College Marketing: How Does Your College’s Online Presence Compare?

College WebsitesOn average, it costs colleges and universities $1,641 (not including admissions staff salaries and benefits) to recruit a student through enrollment, according to the recent 2013 State of College Admission report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).

In the same report, colleges ranked the university’s website as one of the top three most important aspects in their new student recruitment strategy. Even though websites (and even other online tools such as blogs and social media) are considered important, not all colleges and universities are using them to their fullest potential.

So how does your school’s online presence compare to other colleges and universities? Let’s check out some more stats from the NACAC 2013 State of College Admission report to see how your online presence stacks up.

1. Content for parents and guidance counselors. We know it’s ultimately the student’s decision where to go to college, but parents and high school guidance counselors (particularly at private schools) are big influencers (whether the students admit it or not). However, only 85 percent of colleges and universities reported offering information on their website tailored to parents of prospective students and only 68 percent said they offer information for high school counselors.

Does your website have information for parents? How about for high school counselors? If you’re in the minority here, you may want to consider adding content directed at those important influencers.

2. Contact methods. Does your website prominently display the school’s phone number as a way to contact the college? If so, you’re not aligning your methods of contact with the ways students and parents prefer to contact schools.

According to the 2013 State of College Admission report, e-mail/Internet is the most popular way for students to contact colleges, with 40 percent of all admission inquiries being received via e-mail or the Internet. Of all the methods used to contact schools (college fairs, high school visits, written sources), phone calls were the least popular method for contacting colleges. So, make sure the admission office’s e-mail address or an online contact form is displayed prominently on your site.

3. Social media tools. The report found that 96 percent of schools provide links to their social networking sites, and an increasing number (52 percent) have blogs by current students. Some colleges even have blogs by admission officers and offer podcasts. What’s your social media presence like? Are you in the 4 percent that doesn’t link to your social media sites? Is anyone from your college blogging?

The report didn’t go into specific social media platforms used by colleges and universities, but many news outlets have covered how the social media tools used by teens are changing. Some studies show teens are moving away from Facebook, and moving toward other social media tools like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. In fact, a recent survey shows that Twitter is now more popular with teens than Facebook. Is your school in the online places where your target audience is spending time?

4. Visibility of online application. How easy is it to find (and fill out) your online application? In our technology-driven world and with the change from targeting Millenials to Generation Z (aka “digital natives”), online applications are becoming increasingly important. According to the 2013 State of College Admission report, for the Fall 2012 admission cycle, four-year colleges and universities receive 89 percent of their applications online, an increase from the previous two admission cycles.

If a link to your online application isn’t prominently located on your college website, now’s the time to make a change.

Hopefully these insights from the 2013 State of College Admission report will help you as you evaluate the state of your current online presence, maintain your college website, and determine where to put your resources (particularly valuable staff time).

Image credit: Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics.

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