Come fall semester, researching and applying to colleges will be the main focus of high school juniors and seniors across the country. And you know exactly where students of this internet-savvy web generation will be doing their homework: online.
So, is your school’s online presence working? Are you attracting prospective students to apply and enroll via the internet? Or turning them away without even knowing it?
Read on for important features your college’s online activity should include.
- Whenever possible, mimic the campus visit experience. Gas prices and the cost of plane tickets are rising, so don’t rely on the campus visit to sell your college. Many prospective students won’t be able to make it on campus before enrolling, so bring the campus visit online! Videos are a great way to showcase the beauty of your campus, state-of-the-art facilities, and your engaged student body. A Noel-Levitz survey found that 55% of prospective students watch videos on college web pages. Think outside the video tour and include clips from seminars and campus events to give a taste of the campus culture.
- Monitor online buzz. In the case of online conversations about your college, the old mantra “any press is good press” just isn’t true. Incorrect or negative information can go viral in a matter of moments, so pay attention to what’s being said about your school online. In a UMass Dartmouth college social media study, only 73% of colleges surveyed indicated that they monitored internet buzz about their institution. Don’t be a part of the 27% that aren’t informed about what people are saying. You want the majority of online information on your college to be positive and useful.
- Keep email to a minimum. Yes, students provided you with their personal email when they signed up to get information on your college or submitted an application, but for many students, this is not the communication method they prefer. A Pew Research Center study suggests that email use is declining among teens. 46% of online teens prefer to use IM over email to talk with friends, with only 33% choosing email. Prospective students might not even read your emails—according to email marketing company MailChimp, an average of 16.64% of recipients open emails in the Education and Training industry. Since email isn’t their favorite way to interact online, prospective students will appreciate if you tone down on the frequency of emails being sent out, and try other methods of communication like social media or text messaging.
- Ensure your website and online tools are easy to navigate. Teens applying to colleges will be looking for a visually appealing website that is functional and intuitive to use. If they have to spend more than a few minutes combing your website for the information they need, there’s one less application your school will receive. Avoid search burnout by creating a prospective student hub. Include navigation tools to help them find important information. And of course, be sure to add a social media guide that provides links to all official campus social media accounts.
- Maintain up-to-date information. Simple? Yes. Important? More than you know. If your website doesn’t include up-to-date information for the current class of prospective students, you’re sending the message that you aren’t ready for them. Remember, students start (seriously) looking at colleges in their junior year. Plan accordingly.
- Engage students with interactive features and connections. Provide not just interactive features with information about your college, but also ways for prospective students to connect with admission and financial aid counselors, faculty, and current students. Your social media presences and a thriving online events calendar (of course) can help prospective students to get a feel for the pulse of campus life. For inspiration, check out Studentadvisor.com’s list of the top 100 social media colleges showcases the variety of innovative ways colleges are connecting with prospective (and current students) online.
Remember, choosing a college is one of the biggest decisions high school students will make in their lives. Improving your school’s online presence can have a major impact on whether they click “apply” or close the web browser tab on your college.
Want to learn more about engaging students online with a social calendar? Check out our eBook, “Why Your Online Calendar Should Be Social.”