Student and counselor discuss college options.
Enrollment Insights Blog

Seeding Student Interest Before and During Travel Season

Student and counselor discuss college options.

Estimated read time – 4 minutes

Travel season is here, and if there’s one thing every counselor dreads, it’s a visit with no students. (Well, that and a long lunch visit.) Why do sparsely-attended visits happen? Sometimes it’s a lack of promotion by the school, but more likely it’s lack of planning or outreach by you and your institution in advance.

Before you get defensive, I spent 9 years being guilty of this, too. It’s hard to coordinate by yourself, but spending the time and resources to get students excited about meeting with you and learning about your institution is well worth it. The #1 way you can enroll students is to get them in front of your counselors on campus or in their school/hometown.

Here are some ways you can make sure that students show up for your high school visits, college fairs, and coffee shop hours.

Use data to inform your travel

It’s much easier to have success at a school where your inquiries (students requesting information) are at a higher market share to begin with, before you even do any promotion. What do I mean? Let’s say that you have 20 inquiries from North High School and 30 from South High School. If North has 100 students in a class and South has 500 then North has a 20% market share and South has a 6% market share. You will have a much higher recognition at a school with a higher market share, and you can be sure there are students aware of you who have not inquired yet. These are your “low hanging fruit” visits.

Use DOE and Niche data to find lookalike schools to those already performing well for you. If you do best in rural areas and suburbs you are best served focusing on those areas for additional outreach than Chicago, New York, and L.A.. More population does not mean more best-fit students.

Promote visit days to your known prospects and inquiries

Use your email system, student telecounselors, digital remarketing, and traditional print (like postcards) to raise awareness and drive students to a landing page for the event. These are students that, ideally, are already inclined to meet with you. Emails are a low barrier, but make sure the subject line and copy are compelling enough to earn an open and conversion.

Print can be useful to get in front of whole families, and a well-designed piece can stand out and earn a place on the fridge. Calling and texting can get you an additional touch. Ultimately, you can help by providing questions to ask when you visit or tease unique pieces you will have with you. Instant app and instant decision days while on the road are sure ways to get more visits and activity as well, especially if you can empower scholarship decisions at the same time.

Expand your audience – for free

Use social media and encourage word of mouth programs to reach students and families that you weren’t aware of. Work with your social media coordinator to promote opportunities. You should also work with the Alumni Office to make sure they’re aware—alumni are great advocates and can significantly help spread the word or encourage their own kids to meet with you. Admissions student ambassadors can spread the word back to their own high schools, as they likely still know students there. (To use the hot buzzword of the day, alumni and student ambassadors  are both “influencers.” Use that to your advantage!) Niche partner schools can also share their events for free on their Premium Profile.

Expand your audience – with money

Depending upon your staffing and experience, these are tactics with which you may need help. Use remarketing tactics to target your existing inquiries and prospects and stay in front of them on their mobile devices and in search. You can remarket to them in Google, Bing, Facebook, and Twitter. This will likely be your highest performing paid source, but won’t help you reach new people.

To do that, you will want to use digital advertising (display and streaming media) targeting custom intent audiences and search ads targeting college visit terms as phrase and exact matches. Consider serving ads to connections of those currently following your social media accounts who are either in high school or parents of high school students. Working with higher ed-serving partners such as Niche who can remarket to students already visiting your school page can be a great way to reach high-intent students.

Make sure to serve all of your ads in highly segmented ways; highlight specific events and target a geography within a reasonable travel distance. It’s also worth testing impression driven branding campaigns in areas before visiting and driving visits to a landing page with a calendar of high school visits and fairs. 

When you combine these tactics with the tried-and-true relationships you have with guidance counselors you will have a great travel season. What other tips do you have? Let’s continue the conversation on LinkedIn or Twitter!

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.