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College e-recruiting strategies: Is your campus keeping up with technology?

Ruffalo Noel Levitz

July 11, 2012

College-bound students continues to use new and evolving technology. College recruitment staff must stay abreast to emerging technology trends to engage these students where they already are.
Are you and your colleagues keeping up with students’ changing preferences and their frequent use of online technologies?

The new 2012 E-Recruiting Practices Report from Noel-Levitz shows colleges and universities are working to keep up with prospective students’ changing behaviors and preferences by employing a wide range of online technologies such as mobile-optimized Web sites, text messaging, social media, QR codes, and more.

For example, in response to the rising use of mobile devices among high school students, more than one-third of four-year colleges and universities nationally now have mobile-optimized Web sites. Specifically, 39 percent of four-year public universities and 35 percent of four-year private colleges now have a Web site that is optimized for mobile browsing. The study also found these figures are set to double within the next year, as at least half of the study’s respondents that are currently without mobile-optimized sites reported they were preparing to launch one by spring 2013.

The study was based on a national poll of undergraduate admissions officials at U.S., degree-granting colleges and universities conducted between March 21, 2012, and April 20, 2012.

To further gear up for mobile browsing, nearly two-thirds of four-year college and university respondents in the study reported using QR codes to attract students to their sites. In addition, more than one-third of four-year public institution respondents and nearly one-quarter of four-year private institution respondents reported offering mobile apps.

In addition to the mobile findings, the study examined the frequency with which colleges and universities were using various types of social media. After Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, the next-most-popular social media in the rankings by respondents were FourSquare, Google+, and Pinterest.

More findings from the study

  • In contrast to the four-year institutions, only seven percent of respondents from two-year public colleges reported having a Web site that was optimized for mobile browsing. However, 41 percent of respondents from the two-year public sector reported they currently use QR codes, and 62 percent of respondents from this sector expected to have a mobile-optimized Web site within two years.
  • Two-thirds (66 percent) of four-year public institution respondents, 55 percent of four-year private institution respondents, and 41 percent of two-year public institution respondents reported launching their current institutional Web site within the last two years.
  • Two-thirds of four-year public institution respondents, three-quarters of four-year private institution respondents, and one-quarter of two-year public institution respondents reported using analytics resources such as Google Analytics to provide data on the effectiveness of the recruitment/admissions portion of the institutional Web site.
  • A typical prospective student now receives 12 bulk/blast e-mails from a four-year public institution, 18 from a four-year private institution, and four from a two-year public institution, based on the median response from each sector.
  • Compared to their public institution counterparts, private institution respondents reported conducting student searches via e-mail more frequently.
  • Nearly two-thirds of four-year institution respondents and more than 90 percent of two-year public institution respondents reported spending less than $25K to maintain admissions-specific content and services on their institution’s Web site.

Comparisons with prospective students
Also included in the study are findings on Web site and social media staffing and findings from a soon-to-be-released, parallel telephone survey of 2,000 prospective, college-bound high school students conducted this spring, such as:

  • Just over half (52 percent) of prospective students reported they had used a mobile phone or table to view a college or university Web site.
  • After Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, the next-most-popular social media in the rankings by prospective students were Google+, Tumblr, and StumbleUpon.

Direct contrasts between the parallel studies also included:

  • Only about one-quarter of prospective students reported they use Twitter vs. half to three-quarters of campus-based poll respondents.
  • More than half (60 percent) of prospective students reported they would be “willing to allow a college or university admissions representative to send [me] text messages,” while only about one-third of four-year institution respondents and one-quarter of two-year public institution respondents reported using text messaging to connect with prospective students.
  • More than one-quarter of prospective students rated live chat events as an effective way to learn about a college’s academic program options, but most colleges do not offer live chats.
  • When comparing the effectiveness of printed brochures vs. Web sites as channels for sharing information about academic programs, prospective students rated the two almost evenly, while campus-based poll respondents gave higher marks to Web sites.

The campus-based E-Recruiting Practices Report is the latest in a series of polls and surveys that Noel-Levitz has conducted since the late 1980s for the purpose of identifying effective recruitment practices. This year’s report includes additional comparisons to prospective students’ preferences and behaviors and an appendix with many additional findings such as preferred channels for communicating, admissions office use of cell phones and net price calculators, and frequencies of e-mailing parents.

A full copy of the parallel student study is available here: 2012 E-Expectations Report.

Noel-Levitz consultants will present findings from both studies at the 2012 Noel-Levitz National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention to be held at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, July 24-26, 2012, in Chicago, Illinois.


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