Higher education enrollment marketing is becoming more competitive by the minute. With high school students now receiving outreach from countless sources at every stage in the admissions process, higher education institutions that effectively engage prospective students can put themselves ahead of their competition.

It’s not just about pushing your message through traditional recruitment methods, although brochures and high school visits from your admissions team certainly still play a role. Instead, it’s about finding touchpoints that follow up on those introductions, leveraging innovative initiatives specifically designed to get prospective students to pay attention and put your school top of mind as they consider their options.

From future college students who hear about your institution for the first time to admitted students and beyond, strategic engagement can make all the difference in helping your student recruitment work toward your enrollment goal. These nine tips on how to engage prospective students can get you started.

1. Personalize the Engagement Experience (And Your Marketing Strategy)

Let’s start with the fundamentals. No answer to the question of how to engage prospective students can be complete without considering your ability to personalize your messaging for your target audience. Gone are the days when some generic messages were the only necessary piece of higher ed marketing—if they ever existed. Instead, you have to account for your future students’ unique needs. Tailor everything from your digital marketing efforts to your events to those preferences.

It starts with the right technology to provide access to the right students. Leverage your CRM to collect basic contact information and the interests and preferences of students interested in your school. From there, you can leverage a wide range of personalization options:

  • Personalized emails, starting with simple adjustments like addressing students by their names and dynamically inserting their major of interest
  • Specific audience segments, allowing you to send custom messages based on the majors or other pieces of the student experience each segment may be most interested in (Recruiting and finding the right students to market to can also be just as valuable)
  • Personalized social media interactions that allow and encourage prospective students to reach out directly to your institution or a current member of your campus community

Of course, this personalization can flow across your larger marketing and recruitment strategies. Admissions counselors can better tailor their outreach, while printed materials can be better segmented. Imagine the power of a viewbook that dynamically inserts testimonials from successful alums tailored to each student’s intended major.

2. Virtual Campus Tours

With the COVID-19 pandemic finally in our rearview mirror, admissions offices nationwide are reporting normalizing numbers of on-campus visitors. But there is a twist: virtual tours, so vital for students to glimpse insights into your physical campus and campus life, have not decreased in popularity.

Instead, they’re another opportunity to engage your prospects in new and innovative ways. Allow them to immerse themselves into your campus from the comfort of their homes with features like 360-degree videos. You can even integrate your virtual tour and interactive campus maps to build a more comprehensive, engaging, and immersive online experience.

3. Connect and Engage on Social Media

College students playing an active role in strategies for how to engage prospective students

Social media has been a staple in recruitment marketing for more than a decade. But the ways that higher education institutions use it are changing. It starts with finding the right social media platforms. For your prospective students, Instagram and TikTok will outpace Facebook and X by a long shot. Beyond that, Gen Z uses social media specifically for engagement, which offers an undeniable opportunity.

Sure, you can share content relevant to your future students. But you can also take more direct actions to encourage interaction using features like polls, quizzes, and challenges related to campus life, academics, and student activities. Better yet, consider leveraging your current and graduated students for user-generated content. Create Day in the Life videos, Instagram Takeovers, TikTok challenges, and more.

But don’t stop there. A key part of how to engage prospective students involves connecting your physical and virtual experiences. As you plan and execute innovative campus event ideas, think about how you can connect the event experience to social media through dedicated hashtags, scavenger hunts, and more.

4. Student Ambassador Programs

Broadly speaking, no strategy for engaging prospective students can be complete without involving your current students. They’re the perfect ambassadors to speak on behalf of your institution in a more authentic and peer-to-peer environment.

A formal ambassador program can go a long way toward accomplishing that goal. Hire a group of students who can speak positively and naturally about anything from student life to academic programs, support, and more.

Your admissions guides are probably the most natural fit for this type of role. But they also don’t need to be your only resource. Consider tapping into your residence life assistants, club presidents, SGA members, and other student leaders on campus who are making the most of their college experience and are happy to talk about it.

5. Celebrate Decision Day

The question of how to engage prospective students doesn’t stop when they apply. All the way to—and through—their acceptance, you’ll need to stay in touch with them. Keep them thinking about your institution to maximize yield and minimize melt.

Many of the tactics mentioned in this guide can help with a broad student group. But you can also get more specific. Online and in-person events can help you welcome and celebrate your accepted students. Events can include live welcome sessions, social media challenges, or personalized messages from faculty and staff.

6. Cultivate a Strong Alumni Network

Beyond current students, you can also take your potential student engagement efforts further. Research shows that incoming students yearn for mentors, which your successful alums can become. In fact, many of them will be happy to play their part in helping others have a college experience that is just as successful and memorable as their own.

A formal mentorship program is the ultimate goal. But you can also start small, like building LinkedIn groups in which your alums can provide more general guidance and advice. Guest lectures, career panels, and campus events to which your future students are invited can allow them to learn from and connect with successful graduates. Build a lifelong sense of community that helps them visualize their future at your institution while increasing their own chances of success.

7. Showcase Student Achievements and Campus Life

The fact that your future students want to see others like them can also be aspirational. In fact, one of the keys to understanding how to engage prospective students is understanding the kinds of stories they will relate to.

The same engagement strategies that help with retention can also be used in your recruitment process. Leverage social media, your website, and even printed materials to share student accomplishments, research projects, and more. Then, use the same channels to extend your efforts into showing campus events and extracurricular activities like student clubs.

The key here is showcasing just how vibrant and enriching the experience at your institution can be. Especially when told in visual media, it can become an immensely powerful storytelling mechanism.

8. In-Person or Virtual College Fairs

Of course, even with the best digital tactics in place, sometimes traditional tactics can still provide a great baseline on how to engage prospective students. It’s even better when those traditional tactics are enhanced and evolved through virtual means.

In-person college fairs have always effectively met students where they are and provided basic information about your school. Virtual college fairs take that concept further, opening that possibility to future students from diverse populations.

This is your opportunity to showcase your university’s offerings in depth. Connect with prospective students one-on-one and provide information about the academic programs they’re interested in. You can also take it even further with subject-specific webinars, like financial aid sessions, that provide crucial information to prospective students in real time.

9. Interactive Website Features

Finally, never underestimate your website as a central communication channel during the enrollment journey. The more you can enhance it with interactive features, the more central of an answer it can become to the question of how to engage prospective students.

Features like virtual tours, interactive campus maps, and a dynamic campus event calendar can go a long way toward accomplishing that goal. Chatbots and live chat support can also provide instant assistance on anything related to admissions. You can even build out advanced interactive features, like a landing page with a dynamic admission timeline that adjusts depending on the stage of the funnel your students find themselves in.

Elevate and Personalize Your Higher Ed Enrollment and Marketing Strategy with Concept3D

Engaging your prospective students is a central requirement for reliable enrollment marketing. It’s also inherently complex, requiring more than just a few isolated tactics designed for instant responses. Phone calls and text messages from your admissions counselors matter little if they’re not part of a comprehensive engagement ecosystem that involves your current student and alums, features all parts of university life, and provides plenty of opportunities for interaction.

That ecosystem, in turn, needs technical tools to help it succeed. Enter Concept3D, through which you can build virtual tours, interactive campus maps, and a dynamic campus event calendar that will engage your students. Learn more about our decades of experience in the higher education sector and how we’ve helped colleges and universities of all sizes engage their prospective students by contacting us to request a demo today.