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Your checklist to create a compelling admitted-student website

November 29, 2018

Your admitted-student website is the go-to resource for students throughout yield season. Essentially the front door for accepted students, it’s the one place that aggregates all the information they need from you as decision day approaches.

And because students revisit it frequently, the admitted-student site also is an unusually powerful channel to use to build affinity. A well-designed site not only provides important transactional information, it also makes a compelling case for your college or university and can be a critical tool for winning over undecided students.

But how can you be sure your admitted-student website lives up to its potential? You’re in luck, because we recently reviewed dozens of admitted-student websites and created an audit for you to compare your site to those we consider best practice.

Consider the checklist below to identify which elements your admitted-student site already includes. Let any unchecked boxes serve as areas for opportunity or ideas as you evolve your admitted-student website.

Make smart use of your calls to action

Calls to action (CTAs) are your way to influence a prospective student’s digital behavior. They allow you to direct students to the points of your website that will be the most helpful to them, while increasing their level of engagement and exposure to your school.

Does your site prompt students to take actions that boost their likelihood to deposit and enroll?

  • Submit a deposit (or commit)
  • Join the school’s admitted-student Facebook group
  • Register for admitted-student events
  • Connect with a counselor

Notifications are the most attention-grabbing method for CTAs and should be reserved for the most critical pieces of information, like upcoming deadlines.

Do the notifications on your site focus on a narrow set of critical communications to increase the amount of attention given to each?

  • Deposit deadlines
  • Admitted-student event dates
  • Other

Communicate your school’s differentiators and value

What you say about your school is critical at this stage of a student’s enrollment journey and there are two types of messaging that we found on the strongest admitted-student websites.

The first type is “differentiation messaging” to highlight the unique characteristics of your college or university.

Does the imagery and copy used on your site quickly and effectively convey what is different and special about your college or university?

  • Location or setting
  • Mission
  • Careers preparation focus
  • Other

The second type of messaging is “value messaging” to communicate the distinct benefits a student will receive by attending your school.

Does your site prominently highlight key aspects of your institution’s value proposition?

  • Percentage of students employed in a field related to their degree or enrolled in a graduate program within 6 months of graduation
  • Four-year graduation guarantee
  • Careers and post-graduate outcomes focus
  • How much more your graduates earn on average than their peers from comparable institutions

Be generous with resource links

Your site serves as a one-stop shop for admitted students and should provide the resources they need to answer their most pressing questions. This is where auditing your resource links is helpful.

Does your site contain easily accessible links to important resources?

  • A simple bulleted summary of next steps
  • Contact information for key individuals/departments
  • Financial aid information
  • Campus amenities
  • Campus housing
  • Student-generated social media content
  • Current-student and alumni profiles
  • Student clubs and organizations

Keep students’ attention with engagement drivers

You’re already competing for students’ attention against social media, video games, smartphone apps, and other forms of entertainment. To keep them engaged in your information, make the content fun!

Does your site use content types engineered for impact, including “gamified” ones, as a means of boosting student involvement?

  • Contests
  • Interactive quizzes
  • Giveaways
  • Student-generated content
  • Images of people (especially happy, excited students)

Don’t forget formatting principles

We’ve covered the content of your site, but it’s equally important to emphasize format. How you display the content can make or break a student’s interest in exploring it.

Here are a few things to determine if your admitted-student site’s overall structure and layout will encourage or deter students from engaging.

Is your site accessible, with minimal barriers to content? 

  • Your site is not hidden behind a required form
  • All content mentioned in this audit is on a single page 
  • All key parts of your admitted-students site are mobile-friendly

Does the layout of the pages make them quickly and easily scannable? 

  • The most important information is at the top of the page
  • Different topics are organized in visually distinct blocks
  • Your layout is simple, ordered, and uncluttered

Does your site make extensive use of different types of visuals to boost legibility and engagement? 

  • Calls to action are visually distinctive
  • Key points are anchored with prominent photos or graphics
  • Images occupy at least as much space as text 
  • Your site makes targeted use of animations or video

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