Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF

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Five winning ways to reach students

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • The following item is adapted from the 2017 edition of ICEF Insights magazine
  • The complete issue is available to download now
  • It provides concrete examples to illustrate innovative recruitment marketing strategies

Successful student recruitment campaigns go well beyond listing and promoting a school’s programmes – they inspire and encourage prospective students to imagine themselves living and studying on campus. Great campaigns tap into students’ passions and career goals, and they gain momentum when they’re so cool they get shared all over social media.

Here are five examples of schools doing recruiting right.

1. Jump past the limits of educational marketing and be bold!

Babson College, a business school in Massachusetts, oriented its marketing message around the general interests and popular culture of the students it wanted to attract. It used blockbuster Hollywood movie-inspired design to convey the message that its programmes nurture the talents and ambitions of entrepreneurs. The flashy, confident design concept and decision to appeal to students’ post-degree aspirations set the campaign apart from those of competitors.

A still from the Babson College video.

2. Show the link between your programmes and successful careers

Plymouth University in the UK leverages its alumni in a more targeted way than many schools do. Instead of posting a bunch of generic testimonials on its site, the university showcases the achievements of its alumni according to programme and interest area, from architecture and art and design to agricultural science and psychology. This structure offers international students a meaningful way to understand the careers enabled by the programmes they’re interested in, which is extremely important because so many students prioritise job and income potential when considering what to study.

When students click on a particular field of study, they encounter a high-quality photo of the graduate and an interview that begins with the questions every student is interested in: “Tell us about your career path since graduation” and “How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?”

An array of student testimonials on the Plymouth University website.

3. Students want to be happy and comfortable as they study

When you study abroad, you live abroad. Prospective students – and their parents – want to feel comfortable about student housing before deciding to apply to an institution. The University of Michigan runs an annual contest called “Dormspiration” in which participants first follow “UofMichigan” on Pinterest and then share photos of how they’ve decorated their dorm room or apartment via a Pinterest board called “My UofMichigan #Dormspiration.”

The Dormspiration campaign on Pinterest.

The contest helps new students to feel welcome, engages current students, and
also has a recruitment angle: international student participants can share their ideas with friends and parents back home. The required foundation for effective word-of-mouth marketing is a passionate current user base, and the University of Michigan Pinterest campaign definitely gets it right on this count.

4. Understand how quickly students move to new channels and networks

The WhatsApp and Messenger apps are huge among students the world over. When Erasmus University in the Netherlands added WhatsApp to its student helpdesk last year, it experienced a massive surge in the number of messages it received from prospective students: seven times the number the university had received through Facebook. Higher education marketing departments and admissions staff appreciate the way messaging apps respond to students’ demand for quick response times and how they fit into the multi-tasking, always-connected habits of millennials.

5. Appeal to students’ interests and passions

Vancouver Island University (VIU) launched its Instagram account with a clear purpose: to attract an audience using the pull of the outdoors and an off-the-beaten-track lifestyle.VIU initially engaged a devoted “tribe” of followers to contribute images and videos evocative of this vision to the VIU account – tagged with #ILearnHere.

VIU’s Instagram campaign.

For additional background, please see:

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