3 Tips for Leveraging the Application in Higher Education Marketing
The Application as a Marketing Strategy to Attract Students
Higher education marketing tends to rely on generic, cookie-cutter brochures and mailings to attract students.
Take, for example, the application. The college application is one of the most valuable tools available in higher education marketing — and one of the least frequently leveraged. Use the application as a marketing strategy to attract qualified students.
Why the Application Matters
With undergraduate students applying to more colleges than ever before, a creative, non-traditional application is a unique opportunity to set your institution apart. Students have all the information they need about your institution at their fingertips. They have access to your university’s website, social media, faculty interviews, student testimonials and more, but most universities will have the same digital components available to the public as you do.
It’s time to make your institution stand out with a diverse marketing strategy to attract students.
Leverage your application to appeal to students – students who are clearly already interested in you if they’re viewing your application. Truly hook them with a unique, memorable, authentic application that shows students exactly what they can expect from you.
Here are three tips for better leveraging your application for greater success in undergraduate enrollment campaigns:
#1: Get Creative
I don’t remember most of my college applications, and why should I? They were all basically the same … except for Brown University. I remember how Brown posed non-traditional questions that encouraged creative responses. I didn’t get in, but even after my rejection letter arrived (lengthy ‘woe is me’ post to follow), I held Brown in high regard. They actually placed value in their applicants’ diverse perspectives, and that stuck with me well into my adult life.
As Katrina Schwartz of Mind/Shift says, “Universities say they’re looking for students who are engaged citizens and independent thinkers … but many of the measures used to determine college admission don’t test for those qualities.”
Reimagining the undergraduate application in a creative way is a great marketing strategy your institution can utilize to attract students.
#2: Focus on the Student
For undergraduate applicants, “Tell us why you think [COLLEGE NAME HERE] is a good fit for you” is about as enticing as making the bed. Questions like these commit the cardinal sin of continuing to focus on the school rather than the student. Success in undergraduate enrollment campaigns follows the same rule of Sales 101: it’s all about relationships. By refocusing the application’s attention to the student (e.g. “What are some of your personal values, and how does [COLLEGE NAME HERE] align?”), you can use your application to form a more personal relationship.
In addition, it’s crucial that you reinforce this new relationship by meeting the needs of your prospective students by optimizing your digital presence for mobile. Approximately 2/3 of prospects use a mobile device to look at your application. What’s more, 20-25 percent of prospects remove schools from their list due to a bad mobile experience. Make sure that your website and application are accessible from mobile devices.
#3: Supplement the Common App
Think of this tip as a culmination of the previous two. In adding your institution to the Common App, you’re meeting the needs of your prospects by making it easy for them to apply to your school. This comes with a trade-off: you’re risking fading into the crowd with the rest of the institutions. Use creativity and an authentic relationship with your prospects to stand out. Consider requiring a supplemental essay.
A creative, student-focused essay question is an easy way to ensure your institution stays top of mind among other Common App schools. Come graduation, students are often faced with more than five admissions decisions. Make sure your institution’s name sticks with them, just like Brown’s application stuck with me.