2022 Survey of Juniors Searching for College

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Key Takeaways

  • 79% of students said that personalized and relevant outreach influences their interest in a college. Only 16%, however, thought that the communications they have received have been very personalized and relevant; 21% thought that they all look and sound the same.
  • Current students at a college are the most influential to a prospective student’s consideration of a college, even more than an admissions counselor, family, or friends.
  • 69% of students said that a college’s name recognition and brand are important to them. Almost all students—97%—will consider applying to a college they hadn’t heard of before, so long as certain conditions are met. The majority said that a conversation with someone from a college they hadn’t previously heard of would make them consider it.
  • The percentage of students eliminating colleges from consideration based on the total cost rose sharply from 75% this fall for the class of 2022 to 91% for the class of 2023. Less than half of students say they would consider a college whose total cost is over $40,000 per year. This is felt even more strongly with first-generation students and those from low-income families.
  • 72% of juniors started actively researching colleges as a freshman or sophomore, up from 56% last year.
  • The majority of juniors are comfortable again with in-person recruitment activities—71% say they will definitely visit a college campus for an official visit in the future. Most juniors also report that they plan to attend at least one college fair or meet with admissions counselors who visit their high school.

Summary

In our second annual spring survey of juniors (view 2021 results) we received responses from 9,461 students. This survey was designed and the insights and recommendations were put together as a joint project between Niche and Tudor Collegiate Strategies (TCS). Along with the survey results, Jeremy Tiers of TCS has a variety of tips and recommendations for you in each of the “What you can do now…” sections. Almost all respondents have been actively researching colleges, only 2% said they are only in the awareness stage and not actively researching their options yet. The majority of respondents started searching before their junior year even started. 

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Overall, 85% of respondents said that they definitely will enroll immediately after graduation without taking time off, though only 74% of respondents in the mountain west and 72% of homeschooled students said that they planned to. Along with Native students, more than 20% of both groups said that they are considering a gap year. Only 13% of all students said that they are currently considering a gap year, so at this time the majority of juniors appear to be planning to take a traditional route. 

The survey was posted on Niche and sent to registered students graduating in the Class of 2023 as well as shared on social media and on the Niche Discord server for students. As are users on Niche, the respondents were more diverse. No Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander ethnic group met the 0.5% threshold to be broken out separately. Any Asian ethnic group with at least 0.5% was broken out and the rest were aggregated. A full breakout of responses follows:

  • African American or Black – 16%
  • American Indian or Alaska Native – 0.3%
  • Bangladeshi – 0.6%
  • Chinese – 4%
  • Filipino – 1%
  • Indian – 3%
  • Korean – 1%
  • Pakistani – 0.5%
  • Vietnamese – 2%
  • Other Asian – 2%
  • Caucasian or White – 38%
  • Hispanic or Latinx – 16%
  • Middle Eastern or North African – 1%
  • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander – 0.2%
  • Multiracial – 14%
  • Unknown – 1%

Household income was closely representative of the US population and a third of students didn’t know their household income, a common response before a FAFSA has been filed.

  • Under $25,000 – 10%
  • $25,000-$49,999 – 14%
  • $50,000-$79,999 – 15%
  • $80,000-$130,000 – 15%
  • Above $130,000 – 12%
  • Unknown – 34%

Suburban and public high schools were the most represented among respondents.

  • Urban public school – 28%
  • Urban private school – 4%
  • Suburban public school – 42%
  • Suburban private school – 4%
  • Rural public school – 13%
  • Rural private school – 1%
  • Online high school – 2%
  • Boarding school – 1%
  • Homeschooled – 1%
  • Overseas school – 4%

Today’s College Search

A commonly overlooked question when considering a college search is to ask “Why?”. Why is this person considering college and what is motivating them to succeed? The majority of students said that they plan to pursue college because it’s required for their preferred career, for their personal growth, or to make connections and network. A third of students said they are pursuing a college degree because they feel like they have to, and while that may motivate a search, application, and enrollment; that may not be enough of a reason to thrive and retain. 

