Given all the changes in education since the pandemic began, recruiting students to join academic programs (such as TRIO and GEAR UP) has become increasingly difficult—but not impossible. With the right programming, strategies and tactics, you can recruit and retain students more successfully.
In this post, we’ll look at five student recruitment tips you can use to recruit students. These include incorporating recruitment into everything you do, offering great products and services, building a sustainable recruitment pipeline, creating compelling marketing materials, and making a convincing sales pitch to students.
Read on to learn more about our top 5 student recruitment tips to help you attract students to your educational program!
1. Think like a college basketball coach: Make recruitment a top priority
In college basketball, recruiting is one of the foremost responsibilities of every head coach. Without talented new players joining the team each year, the program cannot enjoy consistent success.
So, what do coaches do? They make recruiting a component of everything they do—from how they scout and interact with recruits to how they speak during press conferences and represent the school on a national stage.
You can do the same thing with your program: Put recruitment at the center of your efforts, because this will influence all of the decisions you make in a positive way. For example, let’s say you take your students on an annual trip. Putting a recruitment lens on the trip, you’d want to make sure to grab photos and videos of the students having a great time—and maybe even ask a few of them to describe their experiences. Doing this, you’d gain great marketing materials you can use for future student recruiting (by showing prospective students how much fun they can have on your trips).
In general, strive to ensure that every possible interaction a potential student might have with your program is a positive one. So any time that a potential student sees your social media, receives a message from you, or hears about you from a guidance counselor, you want that interaction to make them more likely to sign up.
When you actively work to get more students to join your program, refer their classmates and come back year after year, it has a ripple effect that benefits your programming, funding, job satisfaction, and student outcomes.
2. Think like a business owner: Offer a great product to your “customers”
If you think of your program like a business, the programming and activities you offer are your product, and the students are your customers. And in any business, the best way to keep your customers happy is to consistently provide a high-quality product that addresses their needs.
To provide a great product in the modern educational environment, you need a modern approach. This means offering engaging content that is relevant to what your students want and need to know—and delivering that content via convenient, software-based methods. As the pandemic has shown, being software-ready is vital for modern educational programs. (Not to mention that today’s students prefer learning through multimedia.)
This is why Nucleus creates fun, activity-based courses that can be taught in person or online. These types of courses are the kind of product that modern students want, for a few reasons:
Video-based lessons that present complex material in clear, understandable ways
Review questions and vocabulary that reinforce essential concepts
Hands-on activities that allow students to “learn by doing”—and have fun
An easy to use software platform students can access from anywhere
By offering courses with these characteristics to your students, you can ensure that they’re getting a top-notch learning experience. And, if those courses focus on topics that prepare students for the future—helping them build life and career skills—the effects will be doubly powerful. (This is why we offer courses in Financial Literacy, Robotics & Coding, and Entrepreneurship.)
Providing the best programming you can gives you the best chance to recruit more students. With a great product, students will be excited to get started—and they’ll want to tell all their friends about it.
3. Build a strong student recruitment pipeline
Your goal shouldn’t be just to recruit enough students one year and then figure it out again the next year; ideally, you want to create a sustainable recruiting system that generates student interest year after year. This is easier said than done, of course, but there are lots of little things you can do that add up over time to get your student recruitment pipeline going.
One thing you can try is creating a “target customer profile” the way ad agencies and marketers do. This exercise involves writing down the characteristics of your ideal customer—in this case, the students you want to join your program—as if they were an actual person. This lets you consider your customers’ wants, needs and interests from a more personal perspective.
You should also aim to “meet your customers where they are” by reaching out to sponsoring institutions, school district guidance offices, school guidance and instructor faculty, and other channels of people who regularly interact with students.
You should also make contacting and joining your program as seamless as possible when students are interested, which means creating simple application forms and interest sheets that students can access online (via Google Forms, Jotform, or some other form creation software).
Another effective thing you can do is automate as many processes as possible related to how your team collaborates and how you manage relationships with students and their families. Software helps you do this—there are many helpful tools available, such as Trello, Monday.com, Airtable, Pipeline, MailChimp and AutoPilot. Using software services like these, you can simplify your work and improve your communication, yielding lots of benefits over time.
