We talk with a lot of schools about their outreach strategies for recruitment and there are some really common practices throughout the higher education industry. Technology is changing, though, so many are looking for new and improved ways to communicate with prospective students.
The schools that are the most proud of their outreach strategies are those that send handwritten postcards to students after tours. They say things like, "the effort our students put into these is amazing, and I really think it shows the prospective students how much we care."
What we've yet to hear is a school saying something like, "prospective students love the handwritten postcards we take so much time to write and note that it was a postcard that helped them decide to attend."
When is the last time your students sent and received hand-written mail? Do they even know how much a stamp costs? It's just not how they communicate any more.
I think all managers would agree that an activity that takes a lot of time without evidence of a return should be reconsidered. Our recommendation is to start conducting surveys with incoming students that ask if the postcard played a role in their decision. If not, it's time to move on to more efficient activities.
2. Phone Calls
The most common description of outreach activities around the country is phone calls or call-a-thons. Some schools have heavily invested in a calling system for students to dial prospective students while others order pizza and get everyone in a room for an evening and go down a list.
But how effective is this? Almost every school says that high school students just don't pick up the phone like they used to and students are lucky to get anyone on the phone. But they continue to do it because it's what they've always done, knowing that the results will only get worse.
Just like the postcards above, incoming students need to be asked if those phone calls, or more likely, voicemails, actually helped sway their decision. Teenagers simply don't want to talk on the phone anymore and we're confident your survey results would make that fact quite clear.
We're getting a little closer to the best mode of communication as we move into the digital world, which is where every teenager lives. However, we talk with very few schools that have their ambassadors send emails to prospects. Why this is, we're not sure. It's efficient, more likely to get read, and easy to respond to. It's not the best choice, but it's a great alternative to the next mode of communication if you don't have the tools in place to do it.
By far, texting is the most efficient use of your outreach efforts. It's the way teenagers communicate with each other, easy to send, and easy to reply. And if done right, it doesn't use up much of your budget.
Be wary of companies that sell you on "texting" and then later you find out that what they're talking about is mass texts that aren't personalized. What you want is 1 to 1 texting where a real person is writing to another real person, which is what drives up the value of your communication.
PeerPoint is a great tool to help your ambassadors text with prospects. By using the PeerPoint Ambassador Mobile App, your ambassadors use their app to send a message that is sent to the prospect as a text. When the prospect responds with a text, that text is routed back through the ambassador app for the ambassador. This way they never know each other's phone numbers, you don't have to get cell phones for your ambassadors to use, and every message that is sent back and forth is routed through the PeerPoint system for you to observe.
Ask incoming students if the text they received from a student made a difference, and your survey results will change significantly. It's how they like to communicate and will be much more memorable.