Published on 2014/08/27

Five Mobile Strategies to Help Higher Education Institutions Increase Enrollment

Five Mobile Strategies to Help Higher Education Institutions Increase Enrollment
Prospective non-traditional students think more like consumers than do most 18 to 22-year-olds, and institutions need to meet them where they are to get their business. In today’s marketplace, that place is mobile.
As prospective students are taking advantage of new technology to research their education options, higher education marketers are scrambling to determine how to convince them to attend their universities.

Because these audiences are so different from those of years past, marketing tactics need to pivot in a completely new direction.

Consumers are now obsessed with doing things efficiently, and that translates into mobility. Smartphones and tablets don’t just make life more fun — they also make everyday life easier. Prospective students will be looking for a university that meets them on this level.

To do so, higher education marketing professionals must build a mobile strategy for each step of their campaigns. From the first website visit from a prospective student to the actual enrollment process, you can make connecting with your key audiences easier by adopting these strategies.

1. Be Responsive

Students these days expect a streamlined website experience, no matter what device they use to seek information. They’d like a website to function just as well on their iPhone as their desktop computer and don’t have much patience for those functioning poorly on their preferred device. In fact, 40 percent of consumers will turn to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience, and 20 percent of students no longer consider a college after a bad website experience.

Making your university’s website responsive is no small feat. However, doing so is a crucial first step to meeting the growing needs of today’s students (both traditional and non-traditional), significantly increasing opportunities for enrollment.

Through this redesign, you can work with an experienced, responsive web design company to format your website for each device type, ensuring your most important messages and calls-to-action are still prominent on smartphones and tablets.

2. Make Your Emails Easier to Read on Mobile

Once you have prospective students’ interest, it’s time to guide them through the decision process. Determining which college to attend is not one typically taken lightly. Constant touch points and nudges help keep your university top-of-mind, and most marketing teams consider email marketing to be an enormous tool for connecting with potential enrollees.

Sixty-one percent of consumers access their email with a mobile device and 69 percent of mobile users delete emails not optimized for mobile. Are your emails getting deleted?

Much like your website, your emails should function correctly on every device possible. When strategizing your email marketing campaigns, remember to format texts and images responsively. All other included media should react to various mobile device sizes as well. Don’t forget the basics of reading on mobile: keep the paragraphs short, use headers and leverage the power of great visuals.

3. Build a Campus Tour Mobile App

Once a prospective student makes the decision to visit your college campus, you must shift into overdrive to ensure this experience is entertaining, inspirational and informational. We’ve all seen the many visitors on a college campus tour, just shuffling along, eyes glued to their iPhones.

Instead of trying to break their connection with their devices, leverage their addiction with a campus tour mobile app. Prospective students can download the app and find additional information about certain buildings and landmarks. Geo-location alerts can send them quick pop-ups about the places they walk by.

Bonus: the app can also function as a campus map when users return home, allowing them to explore the university all over again from anywhere they like and increasing brand interaction.

4. Create a Web App for Your Course Schedule

When exploring courses your university offers, again, most prospective students aren’t navigating with a desktop computer. They’re using a smartphone or tablet while sitting on the couch or in line at the post office. When they have an urge to know if your school offers a specific class, they don’t want to wait until they get home to find the answer. They want to know immediately.

We recommend building a web app to assist with this.

Web apps include a “frame” to sit on the user’s phone while all of its information is hosted in a database online, available to be pulled to the phone as needed. With an engaging and simple user interface, prospective students can research classes based on level, location, professors, days and times.

Why not a native app? Building a native app would require many updates, at least one per semester, and students would bear a bigger responsibility to implement these updates as needed. It would also be a data-intensive app, and those don’t survive for long on data-scarce smartphones. Web apps allow for much more data and versatility.

By providing prospective students with this information on the device they carry around in their pocket, you can keep your university’s brand top-of-mind and increase excitement for specific courses and experiences.

Bonus: your current students can use this tool as well.

5. Make the Enrollment Process Easier from a Mobile Device

You’ve connected with prospective students on their mobile devices from several marketing angles, and the moment you’ve been working toward is here: they’re ready to enroll. Don’t go through all of this work to provide engaging experiences on a smartphone just to make them switch to a desktop computer to apply and enroll.

Whether through a responsive interface or another web app, focus on creating a streamlined enrollment experience from any device. Make all data-entry points and drop-down menus easy to fill out and use. Avoid the need for pinching and scrolling. Use short, numbered pages that load quickly to keep the prospective student moving through the process. Focus on giving these audiences the ability to enroll from anywhere, on their time.

Give Them What They Want on Mobile

Consumers seek instant gratification, and they want and expect their schools to get on board with this mentality. Make your resources available to them on mobile devices, and you can more easily forge a connection between them and your brand, bringing them one step closer to enrollment.

Have a question or another mobile strategy to engage prospective students and convince them to enroll? We want to hear about it in a comment below.

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Readers Comments

Arjun Mahal 2014/08/27 at 12:50 pm

The campus tour mobile app is a brilliant idea. As Marcallini states, there’s no point in competing with mobile devices for potential students’ attention. Offering this app shows you’re willing to meet recruits at their place of comfort and show them what your institution has to offer.

I’d be interested in hearing more about how to go about setting up this kind of app and what the associated costs might be like. Hope someone can share in the comments.

    Joe Marcallini 2014/08/28 at 11:10 am


    We would be more than happy to discuss this concept in more detail. We have been working with higher education establishments for many years and have gained extensive knowledge around strategies and solutions that work. Feel free to contact me at the link below and we can begin a dialogue. Thanks for the comments!


Lucy S. 2014/08/28 at 11:51 am

It’s important that the mobile strategy covers all aspects of a student’s potential interaction with the institution, from initially learning about it to graduation. Marcallini makes a good point that mobile engagement shouldn’t be considered effective if students can’t use a mobile device to enroll in the end. I’m going to take it one step further to say there should be ongoing mobile-supported services for students, like the course schedule app suggested. How about an app that tracks the student’s pathway and credit accumulation? Can the student apply to graduate through mobile? Can fees be paid through mobile? All of these go a ways to making the process smoother and more efficient for students.

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