Everyone knows the economy has been very bad within the last eight years and it has affected the colleges and universities around the country, and these places had to find newer ways to market themselves to prospective students better than any other college/university out there.

Since this is not something new, many articles have been written on new strategies that colleges/universities are taking to increase their prospective student enrollment.

The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article in 2004 that was titled Marketing Institutions and Recruiting New Students: What Works Best? It begins saying that, “Increased competition for students and tuition revenues.  Cuts in support for higher education.  A commitment to diversity.  Concerns about meeting student-aid needs.  Those are a few issues that are forcing institutions to review and update the ways they market their campuses and communicate with prospective students.”

The article continues to say that “Many admissions offices now use new technologies to broadcast their carefully choreographed messages.  Staff members, current students, alumni, and administrators all woo applicants through personalized email messages, parties, and even ads in movie theaters, as well as more conventional methods.”

I know that Sweet Briar has increased their connection to prospective students since two years before, encouraging staff to get in contact with many of them.  “Marketing has also increased the amount of ads appearing on Facebook, created new viewbooks and materials that perspectives can read, and has also encompassed many phrases/sayings that can represent a wider range of prospective students than the previous campaign allowed before,” stated Zach Kinkaid the Director of Media, Marketing and Communications at Sweet Briar College.  Kinkaid went on to state that, “There has been 530,000 visitors to the new SBC website from November 2010 – November 2011 and that each month requests for more information about the college have doubled from prospective students interested in learning more.”

Each institution has different reactions to loss in income, especially smaller institutions that really need help to get them out in the marketing world to be able to reach new prospective students and the article makes sure to say why as well, “Common reactions to enrollment dips, often driven by panic, include strategies such as expanding recruiting into areas where an institution has had little or no visibility – and lacks the resources or foresight to create a sustainable presence (the very thing needed to expand into a new market).

It goes on to say that, “Enrollment problems almost always result from a combination of external and internal variables, like demographic changes, a blurred institutional image, or deeply ingrained institutional practices”  Wow this sounds like Sweet Briar College, “Only the pursuit of incremental, data-driven improvements and innovations will result in substantial breakthroughs.”

“While recruitment solutions will different for each college or university, however, there are five basic principles that can be applied universally:

1) Students are influenced by relationships.  A major focus of any recruitment strategy should be on cultivating a relationship between the prospective student and the institution.

2) Students want to be treated as individuals.  Customized communications, whether delivered face-to-face, via telephone, or through the Web or email, should be personalized, timely, and relevant to each individual.

3) Communications should be delivered through multiple channels (promotional advertising, direct mail, Web chats, and multimedia presentations) by multiple people (the chancellor, admissions counselors, faculty members, the parents of current students) with a single voice.  Repetition is necessary to expand interest in the institution and move a prospective student to visit the campus, apply for admission, attend orientation, register for classes, and pay the bill.

4) Every interaction with a prospective student is a ‘moment of truth’ for the institution.  Each one should be carefully orchestrated.  The pivotal event, during which students decide if a school is right for them or not, is usually the campus visit.

5) A slow response to a student inquiry or request is the proverbial kiss of death.  A slow response signals to the student that the institution does not care.”

I do believe that Sweet Briar is trying to improve all these aspects as much and as fast as they can so enrollment does increase and prospective students will feel connected and welcomed at the institution they provide.

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