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A lot of thought goes into choosing a college or university, particularly as prospective students prepare to begin a new chapter in their lives. This big decision hinges on various factors, from academics and finances to student life and career prospects—all of which are aspects of a school that can be used by marketers to better stand out in a highly competitive space. By understanding the top factors students consider when choosing a college, you can help your school develop a competitive advantage and attract new prospects. 

Here’s a quick look at the factors that matter most to prospects and how you can use them to make your school stand out.

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1. Reviewing Admission Requirements Before Student Enrollment

The admissions department acts as a gateway to a school, helping to clarify what type of students the school is looking for and selecting prospects that are a great fit. Although this system can work, it’s important to note that tough admissions requirements can turn prospects away.

When looking for the right college, university or program, many students look at the admissions requirements to see if they qualify. This is a critical moment for a school, marking the moment when prospects decide to either submit an application or move on to another school. According to an ICEF Agent Voice survey, more flexibility in admission processing and requirements was among the top three enrollment factors noted by over 1200 agents. As such, schools boasting an open approach when it comes to admissions can more easily motivate prospects to make the leap and apply. 

Example: On its “Guide to Applying” page, Reed College emphasizes its stance on being a test-blind and test-optional school, an approach that is growing in popularity to make higher education more accessible.  

Source: Reed College

Schools that embrace transparency in their admission policies in this way have a better chance of appealing to a wider group of prospects. This is particularly the case since admissions requirements are a major pain point for prospective students on their enrollment journey.

2. Engage Prospects with High-Quality Academic Programs

Unsurprisingly, a high-quality academic program is one of the key motivating factors prospective students consider when choosing a college. Students today want a curriculum that suits their unique needs and interests, and they often consider the academic rigor and level of commitment needed as well as the subjects and type of programs available. 

Schools that offer various programs and delivery methods have an upper hand over those that do not, particularly as online and hybrid learning options take off. That said, schools that specialize in a unique field or industry are also better positioned to target a niche audience and attract a specific group of prospects. Embracing inbound marketing to make your school shine can help you appeal to your personas and help your school’s offerings resonate more effectively with them. 

With inbound marketing efforts, you can highlight how your programs fill a gap in the industry or allow students to broaden their horizons, thus distinguishing your school from its competition. 

Example: Discovery Community College published a Facebook post to bring attention to its Health Care Assistant program. Students already considering a future in this field may be drawn to apply thanks to the information provided, namely the program duration and accreditation, making it stand out from competing programs. 

Source: Discovery Community College Facebook

Pro Tip: It’s worth noting that creating a video is a great way to instantly attract new prospects and generate results. Research shows that 87% of marketers report that video produces a positive ROI. Your school can use video to promote its programs as prospects look to fulfill the top factors students consider when choosing a college. Below is an example of how Centennial College takes this approach:

Source: Centennial College TikTok

Spotlight Your Faculty and Research Through Inbound Marketing

As you focus on showcasing your academic excellence, you may want to consider spotlighting your faculty and research contributions. Since education is intangible and “inseparable” from the instructors/professors who provide it, students will likely want to know who teaches the curriculum and what their unique qualifications are.  

This gives you a great opportunity to introduce important faculty and share standout research and portfolios. In doing so, you can show prospects that your school has highly qualified expert instructors who care about their students and help them achieve excellence.

Another way to make your program stand out is by showcasing student projects and achievements. This is a great way to make the intangible tangible and show potential students that your programs lead to real results. 

Example: On the Academic Experience page of their website, Barnard College emphasizes its undergraduate research opportunities by sharing a link to student research programs and an article breaking down what current students are working on.

The link to the article on what students are working on presents three student profiles, outlining each student’s research and background. This deep dive can resonate with individual prospects as they navigate the process of choosing a college, giving them something that inspires them to enroll at the school.

Source: Barnard College

Since prospective students want to know what other students and graduates have to say, it can be extremely beneficial for your school to feature student testimonials to promote its academic excellence. In addition to blog posts and news articles, you can choose to share student feedback on social media. Below is an example of an Instagram post created by Oxford College, showing prospects the benefits that students can gain from their Medical Office Assistant program:

Source: Oxford College Instgram

Looking for personalized support with your inbound marketing efforts? Our team of industry experts embraces a hands-on approach to help you develop your inbound marketing strategy. Reach out to get started and get ahead of your competition!

3. Highlight Your Campus 

One major consideration when choosing a school is its location. Some students may be drawn to local schools for accessibility, while others may be seeking to travel and study abroad for new cultural experiences. Alternatively, prospects may be motivated by the rising popularity of online learning and consider studying from home. All of these options illustrate how important location is when choosing a college or university. 

Being able to emphasize your location in your inbound marketing efforts can help you attract prospects as they navigate the decision-making process. This step can be a way for your school to address some of the motivations and concerns of your student personas, ensuring that you appeal to the right prospects with the right offerings.

Showcasing Your Campus Facilities and Location with Social Media

Social media is a great place to showcase your college campus, especially since your target audience is likely active on several social platforms. As prospects consider which college is right for them, they may turn to social media for guidance and insight. Your school can use this space to host virtual tours featuring student ambassadors, reveal popular spots on campus, share key campus services, and even highlight special facilities or unique amenities. This also allows you to create compelling video content that makes it easy for prospects to imagine life on your campus.

