All over the country, marketing and recruitment teams are facing one of the toughest challenges of every cycle. The summer melt. Where your prospective students melt away once they get their university acceptance offer. So much so, drop-out rates among university students who give up their studies within 12 months have gone up for the third year in a row. Figures show that 26,000 students in England who began studying for their first degree in 2015 did not make it beyond the first year. So what can we do to stop this phenomenon from plaguing your attainment levels this first term?
Well, we’re here with some quick wins (that don’t require you going to your boss to ask for a whole new budget to defend against the infamous summer melt) to implement now so that you’re ahead of the game in 2020.
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean your campus goes to sleep, right? Most universities still have a tonne of activity going on and stories that you can share on your social channels. Connecting your prospective students with your existing tribes on campus is a powerful strategy for keeping them excited and engaged. Share your sports teams’ successes, society fundraisers, or even research developments.
Struggling for content? We know that students love brands that align with global causes, and most institutions have all sorts of initiatives that you can use in your comms. International cultural days are great opportunities to share how inclusive, aware, and progressive your institution may be - all attributes that resonate with the student audience.
Trust your audience to make your content for you
Great things can happen when you trust your student audience to take the reigns and create your content for you. Just take a look at what happened when Rapper Dave trusted a festival-goer in his audience to sing along with him on stage at Glastonbury. Students value authenticity and seeing your current students creating and publishing content over the summer will be really engaging. So start identifying your micro-influencers and campus celebrities now (this might not be as hard as you think) and building a summer content calendar. Whether it’s existing students sharing YouTube videos of their top saving tips and easy as pie recipes, or an Instagram takeover of what’s a must when packing for halls, this is a really effective way of building and maintaining that connection between your new intake of freshers and your institution all throughout the summer days.
An added benefit is that you might unlock a whole new audience via their following that will also aid with your next recruitment cycle.
Make things more personal
Going to university for the first time can be a scary process: Leaving behind the relative comfort and support network at school, in exchange for a huge institution where no one knows your name. That’s where personalisation comes in. Personalisation can increase conversion by 8x, and it can be as simple as making sure all your summer comms start by using someone's name.
Advanced personalisation strategies can be time-consuming, and with thousands of prospective students coming to your institution in the autumn, you might be worried about how to keep on top of your comms. That’s where automation comes in. Using marketing and CRM systems (ideally something specialist for the sector like Akero) can save a massive amount of time. And pre-built workflows mean that your students receive personalised comms based on their unique recruitment journey, helping them move seamlessly through the funnel in time for autumn and ultimately enrolment.
Be the experts that students expect you to be
Students are coming to you because you’re a bank of knowledge, right? And if summer is the peak time for them to need support, and they’re not getting it from school, make sure you’re giving it to them.
Building content hubs around the key concerns that students have on finance, accommodation, pastoral support, and making new connections will reap dividends in nine months. And do it now, because it will take at least six to nine months for Google to pick up your content and present your site on page one.
You can then send out emails and comms that are specific to the right time of the student’s decision journey. When it’s time to start picking accommodation or applying for scholarships and bursaries, you can point them in the direction of the relevant content hub, building that relationship and trust between students and yourselves at a very stressful and formative time.
And remember what we said about personalisation? You will typically have three audiences - prospective students, parents, and teachers. Create a personal journey that presents similar information tailored to each audience. How parents can support their children through university applications, how teachers and school staff can help with mental health struggles, all accessible through your institution's site. By becoming an authority, you’ll not only be nurturing your prospective students but also supporting some of your biggest in-market influencers; teachers and parents.
Summer melt can be a challenge, but it can also be a valuable opportunity to reach out to and build trust with your prospective students, ensuring that they feel welcome on campus when September rolls around.
If you’re worried about summer melt and want to find out how to keep your prospective students engaged with and committed to your institution, get in touch.
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