In today’s digital world, how should you get in contact with a prospective student? There are so many options that it’s hard to keep them straight. Direct mail and phone calls used to always be the safe choices, but now you can tweet or text too. What methods do students find too intrusive and what are their parents comfortable with? Find out right now.
The Medium is the Message
An article in the New York Times argues that students are not the rabid digital natives that they’re sometimes made out to be. A group of students were asked at the recent NACAC conference how they would prefer to be contacted by a college. The students said they preferred a good ol’ fashioned phone call instead of receiving a text message. They said that a call felt a lot more personal than other methods, but that recruiters should only call them outside normal school hours.
The group of students also resisted the idea of “liking” a school on Facebook, because they don’t always want to see college updates in their newsfeed. Of course, these were personal anecdotes from a small selection of 10 students from the New Orleans area so broad conclusions can’t be drawn. And while these students might welcome a phone call, others might find the concept as too invasive (and do kids even answer their phones today?).
Why Everyone is Wrong About Text Messaging
David Marshall on eduGuru wrote a rebuttal to the New York Times piece. He argues that text messaging students can be an extremely effective recruitment tool for admissions officers. St Mary’s University in Texas has seen initial success with the technology with nearly 2000 students opting-in to receiving text messages. They also found that students who partook in the SMS campaign also were more likely to pay their deposits than students that opted-put. Of course, the author of the article runs a company that specializes in text messaging recruitment solutions, but it’s still an interesting option for universities to consider. Find what works and stick to it.
What Parents Want From Colleges
The following is an infographic from Cappex that shows the poll results of over 300 parents of college-bound students. What they found was that parents felt that email was the most effective channel for generating a response from either them or their student. 34% of parents said that text messaging was an effective approach to contacting students while only 29% of parents liked the idea of Facebook. It would have been more interesting if Cappex had also asked the students what method of communication they preferred instead of just the parents.
The more options you have to reach the student the better. Previously all that was available to admissions staff was either the phone or direct mail. If students don’t respond to those, then feel free to seek alternative methods. Some students might never actually use their phone for talking and might prefer a simple text message.
Facebook might seem intrusive to some students, but if they choose to “like” your institution then they should be more open to it as a form of communication. Tweeting is also a non-intrusive method because the social network is designed to be public. Email is always the safest route. But if a student really wants to attend your institution, then any method you reach out to them should be just fine.