5 Ways to Fail at Student Recruitment

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5 Ways to Fail at Student Recruitment

Whilst the unpredictable nature of the pandemic continues to challenge student recruiters across the world, there are still some things worth avoiding in 2021.

In this lighthearted blog, we take a look at what isn’t working when brands try to communicate and market to younger prospective student audiences.  

Number 1: Overwhelm with content

🗣️ If you want to miss out on students finding the right information, or missing it all together, the best bet is to overwhelm them with content at every opportunity so they lack clarity on what you might have on offer for them, or better still, give up altogether and leave your site to find another institution.


Ok, it’s true, your prospective students will have questions and could be navigating your content at various points of their decision-making journey – you want to cater for them at every stage.

But, if you aren’t thinking about how you streamline as many conversations as possible, serving up relevant content points and conversational cues to steer their digital experience with you, you’re making things a lot harder for students who benefit from being able to pick up where they left off when they continue their research process.

Number 2: Believe it’s all about you

🗣️ Talk incessantly about yourself, your achievements, your humble brags, broadcasting one-way to prospective students until they can only list your ranking positions and key stats back at you.


This would be such a red flag in a real-life conversation, it’s also one to really avoid when you’re engaging prospective students! Yes we need to think about how our content ‘tells’ but with mass personalisation of online experiences through websites, e-commerce and social media, being able to find out what your audience are looking for, what they don’t need any longer and what they might need next is far more like a healthy conversation.

Number 3: Stalk students with course ads incessantly until they cave

🗣️ If a student has visited a course page it must mean they’re obsessed with you and therefore the only course of action is to fire ads to them about the course whenever they dare to go online.


Wouldn’t it be ‘out there’ to ask if a student is still interested in a course? Not really.

Remarketing can be a really good prompt and is part and parcel of a digital marketing strategy, but if you find out how students’ early research is going, and what else they might need or whether there are other courses they’re interested in, you suddenly have a far more powerful way to help them. When the marketing message is truly helpful, then the frequency in which the prospective student sees a remarketing ad becomes less of an issue as you’re helping them along their journey to application.

Number 4: Demand every single piece of personal information as soon as they visit your website

🗣️ There’s nothing people like more than being asked to provide all their information, several times if you can, but as much as possible, especially if the forms take ages to fill in. Then you’ve pretty much got everything you need to tell them more about yourself. Win.


We often get caught up with those opportunities of providing details for that first ‘touch point’ of a prospectus, virtual or in person recruitment event or some form of interaction. But to get to that point, students will have already checked you out, multiple times. They’ll have a first impression, they’ll have an idea of what courses you offer, they’ll have done some work.

So, it’s these pre-conversations which can be so important, but they can be happening at any point, through your website and social media. It’s like having a conversation with some of the words blanked – but that’s ok, if you’re trying to fill some of the blanks and are thinking about what would help that student, you’ll be in a better place than focusing all your efforts locking in students’ details before they’re ready to share them.

Number 5: Assume all students are more or less the same

🗣️ OK, we got this: they’re pretty much mainly undergrads, will be impressed by the same things and will follow the same decision-making journey. Student recruitment is easy!


Well there are patterns that can help indicate some typical trends, but if you aren’t regularly checking your own data and what prospective students are doing, feeding back and thinking about when they engage with you then you could be missing out on some massive cohorts who feel you’re not relevant.

We noticed a trend for mature students engaging with particular courses with some of our clients, but felt the content provided wasn’t relevant and, worse still, made them feel that the course and institution wouldn’t be for them as a mature student. By having a conversation through Cues, we were able to identify some shifts that were needed in order to tailor the content for mature students when they visited the institutions’’ website.

A relatively minor change, but could work for a whole swath of student groups.