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The most common emotions that students reported experiencing surrounding their college search are hope, excitement, and anxiety. Every one of the seven emotions that were asked about increased in intensity over the Class of 2022 responses. The largest increases were in feelings of preparedness (increased 17 points to 35%) and hopefulness (increased 16 points to 76%). Low-income and first-generation students were slightly more likely to report feeling more negative emotions of fear, anxiety, and being overwhelmed. Larger differences were noticed among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, Korean, Bangladeshi, and Vietnamese students. Less than a third of students overall reported feeling afraid about college, but over half of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students did. They were also much more likely to report feeling anxiety (87%).

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So far, 29% of juniors have met with an admissions staff member during a visit to campus. Only 6% said that they don’t plan to visit at this point, hopefully reversing the trend of an increasing number of students not visiting prior to enrollment. In fact, 71% said that they definitely will visit a college in the next year and 21% said that they might. They were less sure that they would meet with a college representative who visits their high school, only 51% said they definitely would in the next year with 35% saying that they might. They were even less likely to be planning on attending a college fair, only 47% said that they definitely would and 39% said that they might. 

There is an indication that the confusion and misinformation surrounding test-optional and test-blind policies is a major concern. This year, 72% of students still believe that if they do not submit test scores to a college that is test-optional or test-blind it will hurt their chances of being accepted. This is only a slight increase from 75% of students reporting the same last year. Only 35% of those who believe this have been told that by a counselor, friend, or family member.

What you can do now…

  • Many students continue to feel a roller coaster of emotions when it comes to the transition from high school to college. Much of their anxiety stems from fear of the unknown and feeling like they need to have their future already planned out. It’s important to humanize your communications and conversations and ask direct questions that open the door and give students permission to reveal what they’re thinking. You could ask, “How do you feel when you think about being a college student?” or, “When you think about becoming a college student, what’s the biggest thing you worry about?” You can then take their feedback and fill in some of the blanks as a way to alleviate their anxiety while at the same time educating them about the student experience at your school. It’s also important to have messaging that focuses on the various resources and people on your campus that help new students with both the social and academic transitions. 
  • If you want more students to connect with their admissions counselor during a visit to the student’s high school, besides considering the time and location of some visits, focus on creating a connection ahead of time with both the student and their high school counselor. For example, you could create an ad hoc message that explains what an admissions counselor’s role in this process is. Touch on some of the things they can help with and answer, and reinforce that it’s okay for students to stop by and say hi. 
  • Regarding campus visits, remember that conversion happens when connections are created. When asked what they liked most about campus visits they had taken (as a free response), the most popular answer for juniors was 1-1 individualized help—being able to ask different people (namely admissions counselors and current students) questions and get immediate answers. You can build in 10-15 minutes at the end of a student’s visit for them to sit down with their admissions counselor. During that meeting, avoid launching into a bunch of questions, including asking “What questions do you have now?” Instead, offer to answer any burning questions the student or parents may have, but make it clear that you understand it was a busy day with a lot of people and a lot of information, so you want to give the student some time to process everything and talk things over with their family, friends, etc. Then, ask them to schedule a short phone call together a day or two later. Make it clear that the goal of that phone call will be to answer any questions that they come up with, as well as discuss the student’s next step.
  • Pull back the curtain and explain in an easy-to-understand way how admissions decisions will be made. What will happen if a student does submit test scores? What other things can students do to strengthen their case and get admitted? Just like this year’s senior group, juniors want a clear understanding of the criteria that matters most. This content can also be incorporated during different in-person and virtual events, and it would be valuable to record stand-alone videos that can be accessed via your website or social media at any time.

Who, and What, is Influencing College Search

A college’s brand and name recognition were very important to students, 12% said that it was very important, 57% important, and only 11% said that it didn’t matter to them. There was some good news for colleges with lower name recognition, however. Almost all students said they will consider applying to a college they hadn’t heard of before, so long as certain conditions are met. The majority say that a conversation with someone from a college they hadn’t previously heard of would make them consider it. Recommendations from their family or school counselor were also important, much more so than from alumni or religious leaders. The fourth most likely way to earn consideration was through rankings, especially among Chinese, Indian, and students attending high school outside the US.

