Traditional Student Demand

Three Ways to Make Communications More Memorable

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In 2019, 61% of prospective students in our Student Sentiment Research™ told us they remembered a particular college or university whose communications really grabbed their attention. In 2022, this number had increased to 71%.

Perhaps it is not surprising that more students recall standout communications as many enrollment and marketing offices went into overdrive to engage students during the pandemic environment. But it also means that institutions must work even harder now to keep up with the competition.

Here is the student perspective.

Each year we use our Student Sentiment Survey™ to ask college-bound high school students about their communication preferences. The research helps us guide institutions as they are reviewing or altering their outreach practices. Some of the most insightful feedback in the research comes from a series of mostly open-ended questions: Do you recall an institution whose communication really grabbed your attention? What did you love about the communication?

This information is most useful when we can pair it with the channel through which the institution communicated with the student. In Figure 1, we matched up these open-ended responses to the channel used for the memorable communication.


Top Communication Channels that Grabbed Student AttentionFigure 1.


According to students, the most-remembered communication often came through email (39%), followed by print collateral and the institutional website (22% each). Eleven percent recalled being impressed by an institution’s social media presence. Finally, 6% mentioned a different form of communication.

But what was it that made the outreach through each of these channels so attention-grabbing? And are there distinctive elements for every channel? In other words, what does successful outreach through each channel look like? Figure 2 shows the words that students used to describe the memorable communication from each of the four channels: email, social media, print, and the website.


Words Used to Describe Memorable Institutional Communication by Channel



Social Media


Figure 2.
Source: Eduventures 2022 Student Sentiment Research


Word clouds display the most used words by enlarging them relative to the frequency with which they were mentioned. We can see that the most common mention for three out of the four channels is “information.” This means that students appreciated informative content received through the website, email, and print.

Social media’s value, on the other hand, does not seem to primarily lie in being informative. In the social media word cloud, this word takes a backseat to “students,” “campus,” and “fun”—an indication that social media is more useful in conveying the campus experience and culture. Students particularly appreciate having a window into an authentic student experience, something that they emphasize less when talking about other channels.

“It seemed intriguing, and the students seemed to love the fact that they were going there. The ones who were already there also seemed to be having a great time which is what I want. Also, the campus looked really nice.”      - Student

Despite the overlap of words within the word clouds for the other three channels, each of these channels also shows a distinctive nature. For instance, key words associated with the website point to appreciation for good organization and navigation. Students use the website as a reference tool for any questions they may have about the institution or the application process. Being able to easily find these key pieces of information was frequently and specifically lauded by students, which may suggest that not all websites offer this benefit.

“The website offered good information that was easy to find and gave some facts about campus life, students, courses, and so forth.” - Student

Graphics, interest, and programs/majors stand out as characteristic elements for successful emails. Relevance of the information in emails is crucial. Instead of general information, students really like when email content is personal and tailored specifically to their interests. It should also open the door to further communication.

“They knew what career I was interested in and sent me a couple emails about their art programs and courses.”   - Student

Finally, print shows similar associations to email, but also includes words like “colorful” and “design,” which point toward layout preferences. Personalization and information that is most relevant to the student as well as a characteristic style are key for both email and print communications. Print, however, also offers the unique opportunity to shine and set oneself apart from competitors with interesting textures or inclusions of posters, tokens, and other swag.

“The fun vibe, learning Tuftonian language, graphics, texture of the print, amount of thought and work done to produce it.”   - Student

The Bottom Line

The elements of memorable communication may vary from channel to channel, but knowing what students found impressive about institutional outreach reveals as many commonalities as differences. Busy marketing professionals may not always have the time and resources to craft fun and unique campaigns for each channel, but with a few universal guidelines in mind, they can still make an impression in an increasingly noisy communication landscape:

Personalization is a must, not a “nice-to-have.”

Students expect that the information sent to them is not only tailored to their interests, but they also appreciate the feeling of being wanted and courted by the institution. Nothing will make your outreach more forgettable than an automated, one-size-fits-all campaign. While personalizing each communication may seem like a daunting herculean task, solid prospect data, a good understanding of your Prospective Student Mindsets™, as well as the right technological solutions can help automate seemingly handcrafted outreach.

Information needs to be relevant and easy to find.

This may sound obvious, but the number of students who were impressed simply by finding the information they were hoping for suggests that there may still be room for improvement at some institutions. You should avoid repetitiveness and, to the previous point, information that does not match the individual student’s interest. The website, one of your most important recruitment tools, must have easy navigation and organization.

Let students come to voice on social media.

Students use social platforms differently in college search than they would use email or your website. Social media is seen as a channel that candidly and accurately conveys the student and campus experience, so it is important that you let the experts – your students – chime in.

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Learn more about our team of expert research analysts here.

Eduventures Senior Analyst at Encoura

The Program Strength Assessment (PSA) is a data-driven way for higher education leaders to objectively evaluate their programs against internal and external benchmarks. By leveraging the unparalleled data sets and deep expertise of Eduventures, we’re able to objectively identify where your program strengths intersect with traditional, adult, and graduate students’ values, so you can create a productive and distinctive program portfolio.

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