Prior to joining EAB, I spent seven years in undergraduate admissions offices at both large and small universities along the east coast. When enrollment leaders nationwide were tasked with overturning their recruitment models in the face of the pandemic, I experienced it firsthand.
Now, after more than a year of forging (and polishing) our virtual recruitment tactics, the landscape has changed again. As the world begins to reopen, travel guidelines become more diverse, and student preferences become more varied, the tactics you use to connect with students need to match that variation. Here are four tips to help you strengthen your hybrid recruitment strategy.
We know that Gen Z craves relevant, personalized content and they are willing to share information in exchange for content that addresses their interests. They know that if they do, they’ll receive a customized experience that brings them closer to their goals.
In a world where content can be streamed on demand, Gen Z looks for instant answers to their questions. This means that they will largely prefer to text rather than communicate via email. For these students, consider leveraging a platform that allows students to text you in real-time. You could also have current students take over your social media handles for live, themed events that can speak to various aspects of campus life. Alternatively, you may consider setting up one-on-one “coffee chats” between students and admissions counselors. They can be arranged both virtually and in-person and allow students to get more information about their specific interests in the setting that works best for them. You can also let your students learn more about campus life by connecting them with current students via Wisr—a proven way to strengthen yield.
Create immersive experiences—both on and offline
Before the pandemic, my last institution offered campus tours 11 times per week to 100+ people. In the fall and spring, it was very common for us to be fully booked every week. Given that campus visits make students more likely to apply, this never surprised us—but in the wake of the pandemic, students will expect a more diverse array of offerings.
For students who choose to visit your campus in-person, ensure they can fully experience your on-campus community. Alongside a campus tour, consider offering sample classes or the opportunity to have lunch with a current student or faculty member. The more you can help a prospective student envision themselves enrolled and succeeding at your institution, the better.
At the same time, be prepared to broaden the digital touchpoints available to students who can’t easily visit in-person. Virtual tours are a great example. Students value being able to experience your community virtually and it shows in the way they engage with virtual tours. We found that students who engage with an YouVisit Virtual Tour spend, on average, 4.7x more time on the tour than they do on traditional university webpages. They also go on to apply at a 73% higher rate than students who did not engage with YouVisit Virtual Tours. With travel restrictions changing regularly, a virtual tour is a great way to ensure that students have a consistent way to learn more about your campus culture.
Leverage new tools to work smarter, not harder
Now that in-person activities are returning and your strategy is evolving to encompass more varied offerings, you’ll need an upgraded toolkit to help manage that expansion. At the same time, you will need to adopt tools that allow you to work smarter rather than harder.
Intersect is a great example of this, as it offers a series of tools that are designed to streamline the recruitment process. By connecting with Naviance, the leading college readiness platform, Intersect allows you build influence with interested students by customizing your college profile, publicizing your upcoming events, and communicating with students who are not aware of you, but are interested in your competitors. Intersect is also home to RepVisits, a collaborative college visit platform that allows our partners to sign up for visits and fairs with the click of a button. As hybrid recruitment grows, so too does RepVisits. Of the 263,000 appointments booked through the platform in the 2020-2021 cycle, 97% were for virtual events.
Meet students on the platforms they use most
With so many engagement options to choose from, students are opting to research colleges on their own—at least at first.
As students turn to alternative sources, it’s important that admissions professionals engage with them on these platforms. For example, 1.5 million students actively use Cappex to support their search while 40% of U.S. high school students use Naviance. While the vast majority of students we surveyed also report using social media in their day-to-day lives—more than 75% of them report regularly using Instagram and YouTube– less than half of them report engaging with a college or university on either platform.
Hybrid recruitment strategies let you blend the best of both in-person and virtual recruitment. You can still leverage face-to-face interaction whenever possible, but geography no longer limits your ability to reach students all over the world. However, this is only true if your virtual recruitment strategy is up to par and you’re meeting students on the channels that they prefer.
Optimize your audience strategy to reach more students
Download EAB’s latest white paper to learn what an optimized portfolio of audience sources and conversion channels looks like—and how it can help you engage tomorrow’s college-bound students.