How to create a successful college recruitment plan

Hundreds of years ago, when the great prophets of the world predicted all the things that would happen in the future, they completely missed a really important one: that in 2018, universities and colleges across America wouldn’t be harnessing the full power of digital marketing. As college enrollments continue their decline for the sixth straight year, it’s no time to be taking chances on traditional recruitment tactics.

If you’re a VP of Enrollment or a Director of Admissions and you’re looking for the ‘secret to college recruiting’ or ‘digital marketing hacks’, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. But, a successful college recruitment strategy is simple: think like a high school senior and hangout where they hangout. That doesn’t mean you should binge watch Netflix or start preparing for Coachella, but does mean having an engaging and meaningful digital presence. Competition among colleges is fierce and as your admissions teams prepare to go to battle we want to make sure you’re armed with proven digital tactics for a successful recruitment campaign.

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Increase recruitment with engaging and meaningful online experiences

We’re going to start with virtual experiences because it’s what we know best. YouVisit is a platform that creates engaging and meaningful experiences using 360 virtual reality, which has proven to be a winning point of difference for the high schools, community colleges and top tier universities that we service. Institutions that have virtual experiences on their website see a 22% increase in applications. So, like we said if you want to find prospective students you have to be where they are, and where they are is online. As you read this about 2.2 million high school seniors across america are researching potential colleges online. So, if your tours aren’t virtual you’re risking almost your entire market to the hundreds of other institutions that are.

While virtual experiences are a sure fire way to increase applications, there are a few things to consider when selecting a provider. Firstly, I want you to repeat after me, thou shalt not choose the cheapest option. As with anything in life, you get what you pay for and if you go down this path it’s likely what you’ll end up with is an expensive version of google maps.     

Convert website visitors at each stage of their journey

So, you have an amazing, immersive virtual experience, the flowers are in bloom, the sun is shining and you’re staring at your screen waiting for the applications to roll in. Here’s where your digital strategy really comes into play, so let’s talk about the three key calls-to-action of a high converting website:


Not every visitor to your website is ready make a long term commitment and it’s likely they’re playing the field with a number of other institutions. You worked hard to get them there so having an inquiry CTA button is going to be helpful in capturing their data and answering any questions they might have. We use our muscle memory to navigate websites so keep it simple and place your inquiry button in an expected place like the main menu, footer or contact us page.   


This seems like an obvious one but your institution’s application CTA is arguably the most important. After all, what good is your recruitment campaign if there’s no way apply! Placing a static application button on the main menu will make it easy for visitors to apply while navigating your website in addition to the obvious footer placement. What your visitors experience on the apply page is what will really make or break your conversion numbers. Make navigation as easy as possible by laying out the application process, deadlines, FAQ’s and any last minute value propositions in a simple format. Be sure to frequently test your data capture forms and website speed.

Physical Tours

If you have a virtual experience on your website you’re already ahead of the game. By this point it’s no surprise that institutions who have a YouVisit experience on their website see a 27% increase in physical campus tours. Think about it like real estate. You begin your renting or buying journey online and the homes with the best visuals are the ones you physically inspect. It’s the same for prospective students who will live, study and play on your campus. Make it easy for them by placing a static ‘Book a Visit’ CTA button on the menu of your experience.  

Social promotions will put you front of mind

Virtual experience – check! Lead generation website – check! Website traffic – crickets…

Here’s where we see a lot of institutions get it wrong. While going digital can seem a little  daunting it’s actually a lot easier than you think. Gen Z are the highest social media users of any generation and it’s likely they will make up a majority of your future cohort. So, don’t be afraid to show up in their Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat feeds! There are a few ways to target the right people, at the right time, with the right message and get them to your website.


Don’t let the numbers fool you. While there are less Gen Z Facebook users than other generations, it’s still a great place to target prospective students of all generations and their parents. Video advertisements generally outperform all other ad types on Facebook so try promoting your virtual experience in their feed. You can add a Facebook pixel to re-market to website visitors who haven’t applied, re-market to existing applicants during summer melt, or save up to 40% of your budget by excluding your existing applicant and student database.


As a visual social platform Instagram is an obvious one.  You can promote images or virtual experiences of your school with a strong CTA in your audiences feed or add a paid Instagram story showing off campus life. You can specifically target athletes with videos of your stadium or show off your local area to out of towners. You can set the ads manually through the platforms (Instagram is owned by Facebook) or you can use a number of different advertising platforms that will do the heavy lifting for you like ad creation and budget optimization.

Nurture prospects throughout the applicant life cycle with email

So you completed steps 1 to 3 and you have an endless list  of applicant data, now what? The last piece of any great digital campaign is an email nurture strategy. Think of the leads you have as seedlings, they need to be loved and nurtured to grow into a healthy tree or in this case, student! You can branch your email campaigns off the different stages in the enrollment journey to promote your overall institution, open days, and deadline reminders.

Once your email lists start to grow, you will want to start segmenting them so you can market to each list effectively. Just like you would on social media you can segment your emails based on course type, gender, interests, location, and much more.

If you’re in the higher education space more than 700 of your competitors are already implementing these tactics so it’s the perfect time to consider how a YouVisit Virtual Experience can ramp your conversion metrics. What digital tactics are you considering this recruitment season? We’d love to hear your thoughts, email us at