Noel-Levitz recently released their annual Online Expectations of Prospective College Students and Their Parents report. It gives some interesting data around students and parents that will help you know if your school is on track with its recruitment efforts. With over 1,000 students and 500 parents surveyed it presents a great sample size of this audience.
Here are a few key findings on the success of several online media you might be using:
Websites’ User Experience Is Still Crucial
Websites, while customary, are still vital to attracting prospective students. The survey finds that a bad experience on the school’s website has the potential to turn away half of your target population, while 1 in 5 students has admitted that a negative experience has turned them away in the past.
It is important to have the right content accessible to students and parents navigating your site. The most popular item to look at on a school’s webpage is academic programs, followed by admissions and costs. Stay up-to-date by adding cost calculators, interactive campus maps, and videos (also on YouTube). For students using mobile devices to browse a school’s website, another popular task was looking for and calculating scholarships.
Social Media Is More Listening Than Engagement
Your school might not be getting a lot of feedback or response through social media avenues. Social media is not yet the most mainstream avenue for prospective students (and even less so for parents) to learn more about a school. The report finds that students (much more so than parents) are on Facebook but not always engaged with you. About 80% in the survey of prospective students have a Facebook account, and 27% of those have viewed the college’s Facebook. Twitter is much less popular with students and parents, but more students follow tweets rather than actually tweeting. As for blogs, over two-thirds of students and parents alike never look at school blogs. The lesson: if they are engaged they are only listening.
E-mail Is Still Critical
Lastly, the report found that e-mail marketing is still HUGE! Do share all the content that you are creating through this channel as it actually is seeing engagement, with about 80% of both prospective students and parents providing e-mail addresses to schools that they check at least once a week.
Note: Parents are engaged, though perhaps not always as visibly, and it is not uncommon for parents to pose as a prospective student just to see what a school will offer them.
So what can one take away from the report? While Facebook and other social media are important tools in a college or university’s recruitment approach, they still take a backseat to prime content creation on your main website and to e-mail communications. However, as with mobile devices, be aware that social media trends are important to keep up with, as they may pay off more in the future. The survey does find that schools need to do a better job of cross pollinating content, and that this content can and needs to be pollinated throughout SM and videos. Also be sure to check out Mallory Wood’s thoughts on the report.
Image credit: Nature by doug88888