The Best Way to Recruit Students Is Tell Your College Story

Are you looking for the most effective way to recruit students to your college or university? With so many college and university options out there these days, college recruitment has become a huge priority for higher education.

The best way to recruit students to your college or university? Tell your college story.

The college story is the single most unique aspect of your institution.

Stories evoke emotional connections with the story and storyteller, and stories also elicit actions, like applying to your school.

By making sure prospective students know your college story, you will give your college the best chance to recruit students.

According to Jerome Bruner, Cognitive Psychologist, messages delivered as stories can be up to 22x more memorable.

My College Story

Tucked away on top of a hill in one of the most historical place in Massachusetts, Bentley University offers one of the most picturesque campuses in all of New England.

Located in Waltham a town just next to Lexington and Concord, Bentley is just a short drive from downtown Boston.

To a 18 year old who grew up playing ice hockey in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and an aspiring entrepreneur, a New England business school offered so many opportunities.

As the first one in my family to go to college, I was determined to make the most of it.

The moment I arrived on campus, took a tour and looked out over the landscape from the new technology center located at the top of the hill, I knew Bentley University would be where I spent my next four years.

The business program was topnotch, the campus was incredible, and when I traveled up the road to Boston I had never seen so many young people, and such a clean, beautiful city. It drew me in.

I remember hearing about a 98% job placement for Bentley graduates. My tour guide, a Junior at the time, talked about the opportunity for internships, how great the professors were, and all of the fun activities that students could get involved with. I could close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to be a student at Bentley.

I was sold on the Bentley story, a story that I could easily make my own.

The next four years were some of the greatest years of my life. I look back on that process, the stories that were shared with me, and I cannot imagine going to any other school.

I completed four internships while at Bentley and within a month of graduating, I had my first job. I was on my way to living my dreams.

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What Is a College Story?

A college story is a simply a narrative focused on the essence of your school.

A college story gives students a flavor for your college culture and conveys what it’s like to be a student at at your school.

The best part about telling a college story is that there are so many powerful talking points that can be served up.

There is so much that goes on at colleges and universities that a college should never be short on content.

One key is figuring out what differentiates your college from the competition and then focusing your college stories on those dimensions.

When it comes to figuring out what aspects of your college to focus your story on, here are a few areas to consider:

  • Culture – What’s it’s like to be a student at your college or university? Describe your college culture in your college story so prospective students can visualize what it would be like should they choose to attend your school.
  • Programs – What can students expect from your college courses? How are they structured? What’s the average class size? Answering these questions about your programs, as well as, providing students with course descriptions, can help separate your programs from competitors’.
  • Campus – A campus can sell students. It did for me. The campus section of a story is primed for visuals. Show students what your campus looks like, from a birds eye view, all the way to pictures of the dorms and lecture halls. Captivating campuses sell colleges.
  • Student Life – One of the biggest selling points for prospective students, and something you should put front and center in your college story, is student life. For many incoming freshman, this will be the first time they are away from home for an extended period of time. It’s critical that they know what life as a student at your college or university is going to be like.
  • Athletics – Does your school have high level athletics programs? Are Saturday football games an amazing experience? Do students have the opportunity to participate in your athletics programs? Maybe you have a well known coach coaching one of your teams. Highlight the athletics program in your college story.
  • Local Activities – A big selling point for me at Bentley University was that it was just a short drive away from Boston. Not only that, but all of the small towns that surrounded the campus also offered a lot to do. Prospective students want to know what there is to do outside of the college just as much as they want to know what there is to do within the college.
  • Job Placement – Las, but certainly not least, is job placement. For many prospective students, getting a college degree is the first step in securing that first job. Especially in today’s job market, if your college has exemplary job placement stats, be sure to explain that in your college story so students know that if they come to your school, and do well, they are very likely to find that dream job.

How Do I Tell a Great College Story?

When it comes to telling a great college story, keep it short. You don’t have to stuff every last bit of information about your college, the campus, your programs, etc. into one story.