Additionally, current students at a college were the most influential in influencing a prospective student’s consideration of a college—even more than an admissions counselor, family, or friends. Combining these two results, ambassador programs should be prioritized. Almost half of African American or Black students and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students reported that current students were very influential in their decision-making process. Urban and rural students were more likely to be influenced by a college admission counselor than their peers at suburban high schools, information that may be useful for planning travel.

Only 7% of students say that they are truly searching alone with no support from a parent, sibling, counselor, or CBO. The majority—79%—of students said that a parent or guardian is helping them in their college search. Less than two-thirds of first-generation college students reported a parent or guardian helping in their search, however, and they were no more likely to report receiving support from a school counselor and only six percentage points more likely at 42% to be receiving support from a CBO. This highlights an early opportunity for cultivating partnerships with students and their families through partnerships with schools and CBOs to make sure that first-generation college students don’t slip through the cracks. 

What you can do now…

  • People influence other people, and we all make decisions based on how we feel, you need to create opportunities for connections. According to this group of students, a conversation with someone at a college or university is the number one way to generate interest if they’re not familiar with your school. That means your initial conversation or outreach needs to be more relational than transactional. Instead of throwing out all kinds of bullet points and facts, and then encouraging them to visit campus or apply, place a bigger priority on creating conversations and learning more about your students and their wants and needs. Where are they in their search? What do they think they want or don’t want? What are they struggling with or trying to figure out? You don’t need to tell them everything all at once—you just need to say enough to create dialogue.
  • Utilize your current students in more ways than just on student panels during events. Ask them specific questions about their student experience (i.e. campus life, their classes, professors, where they go off-campus, what they like about your school’s location and atmosphere, and what was helpful when they were a new student). Take their feedback and incorporate direct quotes into different emails as a way to provide the current student perspective that prospective students desperately want and need. If you have a large first-gen population, for example, create messaging and videos that highlight current first-generation students, and share those in a way that connects the dots and helps prospective first-gen students see the possibilities.
  • Parents remain the biggest influencer for most students during their college search. If you still don’t have specific segmented messaging for this group (based on stage and grade), please make that a priority this year. When you educate and consistently keep parents in the loop on some of the things you’ve been sharing with their child, they tend to engage at a higher level and will share all kinds of helpful information when prompted. In terms of content, the three topics that parents value the most are financial aid/affordability, safety, and student outcomes. 

Virtual Events and Emerging Technologies

The majority of students said that they would definitely attend events specific to a major or academic program, admissions processes and requirements, and financial aid. Only one-third said they would definitely attend a general information session, even though these are far more commonly offered. At this point, 39% of juniors report having attended a virtual event and another 49% say that they have not yet but plan to. 

Virtual events were more popular when they were shorter; only 38% of students said that they would attend a session over 45 minutes and only 13% would be interested in an event lasting over an hour. Students were three times as likely to say that they would like to attend a weekend virtual event as one during the week. Afternoon events were also more popular than evening or morning events with 42% wanting to attend afternoon events and 33% preferring evening events.

In terms of the format, only 15% of students preferred virtual events to be on-demand. Most students are more interested in fully live or partially live events with recorded elements. During virtual events, students overwhelmingly preferred asking questions through a chat feature than on camera or on audio. After the event, students wanted to talk to their counselor rather than current students and would rather email than talk or text.

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When asked about emerging technologies for connecting with students there was increasing interest. In our fall survey of the class of 2022, 32% of students responded that interacting with a chatbot was an appealing option for learning more about a college. In this survey, it increased to 41%. In terms of connecting to other prospective students, 64% of students reported that a private group or community in which to meet other students interested in a college is appealing.

