that than to show them what their experience would be like through the eyes of their peers? When you create dynamic assets such as videos or graphics for your campaign, make sure you include as many real-world photos, examples, or testimonials from your current students as possible. That can even mean sourcing user-generated content from those students to provide a more authentic glimpse into student life.

In this creative, we utilized photos and videos from past student Instagram takeovers to showcase an authentic look into the student experience.

Young people are highly influenced by their peers, and giving them opportunities to see reflections of themselves in your admissions content can give them that extra nudge to apply. (The same goes for parents, who are looking for reflections of their own younger students in your school’s materials.)

Demonstrated diversity and inclusion 

This is especially important if your school has a historical tendency to be classified as an institution for a certain “type” of student, whether that be with regard to class, gender, race, or something else. There’s no better way to challenge stereotypes or narratives of elitism than through powerful storytelling that demonstrates your school’s commitment to welcoming, supporting, and including students and families from diverse backgrounds.

When planning your campaign, make sure that every element of your materials, from the photos you select to the messaging you write, creates opportunities for students and families to see themselves and their experiences represented in your school’s story. 

Optimized website user experience and digital journey 

Awareness is great, but we all know that at the end of the day, an admissions campaign is driving for actions: clicks to a website, clicks on an “apply now” button, and so on. Make sure that in addition to your creative materials, you’re also giving thought to the user journey that an interested student or parent will take once they arrive at your website via a social or digital ad. Are the actions you want them to take next clearly visible on the page, or are they buried beneath text or tabs? Could the campaign benefit from a custom microsite where audiences can fill out a form for lead generation? Perhaps most importantly, is your website mobile-friendly? 

Remember: You’re using time, resources, and dollars to drive people to your admissions pages — you don’t want to get them there only to have them leave because they get confused or can’t figure out what they should do next. 

Powerful brand messaging and differentiation 

There is no shortage of educational institutions for students and parents to choose from, regardless of whether we’re talking about college or K–12. So, at the end of the day, what makes your school different? Is it your boarding program and student-created curriculum? Your campus features and renowned faculty? Figure out where your school adds value that other competitors do not, and infuse that throughout your messaging to make it truly stand out. 

Like we mentioned up front, even though a new batch of students are currently preparing to begin at schools and universities far and wide, the right time to start preparing to recruit your next cohort of applicants is now

With proper attention paid to the five components above, you’ll be on the way to success. If you’re looking for even more guidance and digital marketing expertise, reach out today to discuss your admissions challenges and start working toward a solution together. 

About the Author

Valerie Hoke

As an associate creative director at ChatterBlast, Valerie leads editorial and strategic efforts companywide. In addition to having a weird lifelong obsession with bagpipes, she likes scouring the city for the best Mexican food and telling people she’s from Arizona.

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