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Six Communication Tips to Increase Fall 2021 Application Numbers

Written By:
Brenna Burke
Tuesday, January 12, 2021

We can all agree that 2020 has been a year of unknowns, anxiety, and fear. A lot of our daily lives have changed, especially in higher education, where offices and schools have gone remote, mastered the art of the virtual campus visit, and recruited students without fall travel.

As we have felt and acknowledged this fear and anxiety, it is crucial to also understand that the seniors we are communicating with and recruiting are feeling this fear and anxiety, too. The ongoing pandemic has affected their college search in many ways – from not being able to register for the SAT or ACT or visit campuses to the overarching concern of affordability and online learning.

As Underscore has seen from our partner institutions, the fear of the unknown is causing seniors to wait to apply, thus producing lower application numbers YTD. Here is what Underscore has found through our communication initiatives to help increase application numbers and help students navigate the unknown.

1. Have a conversation with students.

Acknowledge the fears and anxieties and ask how you can help in the college search. One thing Underscore has done for many partner institutions is implementing a Slate survey what students are most concerned about in the college search and how the admissions office can help. For instance, if a student reports back they are anxious about financial aid and affording college, counselors can help assure those concerns and discuss scholarship on a follow up phone call. Having these survey responses has helped guide our partner institutions on how to best help their prospective students. This also affords the chance for other campus constituents to have conversations with prospects – like faculty members and current students.

2. Fast application or shorter application for certain populations.

Underscore has found that targeting certain demographics you’re looking to increase or students closer to campus with a shorter application can help incentivize taking the next step in submitting an application. For instance, one partner institution was able to increase their current applicant pool by almost 30%, which helped bridge the gap for admits and even early deposits.

3.  Scholarship Estimator Tool.

With affordability a top concern among many high school seniors, Underscore has found that providing a resource for students to have an idea of how much they could earn in scholarships and grants has helped to ease worries. Through Slate, we have been able to create and develop a form that allows prospective students to self-report their GPA, and test score if needed, to calculate their potential scholarship amount. With clients that have implemented this resource, we have seen an increase in inquiries converted and a boost in applicants.  

4. Go through Instagram.

Tell the study story through social media. We are seeing that prospective students are turning to Instagram to see if they could picture themselves on campus, since visiting in-person campus might not be an option this year. We have seen that current student involvement on social media, especially on Instagram, helps prospective students relate to the institution. Consider promoting student takeovers ,hosting live sessions on campus during a tour or an event, as well as encourage prospective students to tag your institution and show off their swag or acceptance letter. To promote awareness of your social media, send out email communications or text messages encouraging students to follow your social accounts!

If you’re looking to connect with parents earlier in the cycle, too, consider launching a Facebook group for parents! This will allow parents to share information and experiences, while also making them feel like they are part of the search process.

5. Cut the marketing speak.

With face-to-face interaction feeling like a thing of the past and more and more events move to an online format, students want to feel like they’re talking to a real person. Plain text emails coming from an admissions counselor with no branded headers or footers can be a great idea to send when communicating important information such as financial aid/scholarships or when inviting students to an upcoming campus event.

6.  Hone in on local students.

The idea of staying closer to family, friends and the comforts of home is becoming more appealing for many soon-to-be college students. Targeting students within a100-mile radius with information on commuter benefits, campus support initiatives, student life and more can be a great way to engage this audience and remind them that your school is a great option if they’re interested in staying local.

Ready to talk?

Underscore is here to help you meet your goals. From enrollment strategy to application generation to Slate training and implementation, we have your back. Connect with us to learn more!

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About the Author

The watcher. If you want to speak the right language to your prospective students, have Brenna on speed dial. She's a master at monitoring campaigns like a hawk, always looking for a fresh way to connect to your ideal audience. And on top of all that, Brenna is a master at spotting any dog within a mile radius.


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