How to convert more Applicants into enrolled Students

    The Ultimate University Student Recruitment Plan [Guide]

    Without a plan, university student recruitment can be a mess. Here's a full guide on how to plan out recruitment properly with a handy template.
    Last updated:
    April 26, 2024

    The university admissions landscape is in a state of flux, which means it’s more important than ever to have a robust university student recruitment plan.

    Most universities are facing increased competition and technological challenges, intensifying the pressure from an admissions perspective, but also opening up opportunities for reaching new domestic and international markets.

    What is a student recruitment plan?

    A student recruitment plan is a document that details your recruitment objectives and the strategies you’ll put in place to achieve them. It’s informed by your institution's vision as well as data from previous recruitment cycles. It also alludes to the tools you’ll use to implement your plan and details of how you’re going to measure success.

    Discover how Full Fabric can enhance your institution's admissions management. Schedule a demo today and start optimizing your enrollment process!

    Why do you need a student recruitment plan?

    To cut through the competition and recruit the students your university needs to continue thriving, a solid student recruitment plan is imperative. But that’s not all.

    You also need the right admissions technology; a digital toolkit that will enable you to execute your finely tuned plan. Having an admissions SRM (a platform that enables you to streamline student data and automate interactions) and a recruitment plan at your disposal will enable you to meet – and even surpass – your enrollment goals. 

    The proof is in the data

    When Stockholm School of Economics transitioned from using excel-based spreadsheets to implementing their recruitment plan with a CRM specifically designed for university admissions, their number of leads and applicants rose by 20 per cent.

    A student recruitment plan should be a detailed and structured document, like this recruitment plan by the University of Illinois. To help clarify things and get you started, here’s  an overview of the main constituents to consider when approaching your plan.

    1. Establish your recruitment goals

    To get the most out of your recruitment strategy, you should work alongside different leaders in the institution in advance of the recruitment cycle to outline your goals. You may want to start at a “high level” before drilling down into specific aims.

    Your overarching goal might be to enrol enough suitable students to maximise each programme’s capacity. But going beyond that, you may also be aiming for a specific ratio of domestic to international students, or you may wish to make your student intake more diverse and representative of different identifiers and backgrounds.

    When setting goals, always try to make them SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, timely). Here are a few examples of micro-goals to get you thinking.

    • Deliver all application decisions by 30 April
    • Enrol 15% more international students
    • 1,000 full-time students enrolled in Spring 2022

    We’d always suggest dedicating part of your plan to international student recruitment, or creating a spin-off international student recruitment plan alongside your main one.

    2. Create a communications plan

    As soon as a potential applicant interacts with your institution, for instance, by downloading a prospectus, their information is entered into your SRM and they are placed into an automated email workflow.

    The purpose of a workflow is to nurture the potential applicant through the application funnel by providing them with useful and timely content.

    This content should be designed to help them on their journey to becoming a fully fledged student at your university.

    For example, when a prospectus is downloaded, you could send a follow-up email with links to other useful documents or invite them to take a ‘Which Programme is Right for You” quiz.

    This could be followed up by an invite to a virtual mini open day or a link to start the application process. Here's what this looks like in FULL FABRIC.

    3. Build awareness through outreach

    The third step after outlining your goals is to start implementing your outreach strategies. Identify where your opportunities lie so that your approach is as informed as it can be. You’ll work closely with the marketing department to do this.

    Outreach activities can include:

    Paid advertising

    You can use platforms like LinkedIn and Instagram to target specific groups and interests. Ensure that your content is on-brand and authentic; to do this, you could enlist the help of faculty or alumni to tell their story and share experiences.

    International student recruitment fairs

    You may decide to partner with international education services, such as iee, to help recruit international students.

    Identify specific members of admissions staff who can focus their efforts on recruiting international students by attending fairs in different countries.

    Email marketing 

    One way of getting the word out in a more personalised and direct way is to send an email to prospects in your SRM. Every “opt in” is an opportunity for you to upsell your institution. Make sure messaging is customised, timely and relevant. 

