Skip navigation
EAB Logo Navigate to the EAB Homepage Navigate to EAB home

How data science can improve your recruitment marketing strategy

January 19, 2021


How data science can improve your graduate, online, and adult marketing strategy

Insight into audience, ad copy, and campaign health from EAB’s data science team

<a data-primary-product="" href="">Janek Nikicicz</a> By Janek Nikicicz January 19, 2021 5 min read Illustration-AF-Blog-Illustration-2-1000x700

At EAB, we spend a lot of time helping graduate and adult education leaders identify and recruit career changers. I’m invested in this audience-because I am a career changer. After working for a few years as a financial advisor, I completed my master’s in data science. In my current role as a Senior Data Scientist in EAB’s Adult Learner Recruitment division, I love that I spend my day-to-day using data science to help schools reach and recruit students like me.

Components of Data Science

Here are three of the ways data science and analytics can improve your recruitment strategy.

Use data science to identify your best-fit prospects

Adult learners are a notoriously difficult audience to identify and reach. Declines in the number of students taking admissions tests, coupled with the rise in stealth applicants, means enrollment leaders must find new, innovative ways to find prospective students of online, graduate, certificate, and adult degree completion programs.


of adult learners are stealth applicants, or unknown to the college or university until they apply

So, how do you expand your reachable audience? The key is to leave no stone unturned. For example, our team of data scientists and targeting analysts use consumer analytics to identify a large but highly customized list of prospective students based on each partner institution’s historical student data. From there, we load those student names into an algorithm that ranks ZIP codes across the country by admit outcomes and population density. We analyze this ranked list of student names based on proximity to campus and volume availability to identify new markets of your most likely applicants.

Much like diversification is valuable when investing, it is similarly important to diversify the sources you use to find prospective students. We also consider institutions’ inquiry pools, current undergraduates, and young alumni. Our analysts couple these lists with prospective students identified on platforms like LinkedIn and Google Ads. And since the adult learner market is evolving quickly (especially during COVID-19), we’re constantly testing new sources such as National Student Clearinghouse and GMAC early prospect lists.

LinkedIn and Georgia Southern University share ways to reach prospects EAB, LinkedIn, and Georgia Southern University discuss innovative approaches to targeting and recruiting adult learners.

Power your ad copy and imagery with data science

When I began my career as a data scientist, I didn’t expect to work so closely with graphic designers, art directors, and copywriters. But data science fuels and informs the marketing copy and imagery we develop for partners. I spend much of my time analyzing campaign performance data to find opportunities to further optimize our creative.

Most recently, I analyzed subject lines from across our 100+ Adult Learner Recruitment partner institutions to improve email open rates. A strong subject line helps your email and institution stand out in prospective students’ inboxes, so our team of analysts is constantly monitoring email open rates on behalf of our partners.


Learn why paid search campaigns are critical in recruiting degree completers.


First, our team modeled how individual words in email subject lines impacted the rate at which prospective students opened these emails. Next, we created an algorithm to quantify the strength of each of these words in a subject line. We coupled this quantitative analysis with a qualitative group discussion between the data science and creative teams to challenge our preconceptions and open avenues for further testing.This analysis armed our copywriters with the right words and themes to increase open rates. This approach was possible, in part, because of the sheer number of subject lines we could review from across our partner institutions (nearly 2,000 in total)-a scale that can be difficult to achieve at a single institution.

I found high-performing subject lines often:

  • Use your brand by including your institution’s name (especially if you’re emailing students in your local or regional recruitment area)
  • Encourage action through genuine and specific urgency such as deadlines and next step alerts
  • Include student-centric rather than program-centric language. For example, instead of referencing your program as “top-ranked,” reference how your program will tangibly impact students

In the next few months, we’ll be using a similar approach to find ways to further optimize click-through rates on links in marketing emails and paid search ads.

Use data science to monitor marketing campaign health

To ensure your messaging resonates with students, it’s critical to monitor and respond to campaign performance indicators regularly. But the number of marketing metrics available can be overwhelming-and some are more useful than others in gauging campaign performance.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to monitor

Select indicators

Digital KPIs

  • Impressions
  • Digital clicks
  • Digital click-through rate
  • Paid search conversion rate
  • Cost per click
  • Cost per lead

Email KPIs

  • Inbox placement rate
  • Open rate
  • Email click-through rate
  • Discoverability rate

Pipeline Conversion KPIs

  • Prospect to inquiry rate
  • Inquiry to applicant rate
  • Submitted application to completed application rate
  • Admit to enrollment rate
  • Inquiry to enrollment rate

When our data science team is considering which marketing metrics to monitor, we prioritize metrics that:

  • Tell a clear story about how a given campaign is performing
  • Are a consistent leading indicator of application outcomes
  • Help inform improvements to marketing campaign
How well are you responding to key recruitment metrics? Download the self-assessment to determine where your institution has the greatest gaps and optimize your graduate, online, and adult degree completion recruitment strategy for growth.

It’s also important stakeholders across your team can access campaign performance data easily. We’ve built what we call the Partner Portal so the schools we work we can access their latest campaign performance data all in one place and on demand. The portal allows you to filter the data by key demographic information and easily share campaign performance data with your team to help guide conversations about next steps in your strategy.

While you may not have a data scientist embedded in your marketing team, monitoring the right marketing metrics and testing your campaign creative are important steps in building a data-driven recruitment strategy.

Explore more marketing recruitment resources

Learn more about how data science can improve your recruitment strategy

Watch this webinar to hear from our adult learner recruitment experts and in-house data scientists about the tactics that have helped EAB partner universities.


More Blogs


3 things you need to know about the shifting adult learner market

When it comes to enrolling the "responsible" generation in continuing education programs, learn three higher ed marketing truths…
Adult Education Blog

How Houston Baptist University tripled graduate student enrollment

Despite facing enrollment challenges ranging from incomplete applications to a hurricane, Houston Baptist University has significantly grown their…
Adult Education Blog

The campaign strategy that helped one graduate program see a 4.6x increase in applicants

Learn how direct mail can help your recruitment marketing messages stand out to college students, increase the effectiveness…
Adult Education Blog

You may have noticed looks a little different. Explore what's new for partners.