November 29, 2023

Blog: Engagement and College Student Search - father and teenage son looking at computer
Student and parent involvement can enrich your student search.

Student search has undergone a rapid transformation in recent years. For decades, this was a one-way conversation completely controlled by colleges and universities. Students asked, campuses answered; students applied, campuses responded; and so on. This call-response interaction was repeated throughout the journey. With the advent of digital communication, campuses added additional channels to their communication flows, but even this omnichannel approach was still very one-way across these various channels.

This approach won’t cut it for today’s prospective students. They grew up in an interactive environment where communication is two-way. What they expect is commitmentand not just with you, but with current students, other prospective students, and others who may influence and inform their enrollment decisions.

Likewise, parents expect cooperation with the institutions their students are considering. This engagement must go beyond the one-way communication of email and mail to offer them opportunities to engage with your institution and feel like a partner in the enrollment journey with your institution and its students.

The impact of real engagement on student search campaigns

This evolution in how students and parents want to interact with your institution is why we’ve integrated engagement into RNL Student Search and Engagement. This transformation in how we approach student search has resulted in an incredible increase in search campaigns for our campus partners. Check out these results comparing our search approach focused on engagement with campaigns that don’t include student and parent engagement.

Student search increases when engagement is included
  • Search response was twice as high when student engagement and parent involvement were incorporated into search campaigns.
  • Searches for the query were almost 25 percent higher.
  • The inquiry for the application saw a huge increase of 60 percent.
  • Entrance fees increased by almost 10 percent.
  • Finally, the summer melt has been halved, a major boost to net tuition revenue and ROI.

What does commitment really bad?

Engagement is a word that comes up a lot in enrollment management. This often involves omnichannel outreach – communicating with your audience through the channels they use every day. Omnichannel communication is very important, but it is not commitment.

Engagement is a two-way conversation that is constantly evolving with each interaction. It’s about listening to your audience, responding and adapting so that students and parents get the messages, information and experiences they want, when they want them.

It works like this:

Ongoing student engagement through digital communities

Think about how potential students interact with individuals and organizations. They post, comment, share and communicate. They consume “official” information, but also interact with their friends, peers, influencers and users.

The same behaviors and expectations carry over into the college search. That’s why RNL Student Search and Engagement creates a digital community for prospective and current students. Once students become part of the community, they begin to interact not only with your institution, but also with other current and future students. They develop connections and friendships through text messages, group chats, virtual events, and other experiences that increase their affinity for your campus. All of this increases interest, strengthens their sense that your institution is a good fit, and increases their chances of applying (as shown by the statistics I shared earlier).

Engaging parents with timely and tailored content that supports enrollment

Students have told us that parents are by far their biggest influences on enrollment.

Pie Chart: Who Influences Student Enrollment?
Source: 2022 RNL High School Student College Planning Report

What’s more, parents are extremely eager to engage with you – 85 percent want to hear from you at least once a week (see our Parent Engagement Report for more details). While many colleges and universities have superior communication plans, again many of these plans are one-way communication, not true engagement. A comprehensive parent engagement strategy makes parents feel included, and the more connected they are to the institution their student is considering, the more likely they are to support that institution. Greater parental involvement increases their understanding of the enrollment process (deadlines, requirements, events, etc.), empowering and encouraging them to help their student navigate the journey.

How can real engagement power your student search campaigns? Let’s find out.

It is clear that student search has evolved and will continue to evolve in the coming years. It’s important that you stay ahead of these changes, meet student expectations, and make the college search process an experience for students and parents—not a series of one-way communications.

We’ve helped colleges and universities across the country, and we can help yours too. Get in touch and we’ll set up a time to talk about your search campaigns and how you can increase your results by engaging students and parents more.

Drive enrollment results with the smartest full funnel solution for higher ed

Request a free RNL Student Prospecting and Engagement Guide to learn how you can increase top-of-funnel volume, increase conversion and funnel velocity, and reach your sign-up goals.

Apply now

Finding and engaging students

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