8 Marketing Strategies to Increase Student Enrollment

Marketing Strategies to Increase Student Enrollment in Colleges and Schools

The struggle to get more students to enroll in colleges and universities is real. The experience must be on point, from the first impression on social media to the final campus visit or online interview.

It will get more intense by 2025 when there will be fewer 18-year-olds to enroll. This enrollment cliff is an impact of various factors, including the recession in 2009 when birth rates dropped in the US.

With fewer students to target, you must play your cards right to increase student enrollment. These marketing strategies will help you attract and engage more students, increasing student enrollment in the long run.

Below are some effective marketing strategies to increase student enrollment in colleges and universities.

Table of Contents

  1. Leverage the website as a strong communication tool
  2. Serve students and parents like customers
  3. Encourage student ambassadors to take over social media
  4. Clearly communicate the enrollment process
  5. Market your alumni program
  6. Create value for students
  7. Leverage SEO and social to increase visibility
  8. Create a community for students

Let's take a deep dive into these strategies and understand ways to execute them.

1. Leverage the website as a strong communication tool

Website is your greatest asset when it comes to communicating value. Showcasing academic programs and placements alone may have worked well in the past, but they aren’t enough to increase enrollment in a limited student pool.

Although parents care about their children's career prospects, 18-year-olds have interests in life on campus. Showcase extracurricular activities students can opt for and what it's like to be on campus.

It’s best if you’re active on social media. You can embed live social media feeds on your website to voice students’ experiences in your institution. It proves what other students can expect when they join.

Using promotional marketing content vs. social feed

If you’re a higher education agency marketer or an admissions consultant, you have likely used video testimonials to voice student experiences. It’s sponsored content. 18-year-olds and parents aren’t strangers to this fact.

On the other hand, they perceive social media as more organic. Behind the curtain, it might still be your student ambassador creating content, but it feels like students sharing their perspectives about your college or university on social media. It amplifies and echoes your value.

2. Serve students and parents like customers

The concept of customer support/service might feel strange for a marketing strategy. But it’s relevant. Your present students can be the biggest enrollment driver when they convey positive word-of-mouth to their friends and family.

Think of people who interact with students and find ways to make these interactions smoother and more effective. Be it your faculty or administrative staff, you could encourage them to support students and be more retention-focused. If "retention" bounces back from your ear, you can call it re-recruitment.

Due to the broader breadth of administrative operations, this service delivery often needs to be improved in bigger educational institutions.

Students run from one office to another for requests, queries, and support requirements. You can create a forum or simply onboard a chatbot where students and parents can voice their concerns. It’s best to create a multi-lingual support system for parents for whom English may not be the first or second language.

Providing a singular support channel helps to remove the hassle. It makes students and parents feel more supported, encouraging them to describe your college more positively.

3. Encourage student ambassadors to take over social media

You may love working with social media, but you can do even better by including student ambassadors.” Recruit talented students into content creation to represent your college. Let them take over your social media accounts to convey what it’s like pursuing their higher education in the institute.

It will be easier for student ambassadors to establish trust as they’ll be seen as equals or peers by your target audience. They become a bridge between the college and prospective students, which conveys your college’s reality. Other students will be more receptive to an ambassador’s communication.

UCAN's student ambassador program
UCAN's student ambassador program

Below are some ways student ambassadors can promote your institution on social media.

  • Organize mentoring sessions. Conduct live webinars on various topics for students transitioning from school to college, such as career prospects in different fields.

  • Conduct live interviews with college students. Create informal videos while interviewing random students about what they feel about their experience on campus.

  • Interview faculty experts from different fields. Invite faculty experts from your college to talk about opportunities in their field.

These ways will help you kick off the ambassador program.

Tip: When you create Instagram Reels or Facebook videos, you can embed them on your website to boost visitor engagement. The website is an excellent platform to communicate with students and parents.

