By Peter Cunningham

When I used to do student recruitment fairs for British universities a long time ago, I’d take a copy of the Sunday Times with me and give it to one of the old academics on the nearest rival stall.

He’d bury his nose in it and prospective students would walk past him and right up to me.

If only student recruitment was as simple today, when young people don’t have to leave their bedrooms to check out what your college or university has to offer. The internet is the main battleground for higher education marketing today.

Here’s an education marketing guide to the top five things colleges and universities should do to get the attention of undergraduates and post-graduates.


Get yourself seen

Google is your friend – you just have to help it get to know you. Search engine optimization is what you need.

The first step in your student recruitment strategy is as easy as looking at your URL. There are five letters Google trusts and goes hunting for – “https”.

That little “s” at the end means your website is secure. If it’s not there, you drop down the search rankings before your content has even be analysed.

On to content: you’ll need to know what people are searching for so they will find you. So this means getting keyword research done to find out where the hits come from. Once you have the research, pepper your website with each phrase that pays.

Google also likes content that’s authoritative, unique, detailed and fresh. Work on your content and keep it up to date. Google comes looking every time you refresh it.

Don’t think it’s just about words, either – add in rich media, infographics, videos, and imagery throughout the article as this can improve on site elements such as time spent on site and reduce the bounce rate.

And open up your social media channels. Don’t just post – interact. Get those links to your new content doing the rounds on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn … wherever the people you want to see you are talking.


Gain their trust

So a prospective student has arrived at your website. Show them what your university can do for them.

It’s a simple step in student recruitment to tell them success stories – let them see how many enrolments become graduates and how many graduates go on to careers in related spheres. Show them the value of an education with you.

Increasingly, students want more than results. They want to see that you are a responsible organisation with high ethical standards. Underline your corporate social responsibility efforts.

And make it easy for them to enquire about courses. A call to action button labelled “enquire now” or “apply now” can take them straight to a form instead of trawling through menus.


Be friends

The candidate’s enquiry has come through. Now win them around with an emotional connection to sell them on your services.

A lot of unis’ external communications are much better than their internal communications when it comes to student recruitment. The messages they tell outsiders about what they care about and how they care either aren’t followed through or lose coherency in-house.

So whether a student is talking on the phone to an admissions advisor or exchanging emails with an academic about the course they are considering, those key points have to get through. Get everyone singing from the same hymn street.

Be friendly, be courteous, and be professional – and make the prospective student feel like they matter, because they do.


Do your follow-up

The application is in – now you’ve got to turn it into an enrolment. So pay attention to your candidate – the recruitment process isn’t over yet.

If they are school leavers, they are likely to have applications in to multiple institutions. So stay in contact and let them know what stage their form is at. A friendly tone could make their difference when it’s time for them to decide which offer to accept.

For post-graduate qualifications, the gestation period is longer. It can take up to five years for an enquiry about an MBA to turn into an enrolment. Don’t pester, but remind those who enquired that you’re still there and what you have to offer.


These are the basics – but even the basics are intensive and time-consuming. For the best results, you’ll need specialists in every field.

We are student recruitment specialists. Contact us now on 0800 612 9890.