Especially in today’s society where people are inundated with information and more people are consuming content on-the-go, it’s much better to create short stories for students.

With each short story, always be thinking in terms of conversion rates. One story should convert a prospective student just enough to get them to consume your next story.

Each successive story furthering their interest in your school, and each driving them to the next action.

When creating short stories to recruit students, you want to start with a story that captivates prospective students and shows them all of the possibilities your college provides. This short story captures their attention and converts them into considering attending your college.

The next short story can focus on your campus and programs. The goal of that story is to convert students into making the decision to schedule a visit.

From there, tap your college tour guides to tell your college story, as well as, share their college story.

These current students, taking prospective students on tours of your university, can become your college influencers.

49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions. (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)

At the end of the day, that’s what you’re asking prospective students to do, purchase your college program over your competitors.

You can make that happen telling a great college story, which can be broken out into a series of short stories for students.

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Components of a Great College Story

Like any great story, there are a few key elements that you can use to create a great college story.

It may even be that a lot of this content has already been created in used in other marketing campaigns, so it might simply be an exercise of figuring out the story you want to tell, and then weaving together existing content into compelling story.

Recruit Students By Including Captivating Imagery in Your College Story

Before spoken language was created, ancient people told stories through imagery. Compelling images can captivate an audience, transport them directly into the story scene.

Colleges have so many opportunities to capture imagery, from pictures of the campus, students in learning environments, to sporting events.

Be sure to weave imagery into your college story to help prospective students visualize what life at your college or university is like.

Share Current Student Testimonials When Telling Your College Story

With Millennials, it’s extremely important for them to hear what college life is like at your school from those who actually attend, not just from the marketing department.

Whether it’s the tour guide like we talked about earlier, or injecting testimonials into your college story, it’s critical for colleges to leverage existing students as ambassadors and influencers of prospective students.

Millennials want authenticity, and hearing about your school from current students is much more effective than any description that you can type up.

Recruit Students Using Videos from Professors Talking About Your Programs

According to Wordstream.com, one-third of online activity is spent watching video. Video content is taking over as the number one type of content people want to consume. It’s quick, easy to consume, and requires the least amount of effort for the consumer.

Incorporate video stories from professors, the dean, or even current students to help you tell your college story. Let prospective students see and hear from your advocates instead of just reading about them.

Help Prospective Students Understand Your College Culture

There is nothing more important for you to convent in your college story than what your college culture is like.

Is your school focused on athletics? Push that forward to recruit students.

Is it all about academics? Does your culture promote the balance between the two?

Whatever your culture is, share that with prospective students. It might not appeal to everyone, but if you do a good job at projecting your college culture, it’ll appeal to the right students.

At the end of the day, you want to recruit students and drive as many applications as possible.

The Best Way to Create and Share Your College Story

We live in a digital world where more and more people are accessing content from their mobile phone.

If you’re looking to tell your college story, tell a digital story, and be sure that it’s optimized for mobile.

By removing the friction from story consumption you will give yourself a better chance of your story being heard.

I can’t remember how many printed college brochures I received during my junior and senior years of high school, but it was a ton.

Looking back, I can’t imagine how much was spent on print costs alone.

If direct mail is your current student recruitment strategy, that’s OK, but send a one pager with a call-to-action to visit a website or include a mobile short code that students can text and then receive a link to your mobile first story.

Digital stories offer college marketers a ton of benefits, from increased interactivity and engagement opportunities for the consumer, reduced print costs, easy consumption through the right marketing channels where Millenials are spending their time, to tracking and analytics. Not only that, but digital stories are much easier to update than a story printed on a brochure.

If you are looking to tell your college story, and want to make sure it’s optimized for mobile first, consider using the STORYSOFT digital storytelling platform. Our all-in-one solution lets college marketers create compelling digital experiences that tell their college story to prospective students, while providing all of the analytics and campaign tracking features that let college marketers track return on investment.

We can help college marketers tell better college stories. Schedule a STORYSOFT demo to learn more about our storytelling marketing platform and how it can help you tell a great college story.