How to convert more Applicants into enrolled Students

    10 Strategies to Maximize the Effectiveness of the Admissions Funnel

    Here’s how to maximize the effectiveness of your admissions funnel to boost applications, enrollments and retention at your higher education institution
    Last updated:
    February 14, 2024

    Higher education institutions with a growth mindset are always looking for ways to improve the admissions funnel for applicants and increase conversions. By evolving to meet the needs of today’s stakeholders and finding ways to engage candidates, admissions teams can attract a larger and more diverse pool of quality applicants.

    An efficient admissions funnel can help you meet or even surpass your enrollment goals and enable your institution to meet its wider financial targets while finding top applicants who will later become proud alumni and brand ambassadors. Here are 10 admissions funnel-boosting strategies you can start exploring today.

    1. Promote your brand and USPs

    One of the most effective things you can do to maximise the effectiveness of the admissions funnel is to create a brand and image that is compelling. To attract the attention of prospective students, it must highlight its strengths, culture, value proposition and USPs.

    Developing a successful brand image relies on collaboration between different stakeholders, including the admissions team and students themselves.

    As an admissions expert, you have a unique insight into your institution’s target audience, trends and the higher education market more generally. Your expertise can help define core values that resonate with prospects and sets the university apart from competitors.

    How you communicate your brand, values and USPs will have an impact on the admissions funnel.

    Valuable content, including blog articles, videos and podcasts that address your audience’s needs and can help drive interest in your programs and institution. It is important to establish a strong social media presence on the channels that resonate with your audience – this will amplify your message to a wider talent pool.

    2. Craft Considered Campaigns

    An informed admissions strategy is an effective one, which is why it’s important to get to grips with your target audience’s behaviours, preferences and decision making processes. Regular surveys and focus groups can help you to understand applicants’ motivations and pain points.

    Segment your audience into different groups based on their demographics, interests and engagement  (e.g. their intended program of study, whether they’re a domestic or international student or even their last login on the application portal). Doing so will enable you to create personalised messages for each group.

    Use various marketing channels, including social media, email marketing and SMS, content marketing and search engine optimization, to reach your target audience effectively.

    Tailor your messages and content to resonate with prospective students' interests and needs. In terms of workflows, create automated and personalised email sequences based on the candidate’s engagement level or last action.

    3. Optimize the Application Portal  

    The success of an admissions funnel depends – to a large extent – on the quality of the website and your application portal.

    Your website and application portal must be easy to navigate, visually appealing and provide all the relevant information about your institution and programs. Ensuring this will also help to increase its visibility in search engine results and provide relevant content to your applicants. Most applicants have questions while working on their application so ensure you provide relevant and useful information in the application portal.

    Take some time to audit the admissions content of your website and application portal and ensure you are showing the relevant information depending on where the candidate is in their journey. Are your admissions requirements and deadlines clear? Have you demonstrated your commitment to diversity and inclusion? Complimenting text with visual media (such as videos) can boost engagement and search engine rankings alike.

    4. Personalize Communication

    Universities that do not personalize their communications are at serious risk of falling out of favor with their audience. Personalization is the key to creating a meaningful experience for prospective students. It’s no secret that personalized emails, calls, and messages can boost application and enrollment rates.

    Here are some of our top personalization tips for admissions teams:

    • Always address applicants by their name in communications
    • Share any academic or extracurricular opportunities that align with the applicant's interests and career goals
    • Create an admissions portal with relevant content that adapts based on the candidate’s journey and their interests
    • Consider segmenting audiences based on characteristics such as geographic location, intended program of study, or even where they are in the admissions journey and their engagement level
    • Provide opportunities for meetings or calls with admissions staff, faculty members, or other relevant stakeholders
    • Deploy chatbots on your website or application portal to provide quick and personalized assistance
    • Track applicants' interactions and engagement with your institution to ensure follow-ups are customised and timely

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    5. Streamline the Application Process

    A streamlined application process makes it easier for prospective students to choose their programs, submit all their documents, book an interview when necessary and even accept their offer and pay for those that have been admitted.  

    As well as personalized support, automated processes are used to streamline tasks such as document verification and application status updates.

    Deploying a modern admissions platform will help you to streamline the process and remove any barriers that could deter applicants. Your platform should enable you to create customizable application journeys and workflows, track individual applications and segment based on their engagement level or any other important criteria, and identify any behavioural or market trends that can feed into your overall admissions strategy.

    A streamlined admissions process should also help the admissions team easily make decisions and offers and provide a holistic selection process.

    6. Offer Virtual Tours and Events

    Virtual tours and events have proven to be a lifeline for admissions teams around the world over the last few years, offering students a cost-effective way to explore the campus, meet faculty and get a taste of university culture.

    Now, they play a key role in students’ decision making process. Although physical events are still very popular, virtual tours and events have the power to dismantle geographical barriers and make it easier for international students – or domestic students who are not able to travel for financial or work reasons – to access opportunities.

    Virtual tours can give prospective students an insight into more than just the campus; why not use them as a tool in the admissions funnel to highlight programs, societies, facilities, nightlife, cultural events and the city itself? This will enable applicants to develop a more holistic understanding of what your institution has to offer.

    7. Leverage Student Ambassadors

    Your current students are among your most valuable and powerful ambassadors; they have an authentic perspective that can be harnessed to help attract new applicants. Work with your students and alumni  to gather testimonials and videos and publish them on your website, emails and application portal.

    The alumni community can also be leveraged in the admissions funnel. Think about how you can showcase their achievements and share their successes to attract interest and boost your brand reputation. Could they provide some tips on how to craft a good application, or share details of their career journey to date? Other ambassadors to consider collaborating with include faculty as well as other university stakeholders such as program directors or career management team members.

    8. Provide Financial Aid Information

    Don’t overlook the important role finances play in the stakeholder decision-making process. Make sure any information relating to financial aid, grants and scholarships is stated clearly on your website and other communication. Students need to know how to navigate the financial aspects of studying at your institution as well as the social and academic factors.

    9. Enhance the Application Review Process

    Your application review process needs to be robust if you want to compete effectively. Make sure application timelines are clear and easy to find, and include key decision dates.

    Regular training for admissions staff is also key. Provide training on the institution's admission criteria, policies, and any updates or changes to these. You can also train staff on best practices when it comes to fair and unbiased evaluation of applications.

    Creating a culture of openness and sharing can help admissions teams make informed and confident decisions. Meet regularly to discuss challenges and provide forums for sharing insights. It’s important to actively invite feedback from applicants and admissions staff to enable you to identify any areas for improvement in the review process.

    10. Analyze Data and Optimize

    In today’s fast-paced education landscape, your admissions strategies should always be evolving. Keep a close eye on any data pertaining to your admissions funnel, including metrics relating to conversion rates. Use this data to innovate and identify areas for improvement. Here are some key metrics you could monitor after each admissions cycle:

    • Number of started and submitted applications
    • Submission rate
    • Average length of submission
    • Acceptance rate
    • Yield  from admitted to enrolled
    • Time-to-decision
    • Demographic diversity
    • Academic performance
    • Geographic distribution


    By integrating these admissions strategies, you can enhance the effectiveness of your admissions funnel, and attract and enrol the best students for your institution. Remember: optimising the admissions funnel goes beyond student enrolment metrics; attracting ‘good fit’ candidates (and making sure they are engaged) will increase their chances of succeeding at your institution, resulting in higher student retention and satisfaction rates.  

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