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How to Improve the Student Journey in 2024

10 min read

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Rama Eriksson
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2023 was an unpredictable and uncertain year for higher education marketing. The dust of the pandemic barely settled before the sector faced a new set of institution-shaking challenges.

These included the escalating costs of higher education, diminishing public perception of a university degree's value, the eroding authority of school rankings, country-specific policy changes relating to visa/study language/fees, financial considerations like budget cuts and costs of living, and various social and legal challenges to diversity and free speech... among other things. 

Understanding and navigating the intricacies of the student journey is imperative for improving the overall student experience, especially with the emergence of new market opportunities.

This article aims to distill the latest insights from Keystone Education Group's State of Student Recruitment Report 2023, which surveyed 24,000 students in over 195 countries and offers practical suggestions to assist institutions in better optimizing their student journeys to meet 2024 strategic goals. 

 

Use the quick links below to jump to a specific section:

1. The State of Higher Education 
2. Practical Tips for Improving the Student Journey: 
         a) Focus Communications on the Right Channels 
         b) Use Tech to Your Advantage 
         c) Perfect Your Content Strategy 

 

The state of higher education 

Higher education has transitioned from being seen as a tool for personal growth to having an increased emphasis on job readiness. 

The majority of students (62.8%) surveyed in Keystone's report are applying for the next available intake. This is an increase of 23% from 2022 - meaning the student journey is becoming shorter and students are taking less time to research study options.

Institutions must recognize the shortened timeframe and make every communication count. 

Applicants are also increasingly narrowing their choices to only 2-3 schools (48%), so every interaction with prospective students must foster trust and leave a lasting impression.

All over the world, students are worried about the costs of living and education-related debt. Prioritizing their job readiness, prospective students are seeking programs that offer high post-graduation return on investment with internship opportunities, practical curriculum, and resume-enhancing benefits.

This is reflected in our data, and the program quality and reputation is the most important factor for prospective students when they are making a study decision (it was also top in 2022). 

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Practical tips for improving the student journey 

To ensure you are attracting the best-qualified and best-prepared students, the student journey needs to be optimized and personalized from initial contact through to enrollment. 

So, how can you best take advantage of the opportunities for higher education marketing in 2024 in light of the sector’s continued challenges?  To find out how, read on. 

a) Focus communications on the right channels 

communication pic 640 x 400While instant messaging apps and social media are trendy and informative for communicating various aspects of campus life, students overwhelmingly prefer communications via email (76%)... with quick responses within 24 hours are expected. Those schools which cannot respond to student inquiries within 24 hours are at a distinct disadvantage in the enrollment race.

The report also found 81% of students reported using Google and listing platforms to research study options; with social media coming in third as a research tool. 

However, we know that students are 'on' social media. TikTok launched only seven years ago, yet Insider Intelligence predicts that in 2023, there will be 834.3 million monthly users globally. In fact, 67% of U.S. teenagers say they use TikTok according to Pew Research.

So while students may not be using social media in their research-phase, we know that social media is integral in building brand awareness and boosting your institution's reputation. 

 

Read Writing Effective Responses to Student Enquiries: Tips & Tricks to help you improve your student email marketing.  

 

b) Use tech to your advantage   

Higher ed institutions are all being forced to do more with less due to tightening budgets. Leveraging data and AI to automate, streamline, analyze, and optimize student outreach, as well as conversion workflows, will help boost your student recruitment.

Technology like AI helps focus on attention on what is important and prevent limited resources from being spread too thin.

With CRM software, you can automate aspects of your student marketing and boost your efficiency. Students are better engaged when leads are managed effectively.

Personalizing messages for potential students creates trust, and an automation tool can nurture your student leads timely, effectively, and with an individualized touch.

Speed is vital to prospective students - 62% of them expect to have a response to their inquiries within 24 hours. Eventually, it is likely admissions teams will not be able to keep up the pace without technological assistance. 

It's the quality of content, however, that is important versus quantity. Reviewing and measuring what’s converting is vital to allocating appropriate resources and attention accordingly. AI tools can also help with analysis. 

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AI tools like ChatGPT are levelling the playing field for student engagement content, particularly on social media. They provide the essential, additional resources to teams to do the 'leg work', allowing social media managers to focus on community building, creating authenticity, and building a loyal and engaged following.

Teams that actively adopt AI as a tool to help with content will be able to boost their creativity and strategy ambitions in 2024.   

 

c) Perfect Your Content Strategy 

Social Media WebinarThe goal of your content strategy should be to provide students with timely guidance throughout their journey.

Communications relating to funding and scholarship assistance, visa/immigration, and cost of living are the information prospective students most want to receive in 2023. Just don’t forget to choose your channel wisely. 

Capturing the attention of prospective Gen Z students has never been more competitive. Use social media and user-generated content - such as takeovers from current students or alumni success stories - to showcase your school’s culture and brand story.

 

Conclusion 

Institutions can enhance the student journey by recognizing and tackling students' most crucial concerns. By prioritizing these needs in the ever-evolving higher education landscape, a genuine and lasting connection is established, influencing students positively throughout their journey.

Striving for an enhanced student experience not only attracts more qualified and well-prepared students, but also aligns their expectations with reality. Additionally, it facilitates the implementation of improved onboarding and retention strategies to ensure seamless integration.

In these uncertain times, institutions can adjust their student journeys to align with evolving student needs will position themselves for success in 2024. 

 

In our most recent webinar, we discussed the biggest headlines to impact higher ed in 2023, and what changes we expected next in the new year. Catch up here.

Watch on demand 2024 Higher Ed Round Table-2

 

 

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