Some students will never make it to your website. Instead, they will turn to college search platforms and social media channels to make key decisions about which schools will – or will not – make it onto their list. And if a student does make it to your .edu, there is a strong possibility that they have already learned about your school on a third-party site.
I know what you’re thinking: “Which third-party sites are students using, and how do I make a great first impression?”
College search platforms like Cappex and Naviance are primary college research tools among Gen Z. In 2021, PowerSchool’s annual Naviance student survey found that 62% of Naviance students ranked the platform as their top resource for researching colleges. Optimizing your content on these platforms can have a strong impact on your recruitment goals, regardless of your size, location, or academic offerings. For many students, your college profile page is the first interaction they’ll have with you – so you need to make it count.
In this post, we’ll break down the top 3 things to consider when curating your college profile page.
Content is key, but keep it short
Gen Z has a razor-thin attention span. With the rise of smartphones and search engines came the ability to acquire information in mere seconds and these students expect no less from the colleges they are considering. To keep their attention, you must put yourself in your students’ shoes; what are their biggest questions and concerns? What kinds of resources will help them make decisions about where to apply? Remember, your profile page is intended to sell your institution to prospective students – but you need to capture their attention quickly. Think of it this way: if you only had 60 seconds to tell a student about your school, what would you want them to know and what would keep them wanting more?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to these questions – it will depend on your school’s geography, cost of attendance, academic offerings, student body, and more. Based on our analysis of existing college profiles, these are the topics that we’ve found to be the most common among our partners, in no particular order:
- Admissions requirements and deadlines
- Student outcomes
- How to demonstrate interest
- Precollege programs
Once you know what you need to convey, remember that Gen Z also prefers content that is genuine and interactive. Try to keep text to a minimum and leverage interactive formats, like videos and virtual tours, to convey your student experience in the most authentic way possible.
It's also important to provide students with as much up-to-date information as possible. Over the summer, as your team prepares for recruitment season, you’ll want to conduct an audit of your profile pages to make sure that your requirements and deadlines are accurate, new majors and programs are accounted for, and upcoming events are being publicized. Students will often return to these platforms throughout the fall with procedural questions, so you’ll want to make sure that your page addresses them.
Be mindful of where you place your content
Your profile page will contain multiple sections, which may be broken out into separate tabs. You’ll almost always have space for an “overview,” which is what the student will see first. From there, you may have options to complete a section for cost of attendance, the admissions process, student life, and more. On Cappex, you’ll also have an “inside scoop” tab, which you can customize to display anything that you like.
On both Cappex and Naviance, we’ve found that students primarily navigate to just one or two tabs. Between June 2021 and June 2022, the Overview tab in Naviance received more than double the amount of web traffic compared to the Studies, Costs, and Student Life tabs, and the Admissions tab was the second most popular section. On Cappex, student preferences were similar, with the Overview and Inside Scoop tabs being the most well-trafficked. This underscores the fact that students will treat your profile page like a Google search – they will rarely navigate to more than 2 tabs to find the information they’re looking for during each visit. With that in mind, make sure that your most important information is accounted for in those primary sections.
Know – and account for - your audience
Creating segmented profile tabs is a great way to appeal to the priority populations that you would like to enroll. Use these tabs to provide relevant information that differentiates your institution for these specific audiences. For instance, information about transfer orientation and traditions can help prospective transfer students develop a sense of belonging on your campus. And identifying support programs for first-generation college students will show how your institution invests in their success. Be sure to get to know the special populations you hope to recruit and use your profile to demonstrate why your institution is a great fit for them.
On Cappex, you can have multiple Inside Scoop tabs to further different recruitment goals, including diversity initiatives. Keep in mind that your segmented profile tabs shouldn’t be the only place you talk about diversity and inclusion initiatives. Instead, think of these pages as a way to double-click into more of the details that you highlight throughout your recruitment marketing materials.
Prospective students also want to hear about real student experiences to gauge how they’ll navigate your campus community. Give them a chance to hear directly from current students who share their interests and experience with videos, pictures, or testimonials, and include instructions for how to connect with current students as a call-to-action on your profile. Links to special scholarship programs or visit opportunities will help students move beyond your profile to find additional information on your website.
Lastly, don’t forget about student advocates – school counselors, CBO advisers, and parents – when curating your college profile. Many times, student advocates will visit segmented profile tabs to help a student with their college search process. They tend to focus on affordability, student support, and alumni outcomes. So be sure to include data that highlights student success for the particular populations that you’d like to enroll, which will allow these advocates to promote your institution as a good fit!
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