What you can do now…

  • Virtual events and other stand-alone content are an important part of your student recruitment strategy in 2022. They give you added reach, allow for convenience, and also eliminate obstacles for students who can’t visit campus. The key is understanding students’ preferences and pain points, and doing things intentionally, versus doing for the sake of doing. All of your virtual events, especially any that are live, should be 45 minutes or less, with the majority taking place on weekends versus during the week. You should also be recording many of your in-person events and repurposing that content as a way to save time and help your staff avoid burnout.
  • In terms of pain points, juniors do not enjoy virtual events that feature presenter after presenter.  They say it’s information overload, often feels rushed, and it’s also not engaging or fun. There’s a lack of personal connection, and it’s hard to get a true feel like you can when it’s in-person. One way to help would be to create more video content, specifically from the current student’s point of view.
  • The number one group that juniors and seniors want to hear from when they attend virtual events is your current students. That group should always make up a significant amount of your content. Some of the most effective virtual events have included current students and recent grads sharing stories about their experiences specific to their particular major. No slides, just stories.
  • It’s also important to be timely and specific with your virtual events and online content. For example, in the fall you could explain how to make sense of a financial aid award letter, or how to write a compelling essay for your application. 

Preferred Campus and Community Characteristics

Two-year colleges were being considered by 21% of students, with community colleges being considered 2:1 over career or technical schools. Of these, 3% reported exclusively considering 2-year colleges. Almost all (95%) were considering 4-year colleges and public 4-year colleges were slightly more likely to be considered than private 4-year colleges. Only 3% reported that they were considering for-profit 4-year colleges. Urban and suburban campuses were the only locations viewed favorably by students, small-town and rural campuses were not as appealing with only 39% indicating interest in small-town campuses and 30% for campuses in rural areas. Mid-sized colleges, those enrolling 5,000-15,000 students, were the most popular and the only size for which the majority of students reported a preference. Large colleges were marginally more appealing than small colleges. Students continued to consider options further from home as the world opens up again; the majority of students (60%) said that they are considering going to college more than 4 hours from home. Only 12% of students said they would only consider going to college less than an hour from home.

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While there had been early speculation that the pandemic could be a boon for online education, only 7% of students said that they prefer to enroll online. There were some outlier groups, however. A quarter of students attending a fully online high school reported wanting to continue their education at an online college. More than 20% of Native students reported preferring online colleges. Online colleges were also more appealing to students from households earning less than $25,000 per year and first-generation students. 

Availability of major and cost are always the most important factors for students, so we no longer ask about how important they are. Scholarship availability and safety are the next most important campus characteristics for students, with 75% and 66% respectively saying they are very important. Diversity was the most important community feature that students want this year. A diverse student body was most important (78%), followed by a diverse faculty and staff (74%), and then student engagement on social issues (64%). Student interest in the arts again surpassed interest in athletics; 59% wanted a campus that values arts and cultural activities, 48% want a strong athletics fan experience, and 30% want athletics as a competitor to be important on campus. 

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What you can do now…

  • With an increasing number of students beginning to do college research as a freshman or a sophomore, create personalized messaging that provides a starting point for these students. Focus on educating and helping them understand, for example, the key differences between small, medium, and large colleges, as well as some of the things that make your student experience unique, or better, according to your current students. The same thing goes for location—what are the benefits of going to a college that’s located in a big city, a suburb, or in a rural location? And if you work at a private college or university, you could also touch on (and in some cases debunk) some of the common misconceptions out there. Giving prospective students a better foundation and more direction for their college search should be a primary goal when you communicate with freshmen and sophomores.
  • With a large majority of juniors being open to the idea of going to college farther away from home, be sure and ask early on why they think going to college farther away from home would benefit them if it is. You could ask, “So why does our location seem like it would be a good fit for you?” If the student can’t verbalize a specific reason, probe further and see if there’s true interest in learning more about your school, or if the idea of going away from home for college just sounds fun and exciting. We continue to find that while a lot of high school students are open to going to college farther away from home, distance ends up being a common objection that often comes up late in the process. The key is helping students feel like they will have a community that they can depend on and hang out with. 

