50 Creative Ways Colleges Are Recruiting Students Today

For decades, schools have made college recruiting an art. From slick marketing packages to the ultimate campus visit, there are seemingly endless ways to entice new students to enroll. But these days, admissions staff are armed with a whole new set of tricks, thanks to technology developments, social media, and good old-fashioned ingenuity.

  1. Rating systems:

    More schools are tracking data on prospective students, developing rating systems and devoting more or less time to each student based on the likelihood that they would enroll.

  2. Interactive video game tours:

    At DePauw University, students can take a tour of the campus through an interactive video game.

  3. Appearing to be more selective:

    Some colleges hope that exclusivity will breed desire, cutting out early acceptance programs and making the acceptance process just a little more cutthroat.

  4. Going green:

    Green living and environmental technology is a big deal these days, and colleges have gotten on board, attracting students with green facilities, cafeterias, and even educational offerings.

  5. Different protocol for different candidates:

    Schools are changing the way they deal with adult recruits, offering a more tailored recruiting experience for non-traditional students.

  6. Special programs:

    Colleges who make a home for a certain type of student are bound to attract more, like the University of Pittsburg has done with its group for students with autism and Asperger’s.

  7. Freebies:

    Would you choose a college based on getting a free iPad? That’s what the Illinois Institute of Technology was counting on when it announced that it would be giving free Apple iPads to all incoming undergraduate freshmen, and it worked.

  8. Free tuition:

    A free iPad’s nice and all, but what about free tuition? It’s a reality at the University of New Haven’s business school, offering free tuition to a student with the next great entrepreneurial idea. iPads are also available as prizes, as well as gift cards to the bookstore.

  9. Short films and viral videos:

    Alumni filmmakers and students often create viral videos or short films that share what’s great about their alma mater, bringing new students to campus.

  10. Student blogs:

    To build credibility among prospective students, MIT features 10 student blogs on its site.

  11. Email follow-ups:

    Email is a major part of creative college recruiting today, with many colleges sending out email blasts and follow-up messages.

  12. Salary reports:

    In recruiting mail-outs, Stanford is careful to highlight one of its best features: the great salary students will enjoy with a Stanford degree. The school included PayScale.com statistics that explain just how valuable a Stanford degree can be.

  13. Groupon promotions:

    National Louis University recently made history as the first academic institution to offer a daily deal promotion on Groupon, sharing a three-credit course that could be applied to a graduate degree.

  14. Courting valedictorians:

    Valedictorians are the Holy Grail of college recruitment, so many colleges offer the top scholarships. Often, schools will send out letters informing valedictorians of their available merit scholarship.

  15. One-on-one connections:

    With social media, admissions officers are able to offer one-on-one connections with potential students, letting them know how important they are and that they should apply.

  16. Podcasts:

    Allegheny College shares a series of podcasts featuring faculty members and undergraduates that prospective applicants to listen to and explore what the college has to offer.

  17. Sponsored search results:

    Colleges want to make sure they’re in the results when students search for colleges online, so many of them have used sponsored search results including Google AdWords and Yahoo! Sponsored Search.

  18. Overseas agents:

    Although it’s an illegal practice in the U.S., some colleges are able to send agents overseas to attract international students. These agents advertise and go to recruitment fairs in foreign countries, something that most colleges don’t have the resources to do without outside help.

  19. Unique clubs and activities:

    Groups like the MIT Assassins Guild, University of Kentucky Rock-Paper-Scissors Club, and the Princeton Mime Company attract students with their unique offerings.

  20. Text marketing:

    Ads on radio, TV, and in theaters get students to connect with colleges using their cell phones, encouraging them to text their email address for more information.

  21. Student-led photos:

    Schools used to just take photos of campus and put them on their website, but now, they’re using Instagram streams and tagging to encourage students to take the lead and share their own photos.

  22. Amazing dorm rooms:

    Academics are just part of the equation when it comes to choosing a college: dorm rooms are a big deal, too. So many universities are beefing up their dorm amenities to attract students, with bathroom renovations, larger spaces, appliances, and new furniture.

  23. Facebook forums:

    These days, college Facebook pages often turn into Q&A forums during admissions season, allowing students to ask questions about the school.

