Brain Trust Recap: Undergraduate Enrollment Marketing

On March 25, 2020 we convened more than twenty of our clients and friends in higher ed to discuss the significant challenges around undergraduate enrollment marketing now that most campuses are shut down due to COVID-19.

On March 25, 2020 we convened more than twenty of our clients and friends in higher ed to discuss the significant challenges around undergraduate enrollment marketing now that most campuses are shut down due to COVID-19. With critical in-person yield activities, such as campus visits and Accepted Students Day being cancelled this spring, how can teams still meet their enrollment goals?

Replicating In-Person Events Virtually

Can we replicate or come close to replicating these in-person events in the digital space? Several schools have scheduled Zoom sessions and “Board Room” conference calls (no computers needed), and are also playing around with different time offerings. We recommend using student data to dictate the timing — from a percentage basis, what are the breakdowns of timezones for the prospective or admitted students to whom you’re sending invitations.

University of Hartford example of a save the date for virtual webinar

Widener is launching a series of live and on-demand Zoom sessions, starting a virtual hub to bring critical assets together in one place, and offering 1:1s with students online. University of Hartford has scheduled topic-specific webinars — one about financial aid and admission, and another about orientation and next steps. Make the goals of each session very clear to both internal partners and prospective students.

If you’re struggling with making the transition, here are five steps from the American Marketing Association to pivot from in-person to virtual events today.


While you may schedule a virtual information session or meeting for one hour with prepared content, be sure to leave plenty of time for Q&A towards the end, as prospects will likely have even more questions in this new environment we are currently in.

Colleges are quickly updating their websites by adding more extensive image galleries, videos with available b-roll and previous video footage, and adding more Facebook Live and Instagram stories to their regular mix now. Everyone is also scrambling to update the “visit us” landing page to contain the latest updates, alternatives, and removing traditional registration forms for in-person tours and events.

Virtual Tours

Hood College’s admission counselors saw the writing on the wall last week after travel was shut down while their campus was still open. They ran around taking videos on their phone that will soon be deployed as Instagram stories and in other ways to give students the “on-campus” flavor. University of Hartford is doing regular Instagram takeovers in the morning by students to answer questions.


University of Hartford Instagram takeover example


Changing Calls To Action

Most schools have tidy little calls to action on the top or side of their websites such as “apply,” “request info,” and “visit.” St. John’s University shared that they have updated their “visit” phrasing to “explore” for now and we’ve seen others update to “explore virtually.” 

Promotional Shifts

Some schools reported pausing their digital marketing campaigns, and others with out-of-home advertising are scrambling to see if those contracts can be ended early. Others have reported doubling down on promoting their online programs and some have adjusted their messaging for sensitivity. 

Arizona State University has a hub called ASU for You, which combines a host of resources they offer. This is a smart marketing tactic as a resource especially to parents and teachers during this time when they can influence future students. This likely existed prior to this month, but has become even more relevant and timely now.

Changing Deposit Deadlines

Many schools are starting to move their May 1 deadline to June 1. Hood College is sending out a postcard to touch base with admitted students and let them know the May 1 deposit deadline has been extended by one month.

Sending Swag

We talked about the sensitivities and health precautions around mailing packages to admitted students this season, but many colleges plan to take extra precautionary measures and send anyway. EAB’s survey results indicate that’s something admitted students largely want.

Additional Resources

Can We Help?

These are uncertain times for higher ed and we'd like to offer a strategic half-hour 1:1 session with Rachel Reuben Senor, our VP of Account Strategy. We can discuss enrollment and yield strategies, digital marketing, or just be another set of eyes on your admitted student microsite. Schedule a call today.