5 Steps to an Admissions-First Mobile Mindset

Fact, the iPhone 5 has more processing power than the Mars Rover Curiosity.  Mobile technology has forever changed the way that students will interact with your university, but many institutions I’ve talked with have not made any changes to their admissions process in light of mobile student trends.

For many students, mobile devices have become the dominant way to access the web, communicate with friends, and even research colleges. According to the Noel-Levitz E-Expectations Report, a bad college website experience can have a ‘severe negative effect’ on up to a quarter of your prospective students.

Knowing that 52% of your prospective students are visiting your website through their mobile device, how can you make sure your university is meeting student expectations? Here are 5 steps to get your office thinking from a mobile perspective.

1. Knowing is Half the Battle

Understanding what students actually experience on your website is an important first step. This can be as easy as picking up your phone or borrowing a colleagues and going to your college or admissions homepage. Remember, first impressions are extremely important and if you provide students a bad mobile experience you may not get another chance to show them what your campus has to offer.

Try: Browse your university’s homepage on a mobile device. Search for answers to prospective students’ most frequently asked questions. How is the experience? Did you easily accomplish your goal/answer a potential question? Rinse. Repeat.

2. Check Out Your Competition

There are many competing priorities for your university, so how can you get mobile to move higher up on the list? Try browsing three of your competitors’ websites and running through the previous exercise. When you bring up the importance of mobile to your team, you can compare the experiences and share the hard numbers of why mobile admissions planning is no longer optional.

If you’d like to see an example from another school to get some inspiration, check out Notre Dame’s website on your mobile device.

3. Bring Data to the Table

“In God we trust, all others must bring data.” This is a mantra that has been popularized amongst data-driven business professionals.  While showing your team the differences between your site and your competitors’ is important, it’s also crucial to share how these changes can affect your students’ website engagement.

For example, after Regent College published their responsive mobile site, they saw:

  • 99 percent increase in unique visitors (source)
  • 77 percent increase in pageviews (source)
  • 63 percent increase in online applications (source)

Tip: Be sure you’re measuring the device sources of your website traffic to compare how mobile browsers differ from laptops or PCs.

4. View Your Social Experience Through a Mobile Mindset

Your university already has an extremely accessible, mobile-friendly presence: your social network presence. According to our recent study, 72 percent of students researched colleges on social networks.

Your social presence represents your university’s personality, and students will use this as a resource to determine whether your institution is a good fit (40 percent of students said that a university’s social presence ‘influenced their enrollment decision’).

Before you post a link to one of your social networks, remember there is a 50/50 chance a student will be opening this on a mobile device. Is the content optimized for mobile or will it lead them to a dead end?

Try: Browse your social networking accounts on a mobile device and click-through various links. How was the experience? Be sure to take screenshots and share them with your team so they know what your mobile-browsing students are seeing. 

5. Evaluate Text Messages for Communications

Texting students is a hot debate. In our focus groups, we heard students say that they both didn’t want to be sent general marketing text messages, but they did want to receive notifications about important deadlines via SMS text.

In one successful texting campaign, Westminster College utilized text messaging to remind students to fill out their partially completed admissions application. By simply asking students if they were planning on finishing their application, they increased the amount of completed applications and could answer specific follow up questions individual students had.

While we don’t recommend blasting generic messages to students via text, we do know that personalized, targeted and relevant information from your office is a great way to reach your mobile student body.

Can Mobile Increase Student Engagement?

While there are arguments to be made that mobile devices distract students, utilizing them in the right way can build a more engaged student body. For example this past year we saw students who engaged with Schools App on their mobile device had 5x more community visits, 2x more page views and 1.5x longer visit durations compared to non-mobile browsers.

With half our application traffic now coming from mobile devices, we see this as a key channel to engage, communicate and recruit students throughout the admissions process.

Does your office have a prospective student mobile engagement strategy? Please share your successes or hardships below.