For example, you can use a calendar scheduling tool like Calendly to make it super easy for students and parents to book interest meetings with you. They just click a booking link and select an available time in your calendar!
Also, using MailChimp or AutoPilot, you can schedule marketing emails to send out to all of the student contacts in your network. You can even set reminder emails to follow up with students after a certain amount of time passes.
And speaking of marketing … no recruitment pipeline would be complete without it! That leads us to our next student recruitment tip.
4. Create compelling marketing materials
Marketing, simply put, means promoting your product or service by convincing your audience that you’re the right fit for them. In this case, marketing involves communicating the value your program provides in a way that appeals to students and their families—so they want to sign up!
There are lots of tools at your disposal to help you get your message across. These tools include:
A strong website that highlights the value of your program
Marketing emails focused on student recruitment
Blogs and newsletters about your program
Photos and videos highlighting your program
Flyers, brochures and PDFs that break down what your program offers
Social media posts and stories accentuating what makes your program great
Testimonials from current and former students talking about your program
Logos and branding to give your program personality
Paid ad campaigns via Facebook, Instagram or local media
Text campaigns where you reach out personally to students who are considering your program
These are just some ideas—there are many other tactics you can try. The key thing is to highlight the impact your program can have on students’ lives. Communicate the benefits your program offers, making sure to contact students at different times and in different ways. After all, most students won’t just receive one email from you and immediately decide to sign up; they might need to hear about your program three or four times before they take the next step.
All of your marketing materials should clearly articulate your value proposition, which includes anything you would deem a strong “selling point” to your audience. Identify the top three or four things about your program that appeal to students, and make sure to include them as you market your product.
Each marketing material should also include a “call to action” or “CTA,” which is usually a short message directing your audience to take a specific next step towards joining your program. For instance, a CTA on your website could be a button that says, “Apply Now” and leads students to your application form.
5. Perfect your student recruitment sales pitch
A strong marketing strategy can get you in the door with students, and some will sign up without you ever actually speaking to them. But many students and their families will actually want to talk to you before they join your program, and this is where your sales pitch comes into play.
Whether it’s on the phone, Zoom or in person, you have to be able to inform students about your program, resolve their concerns or objections, and get them excited about what you have to offer. To do this, your sales pitch should feel more like a conversation than you “selling” something—but that conversation should meet certain criteria.
In general, your sales pitch should:
Be short, simple, clear and understandable
Identify your students’ needs or a problem they have
Introduce how your program meets that need or solves that problem
Describe what your program entails and what the expected outcomes will be
Some students and their families will hear your pitch and be ready to sign up, but others might need more convincing. So, you might highlight program incentives such as prizes for participation (such as the raffle tickets and Amazon gift cards we give during Nucleus courses), stipends, FAFSA assistance, trips and other perks. You can also create an “ambassador program” allowing current students to recruit for you by sharing their experiences with potential future students. Additionally, you can create and share student testimonials in fun and innovative ways to attract new participants.
Finally, you should be prepared to help students join your program immediately while they’re with you in person or on the call—which might mean walking them through the sign-up process. So, be prepared and have the necessary forms and information ready to go before you make your pitch.
Measure, rinse and repeat
Bringing it all together, these five student recruitment tips can make a huge difference for your program—especially if you measure how successful your efforts are over time. Measuring involves tracking things like: how many students join your program each year, how many people open each email that you send, how many clicks a Facebook ad generates, and so on.
Recall that a sound student recruitment approach focuses on sustainability year after year. You won’t get it right all the time, so the important thing is to keep trying new tactics and see what works best for attracting an audience in your community.
Keep at it, build your recruitment pipeline, and eventually you might feel like your system does the recruiting for you and your staff.
Nucleus offers fun, activity-based courses to thousands of students across the country, teaching real-life skills like Financial Literacy, Entrepreneurship, and Robotics & Coding. Nucleus courses are easy to facilitate in person or online, featuring an innovative model that combines video-based lessons with review questions, vocabulary, and hands-on activities. To see Nucleus courses in action, click here.