Student Confidence

Student confidence was high again, and actually increased an average of 8 percentage points for each question. One question was added this year—“I’ll be able to advocate for myself and my needs.” Three-quarters of students were confident that they would be able to. The largest increase was in whether or not they would be safe at college, which rose 12 percentage points to 66% indicating confidence. Student confidence that they would be able to afford college was the lowest and will be explored more in the next section. 

Gender identity played a role in how confident students were that they would fit in and make friends—48% of gender nonbinary students and 55% of those identifying as other gendered were not confident they would make friends and fit in. Almost half of Chinese students also reported that they were not confident in their ability to fit in and make friends on campus. The more students see themselves among other students on campus, the more likely they will be to feel like they will be able to fit in.

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What you can do now…

  • Safety will continue to be one of the most important topics for both prospective students and their parents during the college search process. It’s critical that your messaging doesn’t just offer generalized statements but instead provides more specifics and context around how your campus community is kept safe. You could also highlight who some of the front-line people are, and the impact they’ve made on your current students. 
  • Feeling comfortable, making new friends, and fitting in also remain on the minds of many prospective students. Incorporate more storytelling into your messaging, events, and online content around how new students are welcomed. Do quick video interviews with your first-year students where they talk about ways in which your school welcomed them and made them feel comfortable in their new surroundings. You could also do a fun series of “Freshman Firsts” where you post pictures and videos on social media that document “firsts” by your new students, accompanied by short text descriptions (i.e. First night in the dorms, first trip off-campus, first homecoming, first finals week).

Affording College

Only 26% of juniors said that they’re confident that they will be able to afford college, which was an increase from 21% last year. Students from high-income families were three times as confident that they can afford college as those from low-income families. Only 13% of low-income students expressed confidence. Only 15% of first-generation students were confident that they can afford college, compared to 32% of their peers who were not first-generation. Early education and counseling support may help bridge these gaps.

Perhaps connected to the increase in confidence, 93% of juniors are considering the cost of college when deciding where to apply. In a surprising spike, 91% of juniors responded that they would eliminate a college from consideration based on the total published cost. This is up from 75% for the Class of 2022 in our fall survey and 73% for the Class of 2021. Less than half of students say they would consider a college whose total cost is over $40,000 per year. This is felt even more strongly with first-generation students and those from low-income families.

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What you can do now…

  • Talking about cost, financial aid, and paying for college continues to arguably be the hardest and most confusing part of the college search for most students and families. There is a lot of misinformation and unfamiliar terminology, plus many colleges continue to wait to have a serious discussion about this topic until after financial aid awards have been distributed. The key to helping make things easier and less stressful involves educating students and families much earlier in a way that doesn’t feel rushed and instead feels like you’re being empathetic and helpful. It’s about figuring out what they know and don’t know, and then taking things one step at a time. Do your best with as many students and families to never have this be a one-time “let’s cram it all in” conversation.
  • The entry point when you communicate with freshman, sophomores, juniors, and even new senior inquiries should not be a discussion about scholarships or the FAFSA. While both of those are important topics, I encourage you to build up to them. The first thing you should encourage everyone to focus on is coming up with a plan to pay for college. You could lead in-person or virtual information sessions for freshman, sophomores, and juniors and their parents solely on that topic, including providing different examples of common ways to pay for college. You could also do a separate session, or send separate communications to address things like scholarships and grants, other ways your school makes it more affordable, as well as not freaking out and immediately dismissing colleges because of the sticker price students see. Just keep in mind that students and families are all at different points of the process. Educate them, reinforce those key points, and encourage them to not be afraid or embarrassed to reach out when they inevitably have questions. 
  • When you’re speaking with seniors and their parents, I encourage you to be even more direct and intentional with your outreach. Admissions counselors should ask if the student and family have come up with a plan to pay for college, and open the door for additional discussion where that plan is shared, or where the counselor can provide tips and suggestions on how to get started. Once the FAFSA is available in October, have multiple information sessions and communications that address why it’s so important, and walk students and families through how to complete it step-by-step. Even better, create a FAFSA video series on your website or YouTube—not a 30-minute video, but a step-by-step tutorial that allows them to go at their own pace. Once financial aid award letters start to go out, do sessions on how to make sense of your award and what to do next. Finally, whenever possible, schedule 1-1 conversations with both students and parents to talk about the financial aid award, get a feel for how the student and family are feeling, and figure out what else needs to be discussed before they would feel comfortable taking the next step. 
  • If you work at a college that typically ends up being the most, or one of the most, expensive options for students, have some of your current students and/or their parents talk during your events and information sessions about why they were comfortable paying more and making that investment. Talking about the “why” is extremely important. 
  • Bottom line – Do your best to be a guide versus a salesperson.

