How can today’s college or university best attract students? Does the school need to be all over social media? Is the web site the most crucial sticking point?
For many years, prospective students went on a college campus tour, traditionally led by bright-eyed upper-classman. That’s likely now a thing of the past! Ultra-competitive recruiting for students and their dollars has led to substantial offerings of “extras” for the special student. Want your choice of luxury dorms? Come to college “x”. Want a free iPad upon enrollment? Attend college “y”. The competition for attracting prospective students has escalated as more students realize the lifelong value of a college degree.
Many of America’s 4,500 colleges and universities are demonstrating the most creative strategies and enrollment incentives to attract students. Some strategies run similar to the marketing campaigns like mobile marketing and YouTube videos, while others mimic scenes from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.” Knowing how different colleges try to influence future students will help incoming students make more informed decisions when selecting a college, while also helping higher educational institutions stand up to the highest competition.
Below are three novel ways colleges around the country are using to recruit students:
Free Online Classes
Want to take a statistics course from a Princeton professor? How about a “Drugs, Brain, and Behavior” class at Harvard? Or, better yet, attend an “Artificial Intelligence” lecture at Stanford? How would you like to take all of these courses for free?
Elite colleges and universities around the nation are expanding their offerings to include free, online courses, otherwise known as massive open online college (MOOCs). Just sign up and log on to participate in the online lectures, and even gain access to assigned readings, quizzes, and exams. Some universities offer future college credit for these courses.
One of the goals of MOOC classes is obvious; to increase the availability and accessibility of high-quality education and distinguished lectures to students who may not have access to such educational opportunities. The underlying goal of these massive open online college classes, however, is branding for the university. The online courses serve as accessible courses where students can test drive the college or university’s educational offerings. The addition of these courses also adds to the benchmarks of a university in terms of what they offer in general relative to others, which plays in part into their overall collegiate rankings.
Higher education institutions are taking note of the technology-obsessed millennial generation. Massively popular iPads and tablets are being dolled out by hundreds of schools and are beginning to offer it to incoming students. These technologies do aid in student learning with helpful apps and downloaded textbooks, and the university can market itself as being on the cutting-edge of technology. For example, West Virginia University purchases address validation solutions for admissions, communication, and student success plans, and is implementing the solution in the admissions department.
Moreover, prospective students are being marketed to via text messaging, web site segmentation, email marketing, and even social media, notes USA Today. Just as big-name brands shift their marketing practices to evolving technology, colleges and universities are doing just the same.
Luxury Student Living
Dorm life used to draw parallels to living in a submarine or a cheap New York City apartment. If you’re a college graduate, you may remember being barricaded in one-bedroom apartments with community bathrooms and showers; being poor as a church mouse and almost never went out. You were paired with one to three roommates and slept in bunk beds. Living situations may not have been ideal, but they were cost effective, promoted camaraderie among new students and helped built friendships that lasted beyond college years.
Not anymore. An official at Wright State University said that: “It’s about keeping up with the Joneses,” in a recent article detailing why colleges in Ohio were spending hundreds of millions of dollars on student centers and other nonacademic attractions in a down economy.
Universities heard the complaints from students about the dorms, and subsequently responded. Schools began beefing up their budgets towards high-rise, on-campus living, and lavish student centers. Old dorms were being torn down and replaced with new ones. Campus tours of the universities are now spent highlighting the spaciousness of the rooms, pool, and gym access, or other amenities of the dorms.
Living accommodations are important— especially for students who spend 15-hour days doing homework in the space. The important lesson is that luxury dorms don’t always equal quality learning. Though your overall mood is affected by your surroundings, blending design and educational depth is the key to differentiation.
In these ways, more colleges and universities are vying for increased admissions, with more dollars and more students. What have you seen in your region? How are schools marketing their services to prospective students? Let us know by dropping a note into the comments!
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