You’ve made it. It’s orientation week, your brand new students are here, through your doors, socializing excitedly, ID badges in hand. Your summer campaigns and Open House efforts have paid off and it’s time to think about the next recruitment cycle. Wrong. Before you move on, now is a fantastic time to solidify your community and foster that freshman spirit. These big-eyed-bushy-tailed students will soon turn into your advocates, influencers and eventually alumni, and their opinions and experience matter.
Here are four ways to ensure enrollment week works with both you and your students, and how to nurture that connection so that your existing students can be your brand champions later down the line.
1. Create valuable content and memorable experiences
Encourage your influential alumni and existing students to get involved in running your online content and classes during the time students are getting settled in.
Has a successful author graduated from your university? Ask them to run a creative writing workshop for freshmen interested in a similar career path - and stream it online. Show prospective students that they’re more than just a number and that once they’ve arrived at your institution, their journey really begins.
2. Identify and assemble your next team of influencers and advocates
And don’t forget, those new ID badges may reveal a few new micro (or macro) influencers who are now gracing your corridors. Entice and inspire new freshmen to get their cameras out and selfie poses on, and generate some user-generated content online. Have you got a 2020/21 hashtag at the ready? This will be a great material to use when you’re next advertising your Open House and provide raw, authentic experiences for prospective students to find and relate to.
We know this is gold for students. So much so, that hosting an employee or influencer on your Instagram Story for a few days has been shown to boost engagement by nearly 20%. Just look at Christine Lee whose Harvard orientation week vlog amassed 67,000 views and over 100 comments. Or Conan Gray’s orientation experience at UCLA garnered over 280,000 views, 1,200 comments, and streams of excited and loyal followers eyeing up UCLA as a fantastic choice to have in mind.
3. And don’t forget about helping your tribes build and find each other
That all-important data you’ve collected from your virtual Open House campaigns and sign-up forms can give you the insights to help identify tribes, groups, and shared social interests now they’ve arrived at your university. By segmenting your audience based on their interests, you’ll be able to create content that will engage the right groups and invite already-engaged students to specific orientation events, providing them with the opportunity to connect with other like-minded enrollees. Help them have the best time possible, and we’ll bet on them heading straight to social media to share the experience.
4. Show your difference through your values
Use your virtual, or otherwise, orientation week to showcase the difference you’re making - whether that’s in your contribution to the fight against Covid-19, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, or otherwise. A recent survey by our research team found that, since the lockdown, 72% of students want to receive regular communication from universities. If your institution is doing something positive, innovative or inspiring, you need to talk about it to your new, existing, and prospective students. Ground your USP in what you’re doing for society right now, and get your new students involved - setting the tone for their next three years. We talked about a collective experience previously, so why not make your orientation week just that, more than just signing in, but empowering and inspiring your 2020/21 class, all while helping strengthen your brand at the same time.
If you would like to talk to our strategists about how else you can increase brand awareness and get in front of prospective students as the new academic year starts, you can get in touch here.