Student Perspectives on College Outreach

The biggest communications storyline is that of relevance; 79% of students said that personalized and relevant outreach influences their interest in a college. Only 16%, however, shared that the communications they have received have been very personalized and relevant. Students want to hear from a variety of voices on campus, but admissions officers, current students, and professors are the most important to them. Changing up voices for stories and proof points in communications can make them more engaging. Remember, current students at a college were the most influential in influencing a prospective student’s consideration of a college.

Email is still the preferred channel to start communicating with students and over 99% of students want emails from colleges. Half of juniors didn’t pay attention to who sent an email to them, but those who did are more likely to prefer it to come from a person rather than a general Office of Admissions address. Mail was the next most popular with a letter more than five times more preferred than a postcard or viewbook and 98% of students reporting that they want to receive mail. Phone calls are no longer the least wanted outreach from colleges: video chats are now the least desirable. 

In terms of frequency, 59% of students say that weekly emails are acceptable, while only a third say that mail or texts are. Beyond that, a third or less of students wanted weekly outreach on another channel. Only 16% of students said that they didn’t want texts from colleges, but remember to get consent from the student directly first. While phone calls and video chats are the least desired, 66% of students would accept a phone call and 62% would accept a video chat. 

Parent communication is often ignored during the inquiry and prospect stages, but 35% of students want colleges to communicate with their parents at this stage. They are most interested in their parents receiving financial aid information and general information about the college they’re considering. Two groups of students were much more likely to want their parents included in communications: African American students (45%) and Middle Eastern or North African students (48%). Potential student-athletes were significantly more likely to want communications specifically for their parents as well. Less than a quarter of homeschooled students wanted their parents included in communications from colleges, significantly less than their peers. Another strange correlation was that as a student’s reported GPA increased, their interest in their parents receiving communications decreased.

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What you can do now…

  • Personalized and relevant outreach continues to be the number one thing that prospective students want more of from colleges and universities. Simply putting their name on a parking spot when they visit the campus, or in the subject line of an email, isn’t enough. Your communications will feel more personal if you establish the admissions counselor as a student and familys’ primary go-to person from the beginning. In the words of one junior, “An actual person emailing me would make me more inclined to respond or further investigate.” If you’re going to encourage students to respond and engage, be sure and provide yearly training and professional development for your admissions counselors and front-line staff. Counselors in particular need to understand how students are navigating their college search, as well as the latest best practices around how to effectively engage, communicate, and build relationships. That doesn’t mean you can’t introduce other go-to people, or incorporate the current student’s point of view in your messaging, but continuing to send all of your emails and letters from the office of admissions until a student has been admitted is not an effective recruiting strategy. It will simply not feel as personal.
  • You can also personalize your outreach by using a relaxed, conversational tone versus being overly formal. It should always feel like you’re talking with the other person, not at them. Don’t start any email or letter with “Dear,” or end with “Sincerely.” Don’t consistently use bullets to make your key points. Avoid using multiple hyperlinks, bolding, higher ed jargon, and multiple calls to action. Each message should be direct (i.e. no extra ‘fluff’) and should focus on one topic where you highlight one or two value points and connect the dots as to why what you’re sharing is important. Remember, you don’t have to tell them everything all at once. 
  • Your call to action shouldn’t always be transactional. Mix it up and ask the other person a question related to the content you just shared, or something related to where they are in their process. Encourage them to respond as a way to make them feel valued, and to keep the conversation going. 
  • Segmentation has become essential. You shouldn’t be sending juniors, senior prospects, and senior inquiries all the same message. You should be creating multiple versions of the same message to recognize a student’s grade or stage. If you’re encouraging a student to sign up for a campus visit or upcoming event, be sure and send a separate version to students who have already visited before—recognize that you know this. 
  • With email continuing to be the preferred channel of communication for most students throughout the college search, having a good subject line is critical. Using their first name or your college’s name is effective, just don’t overuse it. The number one goal of every subject line should be to get the other person’s attention. You do that by creating curiosity, sounding helpful, asking a question, making a statement, or saying something completely off the wall. Some of the highest open and engagement rates for our college partners this year came when we used subject lines like, “Student quotes about campus life”; “It’s a safe, home-like feeling here”; and “Did you know about this?”
  • While the majority of students are okay with colleges texting them in 2022. When you overuse that medium, students say it starts to “feel spammy like a lot of college emails.” One-third of juniors told us that once a week was enough, while another 29% said their preference was one text per month from a college. Texting should be primarily used for reminders (i.e. upcoming deadlines and events, missing documents), scheduling phone calls for important conversations around things like financial aid, and alerting them to an email you sent or a voicemail you just left. Ultimately students want text messages that are short, clear, conversational in tone, and feel personal without sounding like you’re trying too hard.

