A group of college students on the campus steps chose this school due to effective student enrollment efforts. A group of college students on the campus steps chose this school due to effective student enrollment efforts.

Increase Student Enrollment [The Most Effective Method for Higher Education in 2023]

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With the fall 2023 recruitment cycle moving forward, planning for the next incoming class is well underway. For countless institutions, that means answering one question: how to increase student enrollment at a time when the college-age population will continue to shrink.

The key might lie in a deceptively simple statistic. According to higher education consulting firm Ruffalo Noel Levitz, 81% of adult graduate students enroll with the first school that engages and follows up with them.

Adult learners have long been touted as a new and increasingly vital demographic for colleges fighting to enroll a shrinking population. Aligning with enrollment trends in higher education makes perfect sense.

But anyone looking to increase graduate school enrollment should also know that the same recruitment tactics don’t apply. The above statistic is evidence of that fact. Any marketing strategies to increase school enrollment among adult learners need to account for it.

High school students may visit 10+ colleges and apply to as many as five. But most adult students know what they want. They’ll perform research independently to select the right program. And 81% will attend the first one that responds to their inquiry or application.

That statistic also leads to what might be the single most effective tactic to increase school enrollment in 2023: quick, personal, around-the-clock engagement through the channels your students prefer. Here’s how.

Quick Engagement Boosts Higher Education Admission

First, and perhaps most simply, just responding quickly to prospective students can greatly impact your graduate school enrollment. This is the direct takeaway from the 81% stat mentioned above; if you can be the first back in their inbox, their chances of enrollment increases drastically.

That simple statement also tracks directly with more general consumer behaviors and expectations in the digital age:

It also connects directly with knowing how to increase graduate school enrollment because it tracks what we know about adult learners.

Especially professionals looking for part-time programs tend to be busy with their jobs and personal lives. They don’t have the time to spend a year looking for the perfect program among hundreds of options. Instead, they need to learn information and make decisions quickly. Colleges and universities that can meet and exceed those expectations with quick engagement will immediately stand out positively.

Personalized Engagement Improves Higher Ed Enrollment Marketing

Of course, it’s not just about speed. Even the fastest response matters little if it seems like a boilerplate answer or doesn’t relate specifically to the student’s situation and question. If you’re looking for ways to increase college enrollment, autoresponders are not enough.

Instead, personalization is the name of the game. Put simply, you have to make sure that even the fastest response still relates directly and on a personal level to the prospective student who is asking the question.

Again, plenty of industry-spanning research backs up this need for personalization in your communications:

  • 76% of customers get frustrated when the organization they’re engaging with doesn’t offer a personalized experience, with tailored messaging among industries’ top 3 personalization needs.
  • 70% of millennials (the bulk of today’s adult graduate students) are frustrated with brands that send irrelevant messages, like blanket promotional emails.
  • 68% of higher education marketers say personalization has a tangible ROI impact on their recruitment efforts.

The exact process of personalizing your messaging is delicate. After all, 69% of consumers say they appreciate personalization only if it is based on the data they have voluntarily provided to the organization they’re communicating with.

It’s impossible to deny just how impactful strategic personalization can be at the core of your strategies to increase student enrollment. Get this piece right, and you add a second layer to the speed of your response. As a result, you’ll create relevant messaging specifically designed to answer core questions at the right time.

24/7 Availability Increases University Enrollment

The next consideration is closely connected to the first two. Any marketing strategies to increase student enrollment must be prompt and personal. This is true even when students communicate outside university business hours.

This is an admittedly challenging process. Without the right platforms in place, it’s difficult for your student-facing staff (from admissions to financial aid) to work irregular hours. It becomes impossible considering that depending on your audience, ‘prompt’ may mean a fast response in the middle of the night.

We’ve written about the unique challenges of international enrollment marketing, which includes availability in time zones where the early evening might mean 2 a.m. for your institution. Similar challenges exist for your adult learners.

When uncertainty in the economy increases during major events like the COVID-19 pandemic or the 2008 financial crisis, part-time graduate enrollment tends to increase. Working professionals who are proactively or by necessity considering a career shift or additional credentials are drawn to advanced degrees.

But they don’t tend to quit their job before enrolling. And those jobs don’t all adhere to the same shift schedule. It’s common for a mid-career professional working the second shift to inquire about graduate school after their workday, which might be around 11 p.m.

That’s why, as you determine how to increase college enrollment, 24/7 availability is key. It ensures that you become the first response in your audience’s inbox. That means your response to an inquiry might be outside your university’s standard hours.

Increase Student Enrollment By Using Your Audience’s Preferred Channels

Finally, the responsiveness we’ve been discussing throughout this guide must come through the channels your audience prefers and uses. Among prospective adult students for whom the first response is vital, those channels tend to be pretty consistent:

  • Your institution’s website is where they’ll do most of their research. This is where they find all of the information they need to apply, and where they expect to ask if any piece of information is missing.
  • Your social media pages, particularly Facebook and LinkedIn, also matter. Here, they want to learn more about your academic credentials and how those credentials can help in their career.

In addition, you cannot underestimate the power of texting. Millennials and Gen X are the generations most likely to want to engage with brands via text. Meanwhile, 90% of texts are read by their audience in three minutes, further adding to the immediacy of the channel.

But ultimately, it’s about your audience preferences. In this case, that means enough agility to respond through your audience’s channels.

Even the most creative school marketing ideas to increase enrollment matter little if your answer comes through a channel they’re not engaging with. That means you need a strategy to quickly capture and be able to respond to messages coming from your prospective adult students, regardless of whether that message comes through your website, social media, or text.

Leverage Artificial Intelligence in Creative Ways To Increase Student Enrollment

So far, this guide has largely focused on answering the question of how to increase student enrollment in universities with prerequisites for success in any marketing strategy. In review, a fast and personalized response, delivered around the clock and through your audience’s preferred channels, is a must. Next, let’s focus on how you can achieve all these goals.

The answer is deceptively simple, largely because a fully human staff supporting students instantly and around the clock is impossible. Instead, it’s about finding creative ways to leverage AI to engage with prospective students.

Use AI-enabled digital assistants to meet student needs.

AI-enabled digital assistants are the perfect example of satisfying modern adult student needs in each of the ways described above:

  • An always-on capability allows them to respond instantly to any request, regardless of the time or day.
  • Machine learning enables the platform to learn and add to its answer database over time, creating more relevant and personalized responses.
  • The right digital assistant doesn’t just integrate with your school’s website. It also works with other channels like social media or SMS texting.

To be clear, digital assistants can never fully replace human staff. Instead, a crucial piece of knowing how to increase enrollment includes knowing where the digital assistant can provide instant answers and where the handoff to human staff should occur for maximum relevancy and optimized use of the college recruitment team’s time.

These abilities can create massive benefits for colleges and universities looking to engage audiences who need instant, relevant engagement. Our internal research shows colleges that use AI-enabled digital assistants see a 10% reduction in cost per acquisition, with 20% of all digital assistant engagements converting to submitted applications.

As a result, 51% more students engage with digital assistants compared to just submitting their information through a contact form, creating that instant engagement opportunity adult students crave.

Increase Student Enrollment With the Right Digital Assistant

In a challenging recruitment environment, the audience with the biggest growth potential consists of adult students. And the best way to convert adult students is to create a strategy specifically designed to engage interested students quickly, and with relevant messaging.

That’s where digital assistants come into play, and that’s where AtlasRTX shines. Implemented strategically, our AI-enabled digital assistant can dramatically improve response time, engagement, and ultimately higher student enrollment. Learn more about our platform by requesting a demo today.

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