Example: In a YouTube video, King’s College London introduces one of its student ambassadors as they provide a virtual campus tour. During the video, the student shares interesting facts and insights about the campus history that naturally draw prospects in:

YouTube video

A simpler approach can also be taken when it comes to creating these types of videos. Auckland University of Technology shared a short video on its TikTok page, showing the best study spots on its city campus:

Source: Auckland University of Technology TikTok

The video uses basic editing and a relaxing soundtrack instead of a voice-over, letting the footage do most of the work. A simple video like this can give prospective students a better idea of what the campus looks and feels like without draining your team’s resources.

4. Break Down Tuition Costs and Financial Aid Opportunities

Just as school location is an important criterion when choosing a college, so is the cost of tuition. Prospective students are seeking an affordable education, giving schools that offer scholarships, grants, bursaries, and other financial aid support an advantage. According to the same ICEF Agent Voice survey mentioned earlier, scholarship offers and financial aid incentives are viewed as the most important drivers of student recruitment, making them top factors in choosing a college.

Schools offering financial support can more effectively attract students, especially those concerned about tuition costs. By dedicating a page on your school’s website to various financial aid opportunities, you can show prospects that you care about their concerns and are here to help. The Canadian Career College does exactly that with a web page geared towards helping prospects finance their education:

Source: Canadian Career College

Prospects who may be overwhelmed by managing the cost of their education can feel more prepared with the help of these resources. Listing them clearly and providing relevant links makes it easier for prospects to review their options, giving them the support they need to enroll confidently at your school. Not only can this help you establish brand loyalty with prospective students, but it can also set you apart in the highly competitive education market.

5. Introducing Fun Student Activities 

Social activities and fun events can easily attract students to your school. Schools with active student life programs promise exciting student experiences, allowing students to try new things and fuel their personal growth. By promoting your student activities, you can give prospects a taste of what it would be like to be a student at your school. 

There are many options to explore as you begin developing and promoting your events. This includes open day events and in-person campus tours as well as any festivities, fundraisers, workshops, or seminars. You can choose to live stream these events or post about them on social media. By doing so, you can maximize the benefits of hashtags and better engage your audience as they decide to enroll. 

Example: The University of Leeds shared an Instagram reel that showcases the school’s Open Day event. Through the video, prospects can see what the event entails—including everything from the information fair and accommodation tour to mini golf and lunch at the refectory:

Source: University of Leeds Instagram

These fun and short videos are not the only way to showcase your school’s student activities. By creating a school blog, Algonquin College set up a dedicated space for sharing relevant articles and news about everything future and current students may want to know. This includes a section on Student Life, which shares posts about activities and events on campus as well as staff introductions:

Source: Algonquin College

6. Attract Potential Prospects by Emphasizing Your Student Services 

When looking for the right college, students will be focusing on schools that suit them best—schools that care about their needs and concerns. Students typically want to know that they will be supported as they navigate their learning experience. This support can come in different forms, like dedicated support for international students, housing, and academics. Your school may also offer unique campus services or even career support, making it particularly attractive to prospects seeking this type of dedicated care and guidance. 

Highlighting your student services in your marketing efforts can help you draw in potential students. By showcasing an existing support network, prospects can rest easy knowing that your school will set them up for success. 

Example: Langara College highlights its services on its Instagram account, creating a story that introduces new students and prospects to relevant and helpful services on offer.

Source: Langara College Instagram

Prospects interacting with this story learn all about Langara College’s student services, including everything from accessibility and counseling services to career development and financial aid. Images and short blurbs on each service make it easy for prospects to anticipate what they can gain from your school before enrolling.

Drawing in Prospects Considering with Career Support

The most important factor students consider when choosing a college or university is career outcomes. Education is an investment, and prospective students need to know they’re making the right choice by investing in your school. By highlighting your career services, you can show prospects that your school prepares them for success in their chosen field, ready to guide them as they launch their own careers and move on with their exciting future. 

When taking this approach, you can emphasize all kinds of activities organized by career services, including internship opportunities, field placements, resume reviews, co-op programs and more.

Example: Under the Student Resources section of its website, LaSalle College has a dedicated page on Career Services. Here, prospects can learn about the different initiatives in place to help them secure their dream job:

Source: LaSalle College

Scrolling further down the page, prospects can view a video that breaks down the process and builds their expectations:

YouTube video

Having this information laid out so clearly can influence a prospect’s decision to enroll, particularly since career support is a major selling point. As you work towards improving your student recruitment strategy, consider making content that clearly addresses career concerns and motivations. 

7. Boost Inquiries by Encouraging Prospects to Reach Out 

As you know by now, there are many factors that students consider when choosing a university. Schools that are easy to contact and quick to respond to student queries have a unique advantage. Research shows that placing live chat cues, telephone numbers, and emails prominently–along with financial aid information–can help drive a prospect more quickly to action and turn them into an applicant. The same research also shows that simply adding a live chat feature to a program page nearly doubles conversions.

With this in mind, consider making your school more accessible to its prospects. You can do so by making it easy for them to find your contact details, send an inquiry form, or chat with your admissions team, current students, or even alumni.

Example: Berkely College embraces this technique on their website, creating a clear section for prospects to chat with admissions:

Source: Berkeley College

By clicking on the call to action, prospects are directed to a brief form within the live chat feature. This attention to detail and readiness to connect with prospects can transform a school into a top contender.

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