Social Media Usage Trends

Instagram is still the most used social media platform by students to view colleges, with 67% saying that they have. While it’s of note that TikTok has slipped into second place past YouTube; only 30% of students say that they have used it to view colleges, however. Facebook and Snapchat usage both fell by more than 50%. The top three networks all indicate the value of investing in video content.

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What you can do now…

  • Social media is a great place to pull back the curtain, humanize your brand, and tell more stories about the people who make your institution what it is. Your current students, your faculty, other staff who work throughout your campus, as well as your alumni all have influence. Step one is understanding which platforms prospective students go to when they want to learn more about different colleges they’re considering. For the third year in a row, Instagram remains head and shoulders above all others. The next two most frequented platforms—TikTok and YouTube—are also visual platforms, which means you can repurpose a lot of the same videos and pictures that you post on Instagram. If you’re on the enrollment marketing and communications side, you should also familiarize yourself with Reels (Instagram’s place for short video clips). This will increase your reach even further. 
  • Next, it’s important to understand what kind of content prospective students want to see. In a nutshell, the primary thing they’re looking for is day-in-the-life videos from the current student’s point of view, otherwise known as vlogs. They want your current students, not admissions or marketing, to talk about campus life, living in the dorms, clubs and organizations, their classes and professors, along with anything else that fills in blanks and shows them what daily life would be like.
  • You can also post timely content that is targeted at specific groups of prospective students. Right now you could have some of your current freshmen record short videos where they explain how they made their decision last year, and why they were so confident that your school was the best fit. Or, have those same students talk about how they got past going far away from home for college, the benefits of staying close to home, or how they successfully adjusted to living with a roommate. What about the different people at your school who help new students with those all-important social and academic transitions, as well as different professors? Why not highlight some of them as well. Getting students comfortable with the idea that your professors are approachable and helpful will be a big plus.
  • One final thing to think about – Colleges and universities are missing out on engagement opportunities if they are not responding to comments on different social media platforms.
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Will Patch

Prior to coming to Niche in 2019 Will served 9 years at Manchester University in roles as an Admissions Counselor, Associate Director for Admissions Operations, Social Media Coordinator, and ultimately as Digital Strategist. Will surfaces tactical insights from user behavior and surveys to help higher ed build recruitment strategies. In addition to the Enrollment Insights blog, webinars, and podcast; Will is a frequent conference speaker and podcast guest. He has presented at NACAC, AACRAO-SEM, AMA Higher Ed, CASE V, EduWeb, and EMA. Will's work has been featured in Forbes, Inside Higher Ed, CNBC, CNN, the LA Times, and The New York Times among other outlets.

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