We’re coming up on a crucial date for countless colleges and universities across the country. Application deadlines are approaching, and with them a final opportunity to fill the top of your enrollment funnel.
Traditionally, most colleges see the majority of their application come in during the August to November timeframe. Application deadlines are set between November and January, with the goal to encourage the maximum possible applications in that short timeframe before a decision.
Of course, that also means one thing: there’s still just a little bit of time to drive late or last-minute applications. With the right messaging and framework, you can still create interest and action that will later yield quality students. These six proven tactics can help you get there, even on the shortest of timeframes.
1. Incentivize Student Applications
To maximize your chances of convincing those on-the-fence students, incentivize them. Incentives, of course, can come in a number of shapes and forms:
- Dropping your application fee for a specific application campaign (like leading up to a deadline) can attract students who have already applied to other schools.
- Offer intangible incentives, like a college guide only available to new applicants. In-depth content they couldn’t get elsewhere might be a motivator to take that final step.
- Consider promoting a raffle or drawing of all students who apply within a certain time frame.
The tricky part with this tactic is for your incentives to remain ethical. It’s vital to avoid any perceptions of disadvantages for students who chose to apply early. Make sure that any incentives offered to late applications at least partially apply to earlier applicants, as well.
But of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t more heavily promote your incentives to late applicants. An email, mailing, or even phone campaign from admissions counselors can get the attention of late deciders and draw them in your direction.
2. Optimize Your Campus Visits
Campus visits are back. After being on a temporary (and unavoidable) pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities across the countries began offering campus tours and open houses.
Of course, they’re also different than they were before. New safety regulations are only the beginning, as student and parent expectations have changed and with them the need to adjust the traditional visit to entirely new formats.
The good news: savvy admissions offices can take advantage of that fact. In fact, they can build campus visits around the opportunity to drive late applications, especially in the coming months:
- During tours, guide students and families who haven’t applied to the online application.
- Showcase the benefits and highlights of admitted student days.
- Host dedicated application visits, also known as decision days, during which prospective students can bring their application materials and get an admissions decision on the spot.
Of course, these visits need to be planned and promoted carefully. Given the overall importance of the campus visit, integrating the two could go a long way towards driving late applicants.
3. Take Your Show on the Road
Of course, any strategy to attract students who have not yet decided that your school is the right choice cannot be centered only around your physical location. It has to take into account that sometimes, to attract the right students, you have to go to them and meet them where they are.
That, in turn, is possible through a number of opportunities:
- Host localized decision days at relevant locations for your students. Good places could be feeder high school or in towns where you typically draw a significant number of applicants.
- Work directly with guidance counselors to spread the word, especially at schools where a guidance counselor may already have a connection to your school.
- Take your paper application on the road to college fairs and high school visits. This allows students to apply on the spot and in almost any situation.
Again, these tactics need coordination. At the same time, they tend to have a relatively high application rate, largely because you are removing friction for prospective students. The easier you can make the process for them, the more likely they will become to take that step and submit their application.
4. Leverage Your Alumni Network
Alumni of your school are, in many ways, your most important recruiting tool. They’re enthusiastic about their experience, and cannot wait to share that experience with those in their personal and professional network. As you drive towards that application deadline, you can leverage them in both simple and more complex ways:
- Let them know about your application deadline. Through a regular newsletter or dedicated email, this simple step may drive some of your most loyal alumni to help you recruit.
- Provide them with recruitment materials. For example, letting them know about the application incentives or events mentioned above.
- Offer tangible incentives for alumni-connected applicants. Some schools offer an alumni scholarship (even renewable at times) for any applicants who can prove a personal connection to an alumna/us of the school. If financials are the reason for the hesitation to apply, actively promoting this type of incentive could push them across the finish line.
Never underestimate the power of your school’s alumni. In many cases, at least some recruitment and referral opportunities already exist. Working with your college’s alumni office can unearth these opportunities and help attract late applicants.
5. Run a Targeted Digital Campaign
Digital advertising can be a great fit for college recruiting because of how specific you can get. In this case, you’re able to specifically target potential students who are most likely to fit your ideal applicant profile.
The setup differs by network but typically revolves around demographic targeting around your ideal applicant profile. Think about the students you want to reach, and who are most likely to look like your current or desired student body. You can then upload a list of current applicants, making sure that your ads will not target anyone who has already applied.
From there, it becomes a messaging game. Make your most compelling case for an application from the jump or simply call to encourage them to apply. Then, run the campaign until your application deadline. Don’t forget to periodically update the exclusion list of current applicants.
The budget of your digital campaign can vary widely, making this a great fit for colleges of any size. The more targeted, the more you’ll be able to reach and convince those late applicants.
6. Streamline the Digital Visit Experience
Finally, don’t underestimate the role that virtual visits play in the applicant journey. Virtual tours especially have taken on a central role in attracting potential students and helping to communicate your university’s core brand and story.
At the same time, too many schools still see those virtual visits and tours as a compact, self-contained experience. The good news: they don’t have to be. Through a number of opportunities, you can drive directly to the application up until the day of your application deadline:
- Integrate call to action buttons that either drive directly to your application or to a splash page introducing your application.
- Call out your application deadline in both promoting the virtual tour and the tour itself, upping the urgency for potential students.
- Highlight events like Decision Days in your supplementary tour content to increase registrations and subsequent applications.
The more you integrate your application process into your tour, the better. It becomes a natural next step that flows naturally from tour to the app, increases your chances of conversion up to the last day on which applications are considered.
Building a Better Virtual Visit For Late Applications
Recruitment marketing is a complex topic, and driving late applications can be especially nuanced. You have to walk a thin line between improving the top of your funnel, and avoiding any annoyance of audiences who are just not that interested in submitting an application.
Planning both messaging and tactics thoughtfully is absolutely vital. Fortunately, we can help at least with one aspect: through Concept3D’s virtual tours, you can streamline the digital visit experience through virtual tours that don’t just showcase your campus beauty, but tell your university’s story and drive actions like college apps.
We’re here to support you and can help until the last day of your application window. Ready to talk more about the possibilities? Contact us today to get started.