As more schools look to internalize their student search efforts, the quest for the catch-all formula ensues. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for student search.

Just as schools preach uniqueness in their marketing comms, their search strategy should keep in mind their institution’s unique needs and goals.

However there are universal methodologies that boost effectiveness of student search.

When done right, search can change the academic profile of a school. It can increase an institution’s geographic footprint, thereby boosting brand awareness. As well, it can raise retention rates, and obviously add new to student enrollment.

Let’s dive in.

The Earlier, The Better

That’s right. The earlier you begin your student search, the higher your ROI. Why is this?

Especially the case for smaller, lesser known schools, starting the outreach early, such as sophomore year, can not only boost student’s awareness of your school, but continued marketing efforts will keep your school top of mind come college decision time.

Nowadays, many students are making major college decisions earlier in the cycle, many during the second half of their Junior year! So by utilizing a multi-class recruitment approach, you’ll see heavier saturation and potentially earlier decision-making.

Playing the long game also gives your marketing efforts time to breathe. Rather than cramming all messaging into a small window of time (and risk seeming desperate), advancement offices can pace out their messaging at high-engagement intervals.

Think of it like a gumbo. You can’t rush it.

A good gumbo takes a lot of ingredients and cooks on a slow simmer. Cranking up the heat will burn ingredients (and a hole in your wallet as you’re left to toss out the inedible food).

Multi-pronged Approach

We will preach this message till the cows come home. Effective student search outreach requires multiple methods of delivery.

Having a solid mix of digital, print, and synchronous communication can greatly impact the ROI of your efforts.

When launching digital campaigns, it’s best to keep a fine-pencil approach over broad strokes. Having a great CRM, like Technolutions’ Slate, Salesforce, or Anthology, can help achieve segmented, personalized messaging.

Meanwhile, print pieces are a fantastic way to showcase your school’s story and generate excitement. Viewbooks, brochures, and mail give you the opportunity to highlight your institution’s discriminators with lively photography, student quotes, and stats.

Synchronous communication, such as phone calls, video calls, or in-person visits tie the above efforts together to seal the deal. Here, students can take all they’ve learned from digital and print outreach, and ask questions unique to their college decision journey.

Include the Parents

Parents are major influencers in a student’s college decision— and it’s not just helicopter parents anymore! Many times, parents act as a gatekeeper throughout the recruitment cycle.

We’ve heard it in conversations in-person and online: the mail you send receives a one-over from parents before it ever reaches their child’s hands. And more often than not, aspects like location and finances will be dominated by the parents’ opinions.

So it’s important to include them in the conversation with messaging geared towards their questions and concerns. Make them feel heard too.

Consider sending out pieces of mail addressed to the parents themselves. Offices can utilize recent changes to processes, such as the delayed opening date of the upcoming FAFSA or admission policies in a post-Affirmative Action world, as a way to start the conversation.

It can also be as simple as discussing housing, campus safety, or outcomes to satisfy a curious parent.

Communication Across Offices

When a track team wins a 4×4 relay, of course speed is a factor. But what takes more coordination to ensure seamless transition is the baton pass.

Similarly, there needs to be seamless lines of communication across campus to guarantee an interested student’s questions are being answered.

Connecting them to financial aid to answer affordability options, a specific professor to discuss research possibilities, and even housing to ensure certain ability requirements can be accommodated — all of these necessitate a smooth hand-off.

Additionally, fulfillment needs to be equally as strong as the student search effort. You’ve worked this hard to recruit students by making a compelling offer. Don’t let these populations fall to the wayside once they’ve passed the baton to you.

Searching for More Answers?

Student search is by no means straightforward. The above tips can help guide an overall approach, but specific details need to be hammered out with your school’s success metrics in mind.

Whether your search needs slight tweaking, revamping, or to be built from the ground up, our team at The Parish Group is here to help.

Our admissions pros have over 100 years of combined experience helping schools recruit their best-fit students, turning inquisitive prospects into loyal alumni. Together, we do BIG things.

Reach out at or call our office at 828-505-3000 to learn more.