4. Clearly communicate the enrollment process

Optimize your website to communicate the jargon that comes up during admissions. For example, students and parents often confuse "test blind" or "test optional" and have many questions about them and what they mean.

Interestingly, "test optional" could mean different things for different institutions. For international students, this is another level of challenge. You could communicate such things to ensure parents and students are well-informed. Putting it in the FAQs section under the courses page is ideal.

Some university websites create separate pages addressing frequently asked questions about such jargon. For example, Cedarville University discusses understanding "test optional" and the questions people might have on a separate landing page.

Marketing Strategy of Cedarville University to communicate the enrollement process on its website
Cedarville University's FAQ page

Note: If you’re targeting a lower-income group, tests may not be a good recruitment tactic, as they cost money.

Given the trends, shorter programs observed the highest growth (2.2%) among undergraduates. The growth is still below the 14.2% recorded in the fall of 2019. If you offer shorter programs, consider showcasing those on your website, preferably as a separate section on the menu.

Add student testimonials and data measuring the impact of short programs on a student’s career.

5. Market your Alumni program

Alums might not donate hefty funds, but their feedback to others can get you thousands of dollars worth of admission revenue per student. Alums are potential influencers for your enrollment management plan.

Amplifying their voice in an alum ambassador program. You can invite them to share their experience in their respective fields and help students decide which course to opt for. Colleges can conduct online webinars with the Alumni as guest speakers to discuss what to expect in the admission test and the process.

Harvard Kennedy School's marketing strategy to increase student enrollment
Harvard Kennedy School's social wall on its website

Community colleges could also keep in touch with students who transfer. They might be alumni of the new institution but are your alums. Let them drive more admission to your institution.

Below are some best practices for building an alum program to increase admissions.

  • Create a hashtag feed. Encourage alums to add a part hashtag when they post on social media about the institution. You show the feed on your website or alums page to motivate them to do so. Flockler lets you easily add a particular hashtag feed on any digital asset. Harvard shares Alumni and Giving Day hashtag feeds on its website using Flockler to build awareness for fundraising campaigns and keep supporters up-to-date with recent events.

  • Find ways to communicate on social media. Create alum pages on Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms. Make periodic announcements about opportunities in the field. Interact with Alumni showing interest, and ensure you don’t lose touch with them.

18-year-olds can access alums on social media. However, their parents will visit the institution’s website for more information. Connect Instagram and other channels with your website to showcase live updating feeds. This would help connect parents with Alumni.

6. Create value for students

Being a college dropout and then an entrepreneur is the talk of the town. However, it is only a minute share of people. Most people drop out or don’t join in the first place when they fall victim to the higher education political narrative that college isn’t required. They get scared by repaying student loans.

Education cost isn’t something a parent or student could ignore. However, if your marketing effectively demonstrates the value, the cost won’t obstruct students from enrolling in your college.

Here are a few things you can do to create value for students.

  • Communicate discounting on tuition and focus on customer service experience from day one.

  • Be more straightforward with costs and always pair that with what students get in exchange for money they have put in.

  • Showcase student success stories on your website. You can invite your alums to discuss how the education and campus contributed to their growth.

7. Leverage SEO and social to increase visibility

Students and parents actively looking for courses on Google or other search engines have better chances to enroll. You can easily attract them to your institution when they rank you on top search results.

Search engine optimization goes way beyond optimizing your website and content for keywords. You need a comprehensive SEO strategy in place to attract target students. To increase local admissions, perform local SEO and focus on your institution’s reviews and ratings for more visibility.

On the other hand, social media marketing, done right, would increase the visibility you get in different geographies. Share student stories and career opportunities on platforms students are more likely to engage in. Instagram and Facebook would be great for starters. Even LinkedIn makes sense when you’re offering professional upskilling courses. You can use the same social content on your website to increase time on the page for visitors, engaging them with stories they’re interested in.

Below are a few other ways to attract more students.

Localizing content

Go into Google Analytics or any other analytics tool you prefer to check the demographics of your website visitors. You can also use first-hand data from your college database to segregate students based on their home state or country.

