9 Fundamental Student Recruitment Strategies For Higher Ed

Published in
6 min readFeb 25, 2022


2020 brought a lot of lessons with it. The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the entire education system across the globe.

As of October 2020, admission rates for the fall term showed a considerable decline.

  • Undergraduate admissions fell 4.4% from last year.
  • Postsecondary enrollment showed a 3.3% decline.
  • Freshman enrollment fell a massive 13% as compared to 2019.

Now more than ever, strategies to reach students wherever they are and give them the confidence and knowledge to succeed in their student journey are important.

But student recruitment is harder than ever, and standing out in an increasingly competitive crowd is becoming a challenge. So, how do you grab your prospective students’ attention with a college and student recruitment strategy? In this article, we’ll share the answer.

1. List your recruitment strategies

Before you set concrete goals, consider your campus vision. What is the bigger picture? What do you hope to become as a college, university, or online education program?

Once you’ve established your campus vision, set specific goals to evaluate on a weekly, monthly and annual basis. For example, you may set a goal of increasing out-of-state enrollment by a certain percentage within twelve months.

Instead of tracking progress toward one large goal for the end of the year, set smaller monthly goals such as generating a certain number of applications and admitted students from out-of-state markets by a specific date.

2. Look at your previous enrollment data

Chances are, you have plenty of data that can already form the foundations of your recruitment strategy. Take a look at the data you’ve already collected throughout previous admission processes, such as:

  • Where did the majority of existing students come from? Did they move to attend school?
  • If you ran an enrollment survey, why did previous students pick your college?
  • Which marketing channel tends to generate the most inquiries from potential students?

You might find common denominators between your existing and prospective students that will help you piece together a great campaign.

3. Provide experiences at local high schools

Research shows that the most effective marketing strategies are events-based. Instead of just relying on online marketing for your school. Incorporate visits to local high school job fairs and host virtual campus tours — something 64% of high school students use when researching higher education facilities

Research by Hanover backs this up:

“Despite the increased digital activity, a recent survey found that the most effective marketing strategies for universities are nevertheless events‐based and involve direct interaction with potential students.” Glendale Community College has a “Recruitment on the Road” calendar, where they list details of the high school job fairs they’ll be attending:

While attending these events, collect the names and contact details of each prospective student who has shown an interest in your college. You can then run retargeting campaigns to engage with them pre-event through Facebook — a tactic rated the most effective advertising strategy rated to attract new students.

4. Tell your unique campus story

Show your prospective students what you offer and how their lives can be better because of it.

For instance, the University of Georgetown made a documentary showing the normal lives of their other college kids — kids doing laundry, studying before exams, in specific courses, and other views of student life. The campaign went viral on social media and earned positive publicity for the University.

The lesson to be learned here is, good student-focused stories that people can relate to can work wonders. The thing that attracts students more than anything is familiarity.

5. Engage with students

Think about every personal interaction you look forward to. One thing most common in all of them is that you have met them before (online or offline) and liked them (First impressions are important) . Research shows this holds for recruitment decisions too.

Research says that people tend to favor institutions that have actively engaged with them before. (Source: Hanover Research)

Anticipate their questions and anxieties, and be ready with stats, facts, and alumni success stories to help them. Don’t stop there. Organize events that are beneficial for them, make it convenient for them to attend these.

Post your stories on social media and encourage your current students to do the same. One example is to hold open days! Letting your candidates know the perks of attending your university is important

6. Be Authentic

Years ago, when markets crashed in 2008, brands were faced with a challenge: how to change their messaging to keep customers interested.

One brand which stood out was Harley Davidson. They didn’t change their brand message, instead, emphasizing the brand appeal of Freedom and Rebellion. Astonishingly, the results were positive. As Judy Garland put it, “It’s better to be the first-grade version of yourself rather than a second-grade version of someone else.”

Here’s how sticking to the core principle of authenticity helped the University of Waterloo. The institution came out with innovative ‘live student chat’ sessions to answer prospective students’ queries like only students could. It seemed both charming and authentic and heavily increased their inflow of students.

7. Use Social Media

Social Media is where most college-going students live. A library of research has confirmed that “real brand benefit occurs when a university uses social media interactively.” To use it to your advantage, you need to be with them there.

A good example of doing this right would be the #LboroFamily trend started by Loughborough university to welcome newcomers. It stayed on top of the trending page on Twitter for a while and proved to be an effective-cost-free technique.

8. Build an Engaging Website

According to The Pie, international students mostly look at a university’s website before making their enrollment decisions. An increase in website performance equals an increase in revenue and equal opportunities.

While getting one ready, they should instantly answer the top questions that often arise in the students’ minds, in just less than 30 seconds. This is why you should have some eye-catching engaging elements on your website.

  • Have a motivational headline targeted to a specific audience
  • Have strong call to actions
  • Have a readily available form for users who are ready to take action
  • Have multiple ways for students to contact you so you can catch them at the right time — chat, form, email, phone number, & text.

9. Offer Alternative Financing Options

A big barrier to higher education for many students can be financing. College is not only far more expensive than it was a decade ago, but the burden of paying for it has also shifted away from the public to individual students.

As more students are concerned about how they will afford traditional private loan repayments, schools and programs are beginning to think of different ways to finance the cost of tuition. Income Share Agreements can be a great alternative for students.

If you’re not familiar, here’s how they work. In exchange for deferred tuition, students pay back a percentage of their income after graduating and landing a job. Most colleges cap the total amount that a student eventually pays back.

Colleges are offering ISAs to help students who have used up their traditional financial aid options and to help ease remaining costs. Advocates say the financing method puts more responsibility on the school to help students succeed, and provides an alternative to private loans and traditional private student loan debt.

Curious about offering an ISA at your school? Check out the Things To Know Before Offering An ISA at your program or talk to one of our ISA specialists.

Institutions may not be able to address every barrier to student enrollment but these strategies will help! Want to offer an effective financing option designed and proven to increase student enrollment? Meratas is here to help.

About Meratas

Meratas is the leading Income Share Agreement (ISA) software company, providing a full-service, turnkey, SaaS platform to design, originate, and manage ISAs. We help universities, bootcamps, trade schools, and membership programs increase enrollment and open access to their programs. All through the power of Income Share Agreements.

We also help those looking to get an education, up-skill, or re-skill, get into the career of their dreams. All at generally no upfront cost. We pair individuals looking for a fresh new career with the best educational programs on the Meratas platform to reach their professional goals. If you’re looking to break into your new career, check out our student page and we’ll help you find the career of your dreams.

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Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, Meratas Inc. makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content contained herein. Meratas Inc. assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained herein or the operation or use of these materials.




Meratas provides a complete software solution to design and manage Income Share Agreements (ISA) programs proven to increase enrollment