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Navigating the online college search process

Students want information

Our smartphones are loaded with icons we ignore and icons that have our undivided attention. The trick to student engagement is to ping the red notification badges on the icons students use most. Are they adamant about clearing away unread emails? Do they leave texts on read? You have to meet them where they’re at if you want to help them navigate their college enrollment process. That means using an omnichannel approach. 

In 2021, only 28% of high school seniors planned a visit to a campus while trying to decide which institution to attend. Those numbers were obviously affected by the ongoing pandemic, but adjusting your outreach strategy has never been more important. 

The path is more important than the vehicle

Think of what obstacles a student might face throughout the process of enrolling in a school and use the best medium to manage that gap. 

Before they apply

It all begins at your website – the first place students start the confusing process of applying for college. 

Having live chat or a chatbot can do wonders for ensuring that first impression is a good one. 80% of students in 2021 said that live chat was helpful in learning more about a school. 

Prepping for a campus visit

Text students early and often in their search. The best time to incorporate texting in your communications strategy is immediately after they’ve submitted their application. It’s a good idea to have opt-in language in the application process to ensure your texts are welcome. 

Social channels are important to announce an open house or to welcome inquiries. 51% of high school students will use social media to learn more about a school.1 Build your brand with videos and photos as they attract the most attention.

Nudging them through the application process

9-out-of-10 students are open to receiving texts during the college enrollment process. It’s no different than when you agree to allow your dentist to text you appointment reminders. We’ve all become reliant on nudges. 

Stagger your communication to ensure your messages are getting read. For example, send out an email on Tuesday to remind students when their application is due. Then, follow up that email with a text on Wednesday, then another email on Thursday. Be sure to end each message with an invitation for the student to ask questions, if needed. The omnichannel approach ensures you’re reaching students wherever they are. 

After they’ve accepted

The process isn’t over until yet. Avoid melt with support. Text helpful reminders when you’ve noticed that a student has completed Financial Aid forms but has yet to register for classes. Some students want to be walked through the process, so let them know you’re just a phone call away if they’re confused about the process. 

You’re not pestering them. 

There’s a difference between spam messages and helpful nudges. As long as the information you’re sending in emails, chats and texts is useful, students won’t get irritated. In fact, they’ll be grateful. The more ways in which you send a message, the better the chances students get the help they need


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