Getting personal means making connections through technology

recruitment-students-collegeWith Millennials increasingly becoming more reliant on technology as a means of communication, colleges and universities eager to recruit the best and brightest are using innovative tools, both online and on campus, to attract potential students.

According to the 2014 Social Admissions Report—a survey of college-bound high school students designed to identify trends in digital, social and mobile tools represented in a student’s college search and enrollment process—as new tools are created to help people organize, share and collaborate online more students are using them as a way to aid their college search, leading colleges to use these tools in their recruitment process…or they should.

From creating communities of current students at college on social media platforms like Facebook, to creating customized acceptance videos, higher education is using the digital technology at-hand to attract increasingly creative and tech-savvy generations.

(Next page: 5 technologies for student recruitment)

[Listed in alphabetical order]

1. Digital Signage

According to, College recruiting is going mobile with a new digital signage and mobile integration, with prospective students taking the college recruiting process home in their pockets, giving a university on-the-go, two-way access to recruits.

For example, Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisc., is piloting a new mobile-interactive solution from the Nervana Group, that greets prospects to start their college tour and then helps continue the recruitment process once they leave the campus.

The solution is called “Admissions Board,” and it pulls ERP and CRM data from the school’s databases to set up a personalized tour introduction experience on a digital signage display. The system also creates a personalized mobile app—complete with a photo taken by the tour guide—for each prospective student. The app enables the prospective student to stay in touch with the school or the tour guide, and vice versa.

“So instead of taking paper brochures, you leave campus with a digital artifact or digital brochure,” Daguro told Digital Signage Today. “Really it becomes this very highly experiential memorabilia of your visit.”

“When you’re trying to recruit students, they have lots of choices, and so we were really looking to find a way to differentiate ourselves to these students, and this technology seemed to be the ideal way to do it,” said Carroll University CIO Debra Jenkins.

For more information, read here.

2. MOOCs

According to a recent study, many universities create MOOCs for marketing purposes. After surveying nearly 3,000 institutions, when asked what the primary objective was for introducing a MOOC, just under half of those surveyed said it was “marketing-related.”

Nearly 30 percent of respondents said they used MOOCs to increase institution visibility, and 20 percent said they use the courses to drive student recruitment.

As more universities go online to reach prospective students, it’s not surprising that they would use MOOCs as a sort-of sampler of their more costly course offerings.

Some institutions have turned to MOOCs based on popular culture, like super heroes and the AMC television series “The Walking Dead,” to drive students to the online courses – and some of the university’s instructors. In turn, the courses help popularize MOOCs as a concept.

Read more about MOOCs as a recruitment tool here.

(Next page: Recruitment tech 3-4)

3. Social media

According to the 2014 Social Admissions Report, nearly two-thirds (67 percent) of students use social media to research colleges, and nearly 75 percent find it influential. Also, the percent of students who like or follow a considered college on social media increased by 23 points from 2012-13.

67 percent of students say social media conversation influences their decision on where to enroll, and Facebook still ranks first among social media sites visited for their conversations. However, Twitter is in close second: 31 percent of students search for specific hashtags related to their college search.

A recent feature of many college and university social networks, groups for admitted students, is considered a positive for students, with 63 percent of survey respondents saying they would likely join this group, and almost all students surveyed who had already joined an acceptance group say the experience was rewarding.

Also, nearly 75 percent of students think colleges should have a presence on social media to reach students; yet, only 4 in 10 students find the information posted on a school’s social media site relevant. For more information on what students find least relevant, read the report.

Topics students found most relevant include campus events, student life for lower classmen, majors offered, and the dating scene.

“Own your school’s hashtag,” emphasizes the report. “Over 30 percent of students have searched for hashtags related to their college search.”

“Students and counselors are most important for interaction on social media,” says the report. Specifically, currently enrolled students (not alumni), other admitted students, and admissions counselors, are the people students say are important to interact with on social media.

4. Video

One of the most innovative uses of video is through the University of Southern California Academy. Rather than traditional brochures or letters in the mail, students admitted to the new USC Academy received their acceptance announcements through YouTube videos.

The USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation sent personalized video messages to accepted students filmed by the donors, Jimmy Iovine and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young.

The Academy, opening this fall, will begin with 25 students selected out of hundreds of applicants. All applicants had to include video submissions in their applications, describing pitches that solve problems or create opportunities for communities through inventive ideas, products, or services.

According to a press release by USC, the Academy’s Executive Director, Erica Muhl, wanted the acceptances to be unique. She believes the YouTube videos will be “lifelong keepsakes for these students.”

(Next page: Recruitment tech 5)

5. Websites and portals

Though 97 percent of students have visited a school’s website on a mobile browser, nearly 67 percent said the experience was “just OK” or “challenging,” revealed the 2014 Social Admissions Report. And nearly 75 percent of students said they would not download an app for a school they were researching.

“Mobile is not the future. Mobile is now,” states the report. “Nearly all students access websites via a smartphone or tablet and responsive design will be key. It shouldn’t matter what type of device a student is using—the experience should be easy, seamless, and consistent.”

Also, the report explains that though a mobile app may be appropriate for the already-established campus community, installing an app is too much commitment for prospective students.