How to convert more Applicants into enrolled Students

    5 best practices for recruiting students in higher ed

    Working examples from a range of European institutions show that small things can make a difference, and with the right technology, reaching applicants is a lot easier.
    Last updated:
    December 1, 2023

    As student recruitment retains it place at the forefront of higher education discussion, we take a look at some of the best strategies universities can employ to ensure they are at the top of their game. Working examples from a range of European institutions show that small things can make a difference, and with the right technology, reaching applicants is a lot easier.

    Student recruitment in higher education has become a competitive playing field. The UK government’s measure of higher education participation reached 49 percent in 2016 - the highest on record. Demand for a higher education remains strong, and there is a growing call in the workplace for graduate skills. Online and distance learning courses are becoming more popular, as are postgraduate degrees. The University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School saw a 78% jump in enrollment to 1862 students from 1047 the previous year.

    The same can be said for international recruitment. Universities have always sought to attract international candidates because of the economic and cultural benefits they bestow. Currently, the US receives the most international students worldwide - they attracted over one million at the beginning of the academic year in 2016. However, its share has decreased over the last decrease as other markets like Australia and Germany become more appealing to those studying abroad.

    In light of these statistics, what practices can higher education institutions employ to maximise their intake of domestic and international candidates?

    1. Invest in university admissions software

    Technology plays a huge role in the success of a student recruitment campaign. The ability to schedule and automate processes vastly improves a department’s ability to create and deploy effective campaigns that will lead to enrollments. Universities should make it easy for students to submit an enquiry after their first interaction with the institution and this is made possible with admissions software.

    Stockholm School of Economics uses admissions software to collect a student’s data when they register their interest for an open day. Once in the system, their interaction with the institution can be tracked ‘behind the scenes’. This information can be used to nurture the candidate through the admissions process, hopefully through to enrollment.

    This is only a snapshot of a data capture form. The number of fields can be increased according to requirements. A link to the privacy policy and multiple marketing checkboxes feature at the bottom to ensure the university is GDPR compliant.

    2. Run informative social media campaigns

    The social media revolution took place over a decade ago now, but some universities aren’t using it to its full potential. A strong social media presence is vital for attracting new students and this can only be achieved through the consistent channeling of meaningful content that encourages the user to make an enquiry. Let’s take a look at a university excelling on YouTube - the second most popular and often under-utilised social media platform.

    In their time-lapse video, University of Cambridge uses one of its biggest assets - their historical reputation - as a unique selling point to attract prospective students to the city. A similar approach is used on Instagram, where they draw inspiration from the location’s architecture and green spaces.

    You might also want to read our article on how to use paid advertising to recruit more students.

    3. Talk to current students

    The great thing about working in higher education is that there are lots of talented individuals willing to share their stories and expertise. Universities should speak with students to find out what engages them and what could be better when it comes to the university experience. In doing this, student recruiters will be constantly aware of the shifting trends they can tap into to appeal to emerging cohorts.

    When marketing specific courses, draw on the expertise of fellow university staff members who know the subject inside out. For instance, why not interview an MBA lecturer about their classes and what topics students will be exploring in the year ahead? Or, taking a different approach, get student union representatives to explain the support groups students can join.

    4. Make recruitment events memorable

    Open days enable students to explore and get a real feel for the culture and ethos of the institution and city. It provides applicants with the opportunity to speak with experienced professionals about accommodation and the admissions process itself so they can make an informed decision and resolve any queries they may have.

    Sometimes, however, particularly in the case of international and postgraduate students, attending an open day on campus is not practical. It’s important to provide choice and to be inclusive when it comes to running events. Offer shorter ‘coffee catch ups’ in multiple locations and ensure a free online option is in place.

    We’ll be publishing an ebook on how to make your student recruitment campaigns memorable soon!

    5. Be consistent

    In other words, be reliable. Getting an initial enquiry is great, but in order to nurture an applicant through the journey the application process needs to transparent and effective. This means scheduling regular email reminders at different stages of the application process, responding to queries on any platform quickly and making useful content readily available and easy to find.

    No matter how big or small the team, all this is simple with customisable admissions software that will automate the whole process - one easy-to-use system that makes it easy for people to share knowledge and collaborate on projects.

    If you work in university admissions and think, with the right technology, your application rates would increase significantly, speak to FULL FABRIC today about how we can tailor a solution around your institution's student recruitment requirements.


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    Kate Tattersfield

    Kate Tattersfield is a former teacher turned content creator at FULL FABRIC, specialising in writing for the education sector.

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