Higher education enrollment management is a challenging game. Lower high school graduation rates, coupled with the public’s increasing lack of confidence in the four-year degree model, can make it difficult to attract and retain students for both private and public universities.
But at the same time, this challenge is far from impossible. After all, even in the midst of these trends, a wide range of schools are still thriving. As we move into the new year, it’s time to assess your strategies to increase college enrollment.
There is, of course, no single magic bullet solving the question of how to increase student enrollment in college in 2024. Instead, it’s about a mix of strategies that all drive toward that ultimate goal: increasing enrollment. From messaging to personalization and channels to analytics, this guide can help you get there,
Meaningful Messaging to Get Student Attention
First, and perhaps most importantly, is a renewed emphasis on differentiation. In fact, any strategy on how to increase student enrollment in college will only succeed if it revolves around messaging that effectively communicates your institution’s unique value proposition in a meaningful way.
That value proposition can come in a wide range of ways:
- A strong focus on outcomes and how your classes, professor-student relationships, and practical experiences are geared toward career success
- Unique aspects of your student and campus life, like niche clubs or a strong tie-in with the local city or town
- Your approach to academics and degree pathways, like a stronger support system for undecided students or a strong liberal arts core
Don’t be afraid to give in-depth content. Especially as you move down the enrollment funnel, students and their parents will want to know more than just the platitudes other institutions also say. The more meaningful you can make your messaging, the better.
Embracing a Storytelling Approach
Speaking of messaging, storytelling has become one of the most successful strategies to increase college enrollment, and for good reason. There’s a science behind its power, with our brains becoming more likely to learn and remember information told through stories:
If a story is good, it doesn’t matter whether the brand is well known—the story will carry the message forward. This is great news for emerging brands and those with smaller marketing budgets. Plus, with more owned communications outlets and native marketing channels, brands can share their stories without relying on traditional gatekeepers.
In higher education marketing, storytelling can take on a number of shapes. But it will likely come back to finding the people who are most authentic in telling your institution’s story: your professors, students, and alums.
Work with them to convey your story and value proposition more meaningfully and authentically. Supplement outcomes statistics with alums discussing their careers and how your institution helped them get there. Have your students talk about student life and experiential learning opportunities. The more you weave these different voices into your messaging, the better.
An Omnichannel Approach to Marketing
Enrollment marketing has never been able to rely on a single channel. But at the same time, any institution looking for how to increase student enrollment in college has to embrace the omnichannel approach that will increasingly become vital in higher education messaging.
Students no longer take a linear approach to enrollment. Instead, they may come across and research your institution in a wide range of ways, making it vital to build your digital strategy with an omnichannel focus:
- Treat your college website as the hub of all information—while still making it easy for students to take the next steps, like scheduling a campus visit or applying.
- Use social media as a way to deliver authentic content about your institution. For example, form a student ambassador program to create and deliver messaging from the student perspective.
- Connect your physical and virtual channels. Align mailing materials with digital messages or ensure that your virtual and physical campus tours highlight the same pieces in the same ways.
- Build advertising campaigns to reach beyond students and parents already aware of you while still focusing on a consistent target audience with whom your messaging will resonate.
This type of omnichannel approach takes significant planning to get right. But once you get there, it will become one of the most powerful strategies to increase college enrollment in 2024 and beyond.
Digging Deep Into Enrollment Analytics
The days of relying on gut feelings in higher education marketing are over. Any effort related to how to increase student enrollment in college in 2024 will need to include a strong analytics component that can show ROI and point more directly to improvement opportunities.
Enrollment analytics are relevant across the admissions funnel. But their nature changes as students move from becoming aware of the institution to making their final enrollment decision:
- Awareness stage: Metrics like content reach, website visits, and inquiry sign-ups matter most.
- Consideration stage: Metrics like campus visits and applications become most relevant.
- Decision stage: The admit rate and deposit rate take center stage for students looking to find their college home.
As we move into 2024, it’s no longer just about collecting these metrics. Instead, it’s about digging deeper to understand how each one might influence future enrollment strategies.
Use analytics to determine what marketing channels are worth investing in most. Leverage A/B testing to see which messaging resonates more than others. You can even use it to understand how each of your target audience segments reacts to your messaging and channel strategy, refining your efforts for more success over time.
The First Priority: The Next Step
As you look for ideas on how to increase student enrollment in college, how intentional is your messaging? Sure, you need to build a relationship with your audience through relevant messaging. But at the same time, you always need to ensure that your channel and messaging strategies guide students through the funnel and through their natural next steps.
Those next steps, of course, can differ based on the stage of the enrollment funnel your audience finds itself in. We’ve already mentioned some of them above, like completing inquiry forms and scheduling a campus visit. Identifying what they are comes first, followed by strategic ways to build them into your larger strategy.
Consider your virtual tour as an example. We know from experience that students across the enrollment funnels seek out virtual tours, from first researching schools to preparing for orientation. That means you need relevant calls to action across that funnel, including anything from scheduling a physical campus visit to signing up for orientation. The more strategically these next steps are placed, the better.
The Next Level of Personalization
Any guide on how to increase student enrollment in college for 2024 is impossible without discussing personalization. Done right, personalization can boost every part of your enrollment marketing strategy. Students demand it, and technology has made it increasingly possible. Just some of the ways to increase enrollment through personalization include:
- Asking about student preferences early in the funnel to guide future campaigns
- Creating personalized drip campaigns
- Building personalized web content
- Personalizing your calls to action
- Integrating mass customization into your texting
- Considering selective chatbot applications
- Personalizing your interactive maps through custom layers and smart data feeds
- Building comprehensive personalized campus experiences
Regardless of the strategies you embrace, personalization will be key to a successful enrollment strategy in 2024. Finding ways to personalize your experience, especially through more immersive tools like 360º virtual tours and interactive campus maps, can help your institution stand out from others that still use largely standardized, linear channels to attract their future students.
MarTech as an Automation Machine
The final step in how to increase student enrollment in college is to both understand and maximize your ability to leverage marketing technology (MarTech). We’ve already mentioned some of that technology throughout, of course. Effective CRM software can drive personalization. Tools like virtual campus tours can build more immersive experiences. But that’s only the beginning as you look to drive more student engagement.
Experts across the board expect marketing technology to play an increasingly central role across industries in 2024. As cookie-based marketing becomes less feasible, platforms that collect first-party user data matter more, enabling marketers to gather vital information about their audience to leverage for more relevant, personalized messaging.
In fact, the argument could be made that any of the above strategies for how to increase student enrollment in college are aided by, and benefit from, the implementation of the right marketing technology. Finding the suite of tools needed to drive your own enrollment strategy will be central to maximizing your enrollment success in 2024 and beyond.
That’s where Concept3D comes in. As an experienced higher education MarTech partner, we know what it takes to build immersive digital experiences. And, with additional tools like Localist, we can hook into different pieces of the experience, like campus events, to optimize your enrollment marketing success. Ready to learn more? Contact us to start the conversation.