11 Mistakes Higher Ed Recruitment Marketers Make Explained in GIFs

With thousands of colleges trying to attract prospective students, it can be hard to stick out in the crowd. Avoid these mistakes to reach your full student recruitment potential.

College and university recruitment marketers have a more challenging job than ever. The higher education landscape is in flux and hitting enrollment numbers is crucial- but with thousands of colleges trying to attract prospective students, it can be difficult to stick out in the crowd. 

That’s where an innovative digital marketing strategy comes in. Getting all the pieces right helps draw in prospective students and is key to a school’s long-term success. If you’re a higher ed digital marketing making certain mistakes, you could  miss out on your full student recruitment potential. Here are some of the most common mistakes we often see, along with our reactions in GIF form.

1. Appealing to only one type of student

You might think this is a no-brainer, everyone knows each college student is different and diverse. However, lots of Higher Ed marketers forget this when striving to make meaningful and effective connections with prospective students. While sending out the same ad and message to every prospective student might save time and money, it is definitely not the most effective way to get the attention of all your potential future students. Instead of one-size-fits-all messaging, map out all the different types of students you want to appeal to and then create marketing pieces that cater to each individual segment.

How rude gif

2. Writing off students who take a long time to apply

Not every student is ready to apply to your school the first time they visit your website. Many factors contribute to when they will apply to a school, including finances, family needs and uncertainty about what they want to study or how far away from home they want to live. But at this moment of uncertainty, it is crucial for higher ed marketers to take the proactive step of building a relationship of trust and credibility with an undecided student. By helping a prospect feel like they are part of campus life before they apply, you can replace fear and uncertainty with a sense of belonging and community that drives application and enrollment.

Britney Spears gif

3. Showing images of an empty campus

While we all love seeing beautiful landscape photos of a gorgeous college campus splashed across a website, prospective students really want to see beyond the facade. They want to know what campus life is really like; where will they sleep, eat, and socialize. Those are essentials for any college student, so you’ll want to show them lively and realistic images like the food at dining halls, actual dorm rooms with students living in them, students hanging out, chatting, having fun, occasionally studying, hitting up the gym or meeting up with their friends for a round of ultimate frisbee - you get the idea.

Milhouse playing frisbee by himself

4. Not having an admitted students website

Congratulations! You've succeeded in recruiting the right students, they've been accepted and are now proudly showcasing that acceptance letter to their parents, friends, and teachers. The excitement is bubbling, but other offer letters might be on the way and the time between receiving all these offers and actually making a decision is crucial. That’s why it’s important for colleges and universities to create websites designed just for accepted students. Need some inspiration for your admitted students website? Take a look here at some of our favorites.

Penguin reading a book gif

5. Forgetting about social media channels

Having a presence on all sorts of social media channels is great as it’s where the young and cool kids are spending most of their free time these days. However, you’re making a big mistake if you’re not keeping these platforms up to date by scheduling content regularly and monitoring reactions and interactions from your followers (who are also your prospective students). Failing to do so can not only weaken your online presence and SEO rankings, but can also deter students from applying to your school.

Etna hitting Elastigirl with a newspaper

6. Posting the same content across all digital platforms

Now that you've improved your social channels by regularly posting content and interacting with your followers, there is another trap that you could be falling into.  While it can be a challenge to manage your school’s presence across several social media channels, it is important not to simply copy and paste the same content for each platform. To avoid posts that are bland and, more often than not, irrelevant, segment your audience and post content that will appeal to each group accordingly.

A cat being hit by a toy train

7. Not optimizing the mobile user experience

If you still haven’t fully embraced mobile on your website, you’re missing out on tons of prospective students. The number of searches performed on mobile devices has been on a steady rise for years, as has the growth in traffic from mobile. It’s not a surprise that prospective students are accessing your website from smartphones, tablets, phablets or similar devices, so keeping your website mobile-friendly will keep prospective students interested and engaged.

A man confused by his phone

8. Not having clear calls-to-action to sign up for a campus visit

When it comes to increasing enrollment, there’s only one metric that really matters — the rate of admits who matriculate after having visited the campus. In simple terms, the more students who visit your campus, the more students who chose to attend your school, but you have to start by getting them to visit. Burying calls-to-action or the campus visit form itself will cost you students, big time.

A flock of flamingoes

9. Forgetting about all decision makers involved in the process

While it makes sense to target and market to prospective students, they shouldn’t be your only audience. Forgetting about all the other behind-the-scenes actors, including parents and guidance counselors, is a big mistake as they have a lot of sway in the decision-making process. There should be content on your website that appeals to each of these different audiences. Students are most concerned with campus life and the quality of dining hall food, parents want to know about safety, financial aid, and outcomes, while guidance counselors are looking for the right academic programs and resources, as well as acceptance rates.

Julie Andrews

10. Not having an immersive online tour

Even though nothing is as valuable a recruitment tool as a campus visit, online tours can be an effective way to show your school off to prospective students. With so many schools trying to reach more international students who may not be able to make a trip to campus, an immersive online tour can help convince them yours is the right school.

A monkey throwing a computer

11. Not talking about campus life from a student’s perspective

This one seems like a no-brainer. Prospective students want to learn more about a school by hearing directly from current students or alumni, which means you should be engaging your students to tell their impressions of campus life. Have them share their stories on video which can then be posted to your YouTube channel, source content from current students via Instagram or Facebook, or set up an online radio streaming site for your college.

Tim Gunn looking confused