    LinkedIn prospecting

    Let’s say you run an admissions department in a business school.

    One way to reach a new and relevant audience is to utilise LinkedIn’s InMail tool. It allows you to send customised messages to people on the platform. If utilised well, the response rate can be higher compared with cold calls or emails.

    Caption: Use your SRM to create personalised email workflows.

    4. Review applications

    Once the applications start flowing, the reviewing process begins. 

    You’ll need to provide information about your review process for the year in your university student recruitment plan:

    • How quickly will applications be reviewed? 
    • How many university employees will review each application? 
    • How detailed is the feedback?

    Your plan must also contain details of the admissions criteria, as these goalposts can shift from year to year.

    Applicants should be able to monitor the status of their application through your university’s admissions portal, which can be managed through your SRM.

    Members of your team can use the SRM to add their evaluation notes to each application; so, instead of relying on handwritten notes, the information is linked to the applicant's file.

    5. Nurture successful applicants

    Once your successful students have received confirmation of their admittance, the communication doesn’t stop there. You’ll still need to keep applicants engaged to prevent them from “dropping out“ and signing up for a competitor university. 

    You can use your SRM to enter individuals into a new workflow when their application is successful. Once they enter this new funnel, you can configure automated emails that continue to pique their interest, from networking event invites to alumni testimonials.

    6. Managing registration

    The final phase of your university recruitment plan should outline how you’re going to manage the registration process. Once you have a clear idea of how many people have accepted offers, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to tackle the ‘summer melt’. 

    How are you going to welcome new students to your institution at the start of term? Welcome receptions that have alumni and existing students in attendance, as well as newly enrolled ones, can help students learn about what university life is really like. 

    Use your SRM to coordinate email and SMS notifications about orientation days and share detailed guidance on how to apply for accommodation.

    Personalised communications should be sent to international students in relation to things like visas and travel.

    7. Analyse your data

    After registration is complete, you need to consult the data.

    Analysing your data will enable you to figure out what’s worked well during the recruitment cycle and where you should focus your efforts next time.

    Examples of questions to ask include:

    • Which outreach activities attracted the most applicants?
    • What is my average lead to enrollment ratio?
    • What is the demographic spread of my applicants? 

    Your SRM software can provide you with these insights because it’ll have inbuilt analytics capabilities. You can use your SRM to dig deeper into the ultimate success or failure of your outreach events, marketing campaigns and other student recruitment efforts.

    Enable your team to manage the student recruitment pipeline remotely

    It’s never been more important to equip your admissions team with the tools they need to do their job remotely. Many of us are currently working from home and will continue to do so, at least on a part-time basis, moving forward.

    Without the right SRM software system in place, implementing your university recruitment plan will be challenging and time-consuming. 

    There’s only so much you can achieve over email, Zoom or a spreadsheet, after all. That’s why it’s so important to have access to a platform that enables people to log in and collaborate from anywhere. 

    Frequently asked questions about Student Recruitment

    1. What does student recruitment mean?

    Student recruitment refers to the practice of encouraging individuals to enrol on an educational programme. Further education colleges, universities and other skills training providers all use student recruitment strategies to attract potential students. 

    1. How do I create a college recruitment plan?

    To create a college recruitment plan, you should first analyse your college’s previous recruitment cycle data to determine what works and identify areas for improvement. Then, you can begin to outline your recruitment goals for the upcoming academic year.

    1. How do you recruit students?

    To recruit students you need to have a clear student recruitment plan and an SRM system that will enable you to enact it in place.

    Today’s students expect a streamlined and personalised application process, so be sure to optimise your admissions portal and emails. 

    1. How can I promote my college programme?

    You can use social media advertising and sponsored content to promote your college programme and get your brand in front of students.

    It’s also important to be active at both in-person and virtual college recruitment fairs, including those aimed at international students.


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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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