Biden’s American Families Plan promises to inject $1.8 trillion into providing access to education for all Americans, regardless of their income. This comes at the same time as the increase in Pell Grants, meaning that US institutions can now expect an influx of students looking to study. So, how can Community Colleges convey their value, stand out from the crowd and stay ahead of the curve to attract and engage these students? Here are our top 10 tips.
1. Identify and understand your students
If you’re not already segmenting your students, then you’re missing a trick. By understanding where your students are in their education journey, their demographics and their requirements, you can devise a nurture strategy to meet their expectations.
Prospects want to connect to like-minded students and feel a sense of community, so set up your Open Houses so they can do just that. Whether you’re going online or delivering a hybrid session, you can boost engagement through break-out rooms, forums and live chat.
You also need to consider the factors that matter to your prospective students. After researching their needs, tailor your messaging and comms strategy to connect your USPs to their pain points. Gen-Z are constantly evolving - from their ways of thinking to their behaviours, so don’t overlook the importance of talking to your students.
2. Create a brand that connects
Connection is key. When talking to your students, ask them relevant questions to understand how your brand connects with them and how they perceive your school. Remember, students who apply for Community Colleges are more diverse than the ‘traditional’ students we see applying for university courses. They might be looking to pick up vocational skills and knowledge to get into a particular field of work or they may be looking for extra credits, so don’t limit your advertising and messaging to one type of student.
3. Conduct research analysis
Find out the internal and external perception towards your school. By surveying your current and prospective students, you can expand on your audience segments and really understand their barriers to application. Once you understand their barriers, position your creative strategy to address those issues. Make sure you understand how your brand is perceived inside and out, and don’t limit it to the ‘higher ups’.
4. Forget competition and harness community
Just because you can’t compete with other schools in the same county, doesn’t mean you should feel that you’re up against the four-year universities. It’s not about competition; instead, form partnerships with universities to boost the reach of your campaigns, and work with them to encourage students to your summer classes - here’s how.
5. Rethink your strategy
Forget the business problem, it’s all about the human problem. Identify the worries of your students and pivot your campaign so it’s outward facing. Then, identify your edge and connect your messaging with what the students want and what you offer. Consider your prospective students, your brand, your competitors and the overall education market. Curate this into a brand and value proposition that encapsulates your offering and tells your students why they should choose you.
6. Shout about your institution
Over lockdown, students have suffered from a lack of socialisation, but luckily for Community Colleges, civic responsibilities are what make you stand out from the crowd. Ground your USP in what you’re doing for the greater good of society now and get your prospective students involved. Get them excited about upcoming community building projects and give them a glimpse into life after lockdown. Make everything you do a collective experience by adopting an ‘everyone is welcome’ message.
7. Create valuable content and memorable experiences
Research shows that hosting an influencer or employee on your Instagram story boosts engagement by nearly 20%. So, get your alumni involved. Your campus is likely to have vloggers, bloggers, YouTubers and TikTokkers as the popularity of the content creation industry booms among young people. Use this to your advantage to create genuine, authentic content from real students. Of course, you’ll need to stay up-to-date with the latest platforms so you can create custom content (like filters) that your students can engage with. Learn how to get started on TikTok, Snapchat and Clubhouse here.
8. Don’t forget about your students’ influencers
Parents are key influencers in the decision-making process. What do they want to know about your school? How can you reassure them about changes to exams and modes of learning? What infrastructure can you set up to answer their questions? Create a dedicated landing page, forum or chat bot to address their concerns. And, make sure they speak to someone who has first-hand experience at your school or is in-the-know with the latest information.
9. Maximise your technology
Invest in the right event technology, especially for your virtual Open Houses. Automating your comms will ensure your messaging is consistent, keep your students engaged after the event and allow you to nurture them from application to enrollment… Have you set up reminders so your students don’t lose interest?
10. Automate your CRM
Community Colleges struggle to move applicants along the funnel to enrollment. So, how can you track students from their first touchpoint and ensure you’re capturing the right data throughout the process? Do you have a system that helps to reduce the amount of manual outreach? If not, check out our in-house tech stack, Akero. From full-funnel visualisation to tracking enrollment back to the first click, find out how Akero can automate your processes and guarantee you results.
These tips will help you convert applicants into enrolled students. Without the right research, creative and technology, you’ll struggle to put strategy behind your decisions and ultimately could miss out on applications and enrollments. Plus, with Akero, you’ll be able to optimize and automate for maximum results. So, what are you waiting for? Implement the strategy today and watch the applications roll in.
If you're looking for even more tips and tricks, then make sure to check out the session on demand.