Higher education recruitment is entering a new era of more educated, virtually savvy audiences than ever before. In that environment, adjusting your enrollment marketing strategy to the modern needs of the next generation has to be at the top of your priority list. The effects of that shift range far and wide. But one core component that needs to be integrated into your enrollment marketing strategy is clear: personalization. If you don’t personalize your efforts, you risk falling behind other higher education institutions and general marketing trends that have shifted audience expectations.

According to a recent study, 88% of marketers across industries saw a tangible lift in performance through more personalized efforts. For more than half of them, those improvements exceeded a 10% lift.

The trend naturally extends to higher education, as well. In fact, a recent Concept3D study showed just how important personalization in any enrollment marketing strategy has become. Both prospective and current students thirst for:

  • Personalized correspondence
  • Tailored content
  • Customized events throughout enrollment

Put it all together, and building a personalized enrollment strategy for college becomes paramount for institutions looking to attract the next generation of students.

The Demand for Personalization in Your Enrollment Marketing Strategy

First-year student sharing personalized emails from a continuing enrollment marketing strategy

In a recent study, Concept3D surveyed 500 current first- and second-year college students and 500 high school seniors. The goal was to capture their perspective on personalization in enrollment marketing. The results, as evidenced by increasing expectations among both audience groups, could not be more clear. Consider these key findings:

Personalization Preferences for High School Seniors

Chances are that your enrollment marketing strategy revolves around high school seniors who are eligible and most interested in applying for college. As our survey shows, this is also a group for which personalization makes a significant difference:

  • 67% of high school seniors expect personalized communication from colleges, like letters, emails, and notifications tailored specifically to their demographics, situation, and interests.
  • 72% of high school seniors expect content from colleges and universities that specifically relates to their interests and academic plans. An example could be content about their major or preferred career path.
  • 86% of high school seniors felt most satisfied by colleges offering personalized touches during events, especially during admitted-student weekends, such as seminars or tailored campus tours.
  • 92% of high school seniors felt that a more personalized experience during the first week of school helped them transition more easily into college and the next stage of their lives.

Put it all together, and one thing becomes clear: a comprehensive, personalized enrollment strategy for college that spans the entire admissions funnel, from initial interest all the way to and beyond enrollment, has become increasingly necessary to attract and engage high school seniors.

Personalization Preferences for Current First- and Second-Year College Students

Personalizing your enrollment marketing strategy for high school seniors is one thing. It’s another thing altogether when the students you have already enrolled talk about the continued importance of the concept and how it helped them both choose your school and embark on a successful academic journey. That’s exactly what our survey showed:

  • 69% of current college students preferred getting personalized messages from the school in which they’re enrolled, regardless of the type of content offered to them. The more personalized, the better.
  • 73% of current college students expect the educational content they receive to be customized to their unique needs, academic paths, and situations. That naturally includes class materials. But it should also include advisory services and any messaging outside the classroom.
  • 87% of current college students mentioned that personalized elements around their admitted student weekends played a significant role in enrolling. Department tours, faculty meetings, financial aid consultations, and more all had a considerable impact.
  • 94% of current college students preferred a more personalized first few weeks at their college, including customized orientations and first-year experiences for a smoother transition to college.

In other words, this is not just a recruitment phenomenon. An entire generation of potential and current students have come to expect personalization and will reward schools that offer it. As it turns out, our survey results are perfectly in line with other research, as well.

Gen Z’s Preference of Personalization

It’s time to talk about Gen Z. As we’ve outlined elsewhere, this is the generation that requires a different marketing approach than that of any that came before them. Personalization is at the forefront of that adjustment.

Studies show that 76% of Gen Z consumers get frustrated when the brands they like don’t offer personalization. That’s probably because 84% say that their favorite brands treat them like individuals, not just like another number adding to the brand’s revenue.

And here’s the kicker: 91% of high school students are happy to give up their personal information to a brand if it means receiving more customized, engaging content in return.

In that environment, your enrollment marketing strategy can’t afford not to be personalized. Get it right, though, and—in the words of Inside Higher Ed—the results may be nothing short of magic:

“Shifting from basic personalization to impactful personalization can change the game for schools. By using conversational websites, progressive info gathering and AI, schools can create real connections and boost engagement. It’s not just meeting students’ expectations—it’s setting a new standard for smart enrollment marketing.”

How Personalization Can Boost Your Enrollment Marketing Strategy

So far, we’ve discussed personalization in higher education messaging as a type of fundamental requirement: if you don’t do it, your audience will punish you. But, while that’s certainly true to some degree, it’s also worth highlighting the positive results you can gain from building a more personalized enrollment marketing strategy.

As any enrollment marketer knows, students are applying to more colleges than ever before. They prefer spreading a wider net and performing more individual research before deciding what school might be right for them.

In that environment, schools that can personalize their efforts stick out even more positively. Be cautious about sending templated messages that will look similar to all other institutions crowding your target audience’s email, SMS, and physical mailboxes. This is the chance for your school to stand out with messaging specifically designed to help your students decide whether your institution is right for them.

In fact, you could argue that this type of personalization can make or break your entire prospective student experience.

Two Paths: Information Intake vs. Personalized Back-and-Forth

Think about the process, keeping the above-mentioned statistic about students being willing to provide their information on a brand website in mind. Imagine yourself in the student’s shoes, providing their academic and extracurricular interests on two college RFI forms. In response, the two institutions respond in different ways:

  1. The first sends an introduction to the school from the admissions director. It’s followed up by a few emails about the positive student experience, alumni outcomes, campus life, and a mailed viewbook.
  2. The second sends an introduction from a professor in the department you showed interest in. It’s followed up by emails from the student club president of your biggest interest and a viewbook tailored around your major.

Which of these two options would you, as a student, respond to? Knowing everything we know about the need for personalization, the answer becomes obvious. Add in more personalized visit experiences and orientation opportunities, and the differences only magnify further. That’s precisely how personalization can significantly boost your enrollment strategy.

Building a Personalized Enrollment Strategy for College

As with any topic, the why in personalized communication tends to move quickly to the what and how. Throughout this guide, we’ve already alluded to a few tactics you can use to build that type of personalization. There are plenty of others we can share in the future, as well. For now, it’s important to keep a few basic concepts in mind as you look to build a more personalized enrollment marketing strategy:

  • Go beyond the basics. A custom first name in an email or subject line is a start. But true personalization goes further, adjusting to each student’s preferences and interests.
  • List segmentation is a key foundation. Personalization in enrollment marketing starts long before the first message is sent. It’s an organizational issue to ensure that you have the database setup necessary to build different interest segments of potential students.
  • Personalize your experiences. It goes beyond messaging, too. For example, consider building comprehensive digital experiences for students that adjust to their interests and backgrounds.
  • Listen to your audience. Finally, never assume that personalization is perfect from the start. Your students may tell you differently. The more you listen to them, the more you can discern what type of content they need.

A personalized enrollment marketing strategy built on this foundation can do wonders. But, of course, you need the right tools to support you in that endeavor.

In other words, you need the right partner for your enrollment marketing tools. Concept3D has helped countless higher education clients accomplish exactly that through customizable interactive maps and virtual tours designed to engage their students. Now, our virtual My Campus Experience takes the concept to the next level. Ready to learn more? Contact us today to get started.