Finding Your Flock: Admissions Marketing Best Practices for Faith-Based Institutions

While admissions offices across the country attempt to attract the best and brightest, those at private faith-based institutions have the added challenge of dispelling misconceptions prospective students and their parents have about pursuing a faith-based education.

With such a wide variety of “religiously affiliated” institutions in the United States, it’s no wonder secular and spiritual students can have vastly different impressions on the rigor of the coursework, the variety of degree programs offered, and the extent to which spirituality factors into their student experience. If or when students enroll without a clear understanding of what to expect from the institution on these fronts, it can cause higher levels of attrition.

So how can you clearly convey your campus’ culture and target the right prospective students? Consider the following low and high touch marketing practices.

Draw Visibility to Your Mission Statement

On your website, in email campaigns, on printed collateral- drawing attention to your mission statement is a powerful way to address both the academic and spiritual characteristics of your institution from the beginning. It allows parents and prospective students to evaluate how closely their values align with your institution’s, increasing the likelihood of those interested to be a good fit.

Initiate High-Touch Relationships with Local High Schools Earlyand Often

We’ve all heard the adage “start local before going global”. The same principle can be applied to your applicant pool. Where better to start recruitment than in your backyard? And who better to help convey your message and identify students best suited for your institution than the people who know them best- their high school counselors. A Dean of Admission and Enrollment at a private Christian university in Kentucky shared with me their strategy of forging strong relationships with local high schools to increase enrollment. In helping high school counselors identify the qualities they were looking for in a prospective student, they were able to see the number of applicants rise by 50%.

Introduce Prospective Students to Current Students Through Social Media

If you are an institution seeking to drive enrollment from out-of-state and transfer populations, give prospective students an authentic feel for your campus’s culture by introducing them to current students and each other via social media. This is a great way to give them a sense of student life before the campus visit and an avenue for sharing their excitement after.

Be Data Driven

And by that I am not referring to the collection of response rates from your marketing efforts. I’m speaking more to how institutional data is used to inform the development of your marketing strategy. Do you know the attributes of those students that integrate best and persist to completion? Identify the qualitative and quantitative characteristics they possess to develop targeted messaging for prospective students exhibiting those same characteristics.

Emphasize Return On Investment

Bottom line- parents and prospective students want to know what the return on investment for their tuition is. Students and their parents are conscious now more than ever of a college’s price tag. Providing information that conveys the quality of academic majors, career preparation, and faculty are most important in communication to students at the earlier stages of the matriculation process. Does the “about us” page of your website tout fuzzy anecdotes about commitments to excellence or hard facts about faculty involvement, career placement services, and graduation rates? Check out the 2009 Noel Levitz-CCCU marketing study for more insight.

What are you doing to improve your messaging?