With increasing options and a more selective student base, colleges have had to iterate on traditional ways of winning new students. Personalized digital strategies that take into account potential student’s needs are the way of the future. It’s no longer just about clout or convenience. With the coronavirus pandemic and the changing needs of young people for career growth, universities must understand and address student needs. We’re sharing a few that have done an exceptional job at pivoting and engaging students.

University of Washington

The University of Washington has managed to harness student interests into their digital marketing strategy. Their statement on systemic racism, their engaged social media following, and swift action on the pandemic caught our eye. They’ve employed personalized hashtags that include the student “#YouW” and have an active audience and community across multiple social channels. Engaging pieces that educate about issues instead of simple blanket statements share how much the university cares. They’re also able to tie back their digital efforts to their student’s interests. Their blog addresses student concerns proactively, and they manage to use statistics that engage students around the experience of going to UW, rather than just an emphasis on college rankings. Well done!

University of Oregon

We might be a little biased, but the Ducks have a special place in our heart. With a program that emphasizes financial access and small class sizes, the University of Oregon is reinforcing what matters to potential students. We were particularly impressed with how they employed student stories to engage students around wearing masks. This audience-first approach means they avoid making blanket statements, and personalize it to their student needs. They have also chosen to move forward with a predominantly online curriculum this fall. While this may not be what every student wants, their strategy around clear communication and the “why” is far preferable to those who may have waffled, brought students back, and ended up with infections. Another key factor? The university emphasizes quick employment post-graduation. They know that college students, like marketers, emphasize a return on investment and are quick to share what to expect. 

Portland State University

Portland State’s digital marketing centers the diverse student body they attract. They’ve built programs and marketing strategies that emphasize each program as a unique experience. Their programs highlight unique opportunities. For instance, their MBA partners with local businesses to connect to responsible initiatives and B Corps. Their public health program is connected to OHSU, a world renowned teaching hospital. And, they’ve highlighted affordability and diversity as key reasons to attend. These content pillars ring true through the website and digital presence to ensure potential students know why they might choose to make PSU their higher education home.

University of British Columbia

Our friends over in Canada shouldn’t be left out. We’re consistently impressed with the way that UBC reaches students. Their Instagram presence, with well thought out captions shares real information about the happenings on campus. They’ve also approached the pandemic with a news and facts-oriented approach to keep students safe and informed. They have a mix of fun, digestible content around on-campus activities as well as their international nature. We were particularly impressed by their content highlighting the needs of college students, from “How to Adult” to optimizing your at-home learning set up. UBC is putting students first, which will help them convert folks in the future and help them feel taken care of.

The UC System

Okay, we cheated. We weren’t able to pick just one of the University of California’s 9 colleges for this list. Each school has a distinct marketing strategy that highlights their own unique programs, while working together. Each university identifies itself as part of the tradition of the UC system, while emphasizing their own unique programs and locations around California. Whether it’s the social justice legacy of UC Berkeley, the environmental excellence of UC Santa Cruz, or the agricultural genius of UC Davis, across the board we saw how the schools supported the experience and expertise of their local community. As a public school system, we felt that they exemplified the mission of public education, and used digital marketing skillfully to engage and convert potential students without taking away from the others in the system.

What schools have you seen do a great job marketing themselves to students? Let us know on social media. If you’re looking for support in marketing your higher education institution, reach out to us via our contact page. We can help you craft a strategy that shares your unique appeal to target audiences.