  24. Live chat sessions:

    Students who are interested in a college can drop in and chat with admissions officers in live chats to learn more about the campus and admissions process.

  25. YouTube applications:

    Tuft University recently allowed prospective students to create a YouTube video as a supplement to their application, and many have gotten thousands of hits on the site.

  26. Social media date reminders:

    Admissions officers on social media keep their schools at the forefront of students’ minds by posting reminders, news, and application deadlines on Facebook and Twitter.

  27. Tuition freezes:

    As the cost of higher education rises each year, schools that can offer a better deal are attracting a lot of attention. Some schools are even freezing tuition in the hopes of increasing enrollment.

  28. Virtual college fairs:

    Some students simply don’t have time to visit with admissions representatives in person, so many colleges are offering virtual college fairs to make it easier and attract more students.

  29. QR codes:

    Using QR codes, colleges are able to get students quickly connected with the recruitment information they want to share.

  30. Stronger student support:

    At Ashford University, the admissions staff has been slashed to better allow the school to support students. Instead, there will be a new department to work with prospective students to make sure they’re prepared for a university education.

  31. Hosting Hangouts:

    Using Google+ Hangouts, colleges reach out to students by hosting video chats explaining the school, academics, and admissions.

  32. Parent chats:

    Parents can be major decision makers in the admissions process, so some universities host video chats not just for students, but parents as well.

  33. Student Facebook pages:

    At MIT, there’s a student-run Facebook page for accepted students, offering an authentic look into the school for prospective students.

  34. Student ambassadors:

    Schools like CUNY use their students to reach out to recruits in area high schools, posting fliers and ads, and hosting recruiting sessions of their own.

  35. Accelerated courses:

    In today’s instant gratification society, students want their degrees, like, yesterday, and with accelerated courses, colleges are able to make that happen, making classes longer, but terms shorter.

  36. Good, old-fashioned phone calls:

    In today’s world of online interaction, some schools take an older, more personal approach: phone calls. It doesn’t work for every student, but some are impressed by the personal touch.

  37. Incredible facilities:

    Some universities seem to be in a facilities arms race to attract the most students with bigger and better new buildings. They’re splurging on high-profile architects to create spaces that are sure to bring in new students.

  38. Web history tracking:

    Some schools track the pages students visit on their site and customize their Web experience, giving them pages that are of post interest to them.

  39. Skyping:

    Group video chats work well, but some schools are finding that one-on-one video conversations between counselors and students work well, too.

  40. Facebook contests:

    At Misericordia University in Pennsylvania, the school offered bookstore gift certificates to freshen who replaced their Facebook profile photos with the university logo.

  41. Highlighting alumni on social media:

    Many colleges are calling attention to the fact that they have great alumni, and social media outlets are a great place to do it.

  42. Free travel:

    Many Massachusetts colleges have made it a point to attract more diverse candidates to their campuses. During recruitment season, Amherst flies almost 200 potential students from around the country in to participate in “diversity open houses,” and offers then two round-trip plane tickets to use every year, making it easier for them to visit family back home.

  43. Mobile websites:

    As more students use their phones to connect to the web, colleges are making sites that are mobile-ready, making it easy for students to browse what they have to offer.

  44. Mobile apps:

    In addition to mobile sites, some schools have taken it a step further and created mobile apps that students can take on the go to explore their schools.

  45. Webcasting:

    Webcasts and web conferences offer a large forum for prospective students to ask questions and share answers with the entire group.

  46. Showcasing activities:

    Social media is a great place for colleges to share the campus lifestyle, including events and activities that potential students may enjoy.

  47. Personalized websites:

    At schools like Case Western Reserve, students sign on to personalized portals. For example, students who express an interest in engineering will be greeted with news about engineering on campus and links to profiles of professors or other students in the field.

  48. Incomplete application follow-ups:

    Instead of allowing incomplete applications to sit and rot, many schools are following up with these students to make sure they come back to complete the application.

  49. Unique campus tours:

    Tour a campus by bike or boat, and you’ll get a whole new perspective and appreciation of what the school has to offer. At least, that’s what some colleges are hoping for as they introduce more unique campus tours to their potential students.

  50. Business partnerships:

    At the graduate level, schools are partnering with businesses to bring in new students for further education and growth in their schools.