See how many come from countries where English isn’t a common language. Localize your website content for students and parents to communicate your value easily.

You can use different website translation software to create instances of your website in other languages. It helps gain more visibility for your website in geographies where English isn’t a common language.

Creating an outreach strategy

If you’re just starting, you may not observe the immediate impact of optimization. Until your content gets more visibility, reach out to blogs already ranking for "best courses" related to your offer. Make a list of the blogs, go to LinkedIn, and search for the blog's Content marketing manager, editor, or content marketer.

Similarly, create a list of all blog marketers and start reaching out to them regarding inclusion in their ranking articles. However, make an offer so that there’s something of value for them if they’re ready to collaborate.

Marketing Strategy to get more visibility on Google through inclusion in listicles
An example of a listicle covering the best colleges.

Try establishing long-term partnerships with them instead of short-lived transactional relationships. You could invite them for a webinar or showcase their blogs in your newsletter. These could be a few ways to initiate the collaboration.

Creating a content strategy

There are a lot of ways people could find you on Google. Go to Google Search Console and try to analyze the queries people use to locate you. You can easily export the report and look at what positions you rank for specific queries.

Pick out relevant queries to your institution, and you aren’t ranking for it in the top ten positions. Type those on Google, and observe the result. You will likely see more landing pages and listicles if the search queries have a transactional intent, for example, "best undergraduate offered in computer science."

There will be more editorial-type content (i.e., informative blogs) for queries where users need more information. For example, the University of California wrote a blog on data science to educate readers seeking more information. It ranks fourth on Google in the US for "What is data science." It gets around 15000 monthly organic traffic.

Marketing Strategy to get more visibility on Google through targeting informational intent keyword
University of California ranking on page one.

Leverage the search intent to understand what type of content you want to create to rank for a specific query. Create the content, optimize it for the correct primary and secondary keywords, and distribute it to gain traction.

Ensure you take care of the technical SEO part as you start with this. Remember, these points are just starters; you can do several things beyond this to gain more visibility on SERP. Collaborate with an SEO content marketer to explore further.

8. Create a student portal or a community

High school graduates are naturally excited about joining a college. You can uplift the excitement through a student community where their peers show up and talk about their real experiences. This portal could be a separate page on your website or external communities like Discord. It’s not limited to any platform; you can easily do it on social media and the pages you currently operate.

This is the palace where students can see pictures of shows, upcoming events, celebration calendars and whatnot, making them excited about joining. It makes sense to embed your social media in such communities to display how students actively talk about globally. Social media justifies their excitement when they observe the same in posts students share.

Tip: Think of running a branded hashtag campaign for incoming students and promoting it in the community. Show the campaign on your website with Flockler, encouraging more students to participate.

If you build a student portal, make sure to include:

Creating a community will help incoming students see and hear the talks on campus and experience a sense of belonging. If they’re still on the fence regarding enrollment, the community will help them make a concrete decision in your favor.

If you provide a mobile application, you can embed live social feeds on it to keep your crowd engaged and excited. Mobile applications are easier for students to access. It could be a great channel to keep the community informed and active.

Put these strategies in play

Undergraduate enrollment grew by 1.2 % in Fall 2023; more than a million seats were vacant on different campuses compared to five years ago. The upcoming enrollment cliff in 2025 might further narrow the admission funnel. You must execute the right strategy to get maximum enrollment with a limited student pool.

These strategies will help you stand out when parents and students consider the best institution to enroll in, increasing enrollment in your college. Prioritize the ones that are quick to implement and show results.

If you have an active social media profile, Flockler can help you add it to the website and enroll more students with social proof. It’s the quickest way to increase time on page and engagement while driving more conversions.

With Flockler, you can gather and display social media feeds from your favourite channels. See the full list of supported content types and sources

Flockler helps marketers like you to create social media feeds and display user-generated content on any digital service. Keep your audience engaged and drive sales.

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