How to ready your website to recruit and enroll students in the era of social distancing

Expert Insight

How to ready your website to recruit and enroll students in the era of social distancing

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the college website has replaced physical functions of the campus and staff and is now your leading recruiter, admissions counselor, and advisor. What’s more, the needs of students and communities have changed—and community colleges are well-suited to meet them.

Follow these steps to deploy your website—now the most valuable player on your team—to successfully attract and enroll students in a remote world:

Ground your website in the student perspective

Speak to students’ new needs and desires

Before making changes, begin with an assessment of your community and your students. Who most needs your services (e.g., laid off adults, displaced four-year students) during the summer and fall terms? What do these prospective students need from your college during these unstable times? Develop admissions persona pages framed around these precise student needs to provide a more personalized message that directly addresses the unique challenges students are facing right now (e.g., Retrain for the Workforce, Transfer or Attending Another College).

Re-evaluate and demonstrate what now sets you apart

What before might have seemed unremarkable can now be game-changing differentiators (e.g., 1,000+ classes available in a flexible online format, graduating more nurses than any other college in the region). Additionally, many community colleges are primed to offer top-of-mind programs; those that lead to jobs that weather the storm, provide a quick turnaround to a good wage, or make a societal impact all have renewed significance. Lead with differentiating information on the college homepage, and follow the below advice to ensure your value message resonates.

Deliver your value message

Show that the college is well suited to help students achieve their goals in this crisis

Higher ed is likely to be forever changed by the events of this year, and rather than trying to sell the same value proposition as in the past, lead with “we provide what you need,” even if that looks different than last year. Community colleges provide on-off ramps for attaining a credential to get back in the workforce or taking transferable classes that keep students on track toward attaining a degree. In addition to what students need academically, communicate the other resources and options the college provides to get them through this new period (e.g., wraparound student support services, varieties in class modality).

Promote the community aspect of your community college

In times of crisis, students may want to be close to home and take comfort in being part of their community. Show clear examples of your unwavering commitment to the community, such as the campus services (e.g., Wi-Fi access, printers, class materials) and local resources (e.g., counseling services, food bank) accessible to community members. Comfort prospective students with stories of how your institution is helping your community and students in this time of crisis to show how your institution is delivering on the community college mission.

Create a human connection

Without being able to visit campus, it’s harder than ever for prospective students to answer the question, “Do I belong here?” Leverage student and alumni testimonials, faculty bios, and campus videos to bridge the social distancing gap, and demonstrate that there’s a place for every student at your college. Make this content a prominent feature of the homepage, admissions page, and program pages.

Respond to student needs with data and facts

Now more than ever, many students are looking for clear numbers of success and support. Individuals who have lost their job need concrete examples of student success outcomes such as graduation rates, job placement data, and career earnings. Those thinking twice about the cost of higher education want to see that high quality needn’t come at a high price. Satisfy their top-mind concerns for value, transfer availability, and campus support with student satisfaction rates, information on articulation agreements, and facts pertaining to services like career counseling and tutoring.

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