In the most recent intake, almost 60% of higher education institutions had recruited less international students than they expected – over half of these ‘significantly less’. This is according to the latest QS Coronavirus survey of higher education professionals. The repercussions of this are significant. One of which is the need, now recognised by most academic institutions, to diversify their student recruitment source countries in 2021. Almost 70% of institutions are actively – or considering – diversifying to alleviate gaps in the market caused by coronavirus restrictions.
At the same time, more students are delaying or deferring their studies in response to the Coronavirus, leading to a longer online research journey to decide their course, university and country. In response to this, student recruitment events have naturally shifted online, creating new ways for prospective students to connect with more institutions. Other recent QS research proves that more students than ever before have become interested in attending virtual student recruitment events. They’re looking for ways to learn about institutions during this longer online research phase.
A new, useful white paper by QS: Maximising Potential at Virtual Student Recruitment Events highlights the need for higher education institutions to shift their mindset to get the most from these events. To understand that they are more than just an online version of an in-person event. The report highlights 3 winning ingredients to succeed in reaching more students and boosting engagement levels at virtual student recruitment events. An imperative read at this time when competition is at its highest between institutions. The 3 steps are as follows:
1. Be proactive in reaching out to students that have registered for an event
Use the registration database before the event to invite candidates to speak to them at their booth. Simply put, if candidates have heard about an institution and their unique selling points ahead of time, it increases the chance that they will visit an institution’s booth and ask questions. Digital events can be more passive experiences to the traditional in-person event. So the “onus” is on the institution to start conversations.
2. Utilise more multi-media resource sharing options
Making the most of the virtual event platform’s technology and features is important. But leveraging immersive media is key. “We are in a digital space and we need to have our multimedia game in place,” an admissions officer is quoted to say. Invest in preparing creative resources based on the common questions that can be anticipated from the attending students. Be imaginative to stand out. Use 360 videos, virtual tours, virtual student experiences such as a VR course finder: all institutions should consider maximising their marketing strategies with new resources like these.
For example, virtual tours provide an opportunity for students to ‘experience’ campus life; walking through lecture halls, checking accommodation blocks or looking around the library. But the best thing about virtual tools is that you can be as inventive as you like. Whether it’s an interactive virtual ‘day in the life of’ video or a virtual test, possibilities are endless. More variations on virtual tools will be seen in the year(s) to come so we, the Circus Team, similarly recommend thinking about these options in the near future. Get ahead of the game now; show your institution to be at the cutting-edge.
3. Make sure you follow up
Several institutions pursue their engagement with students they meet online by continuing to offer guidance and resources after a virtual event. This could be through holding a webinar for further questions or by offering to introduce a prospective student to alumni.
The report also recommends to give your emails a personal touch to further stand out from the other institutions that the candidate has potentially engaged with. For example, continuing to demonstrate yourself as a trusted advisor, helping to guide them on their research journey by referencing specific points from your conversations.
Read the full report here: Maximizing Potential at Virtual Student Recruitment Events.
Virtual student recruitment events are no doubt here to stay. Not to replace in-person events in our post-pandemic world, but to add value to them. They offer many features that traditional, in-person events don’t. For example, real–time resource sharing, multi-media presentations, and access to a wider range of candidate data are some of those listed in the QS report. But the real win is their marketing reach. Which, when coupled with a quality virtual experience, enables the institution to creatively and easily showcase the very best they have to offer to a limitless global audience. For the student: they get to experience those assets in a compelling and memorable way.
What’s more, while there’s a strong case for investing in virtual assets now due to heavily restricted and unpredictable travel rules, it’s simultaneously an investment for the long-run. As the QS report states: “While many online marketing and social media trends can come and go, strong messaging and content that are targeted and relevant to where a prospective student is in their journey will never go out of style.”
What can Circus do for you?
To read more about the latest trends in 2021 university applications, see our recent blog. Or to learn about what our creative team can do for you in the education sector, see further information here, take a look at some of our case studies and testimonials. Our virtual tools are already having a positive impact on educational providers and their application process:
“It has transformed the interest we get from students and generated real excitement about the college. Since we have been using the VR experience it has been seen by thousands of students.”
Cambridge Regional College