In the months leading up, we’ve all been saying it; Clearing is going to look very different this year-round. Was there going to be a Results Day at all? Would autumn enrolments even be a thing? The lead up has been littered with question marks, and what-ifs. But the day has come and gone, and we’re here to round up what happened, the good, the bad, and well, the ugly reality of what a Covid-19 Results Day looked like. Buckle up, because (spoiler alert), it’s not over yet.
The topic of conversation that led the day was naturally how the results were rewarded and graded. Students, teachers and parents were angered and shocked at the system in place, “this isn’t fair” was on the minds of many. In the lead up to the day, a curveball from the government and the introduction of a triple-lock policy only heightened concerns from students and the sector.
But while we couldn’t exactly know what students were to do on the day, we didn’t need to speculate as we had some insight. Around four in ten students said they would challenge their results if they were lower than expected. 26% said they would defer a year to re-think their plans. It always helps to have a 40,000 student strong opinion panel, right...
No scramble no more
Being the veterans of Clearing that we are, we see time and time again an early scramble from students with high levels of search activity in the morning as they try to secure Clearing places. This year, we saw a more measured level sustained throughout the day. Why? Because as Covid knocked out summer terms and summer plans, students had ample time to do their research and search early. We said all year that getting in market early was imperative to success this year, we hope you were.
Luckily for our partners, due to our access to proprietary big data, unique access to the student audience, insights and research reports, along with our close relationships with the platforms (as usual, we had the team from Google in the office with us, socially distant, of course), we preempted this and adjusted bidding strategies accordingly. You’ll also see a stretched out period of activity and search budgets will be spent deep into August and early September. Search “How long does clearing last?” rose by 140% and “when does clearing close?” rising by 110% in the four hours after lunchtime, again just highlighting this cohort’s mindset.
September Spike anyone?
“As we’ve watched entire strategy U-turns from our government, grade disappointment, and appeals, we’re looking at Clearing being extended beyond August. Prepare yourselves for a potential second spike of student interest, enquiries and applications up to 7 September when appeals will have been completed. Smart institutions will invest their advertising budgets and see strong ROI if they maintain activity deep into September and have a solid nurture and conversion strategy.”- Mich Masters, Head of Planning and Buying
Opt for empathy
Last year’s buzzword in content marketing was ‘authenticity’. This year, we think it will be ‘empathy’. And the campaigns that stood out on the day carried an empathetic message.
And with fragility, must come nurture
Lockdown has resulted in students having more time for research, and decisions being made more cautiously. Across the sector, institutions have been getting huge volumes of phone calls, but unusually for the day itself, many are for questions or advice, rather than applications. Our advice? Look to the NCS for recommendations around staff training, and the importance of being able to answer the questions that matter to students on these phone calls.
Oh, how things have changed
And on a lighter note, we’re so used to seeing the corny photographs of students opening their envelopes with glee, that it was only until we saw a masked duo ‘elbow bump’, we realised we took it all for granted. Student interviews outside of school halls aren’t quite the same when they’re two metres away and you can hardly hear what they’re saying. But if you are overwhelmed with all the changes already this year, and you want just one thing familiar, that car programme presenter did his same old tweet - so you can count on that.
The ‘day’ may be over, but there’s still work to be done. The decisions made by the government have meant that nearly 40% of grades have been downgraded, therefore there are a lot of students out there who are very unhappy and looking at how they can appeal or sit exams in Autumn. This has meant that fewer students are ready to make final decisions today as they might have been previously and we are indeed going to see a longer tail recruitment period through August and into the beginning of September.
If you would like to discuss any of the things we’ve touched on in this article, and what opportunities there are still (bidding strategies, messaging, nurture funnels), speak to one of our experts today.