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How to Increase Summer School Enrollment This Season

By collegemktgrp | March 7, 2022 | Universities

High School Summer Session Students via The University of Chicago

Enrollment marketers in higher education face an uphill battle to attract, recruit, and retain new students throughout the year. Years of deep cuts in state funding (combined with increased operational costs and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic) have created barriers to growing a healthy pipeline of tuition-paying students.

In the spring of 2021, universities saw a 3.5% decline in student enrollment. That’s a drop of over 600,000 students from the previous year. Enrollment fell again in the fall of 2021.

One possible answer for closing that gap is increasing summer session enrollment.

To get more student enrollment in summer classes this year, start by identifying the types of students who may be interested, and their main goals and challenges when applying. Once you’ve got your messaging down, you can more effectively reach students (and their parents) through content marketing, email marketing, organic social, and more.

Here’s your ultimate guide to increasing summer class enrollment at your college or university.

Marketing Ideas to Increase College Enrollment This Summer

A common mistake institutions make in promoting their summer session classes is designing advertising that’s too focused on a specific curriculum.

Instead, create marketing messaging that highlights your campus attributes and the benefits of summer classes for each prospective student persona.

Picking the right advertising channels to reach college students with your message can be a daunting task. Thankfully, there are a handful of options that can be a home run in delivering your student marketing message on time and on budget.

1. Identify Your Prospective Students

To effectively market summer school classes to college students, it’s important to understand the different audience personas and what they’re seeing.

Your summer school audience could include:

  • Undergrad students looking to graduate early.
  • High school graduates looking to get a head start with a few introductory 101 classes.
  • International students who want to immerse themselves in the school community during their study abroad program.
  • Adult learners and alumni seeking opportunities to advance their careers with extended learning opportunities, certificates, or an undergraduate degree.

Once you’ve identified your prospective student personas, concentrate on making sure your messaging is on point and speaks to the needs of each category of students. That brings us to our next strategy: Content Marketing.

2. Content Marketing

Your school is doing important work — it’s a hub of knowledge where different cultures and stories collide. The qualities that make your college or university special deserve to be shared with your students and the greater community.

You can use this storytelling to your advantage for your summer school enrollment strategy. Here are a few tips on optimizing your content strategy to boost student enrollment this year:

Create Content That’s Purpose-Driven

When leveraging content to promote your summer courses, think about how the departments offering summer sessions can get involved. Those professors and department heads have interesting viewpoints and details they can share to further entice students to enroll in their classes. Use them to illustrate what students can look forward to.

Focus on SEO

SEO is an important strategy for your web content to be discovered organically through students’ Google searches. Use keywords that are directly related to your target audience and the topic you’re writing about.

You don’t have to be an SEO expert to improve your organic search results! Here are some tips for crafting a strong SEO strategy:

  • Use a program like Moz to help identify strong keywords.
  • Use Google Trends to find keywords that are trending during summer school sessions.
  • Use keywords in all areas of your content — body copy, headlines, headings, meta descriptions, image descriptions, and alt text.

3. Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the more cost-effective strategies to adopt. Email marketing also offers insightful metrics that can help you better understand your audience’s personas, interests, and behaviors.

Prioritizing mobile optimization, segmentation, and A/B testing will get your summer classes in front of more students this spring

Mobility is Key

Emails that display incorrectly or take too long to load are typically deleted within a few seconds.

Think about your audience — college students are busy, on the move, and have a short attention span. Design mobile-friendly emails by using a single-column layout, larger fonts, and plenty of calls-to-action. Keep your messaging concise and focused on the essential information.

Luckily, most email marketing platforms do the leg work for you. Programs like Klaviyo automatically format your email to fit on a mobile device. Just be sure to double-check that everything looks clean before you send it out!

Create Segmented Lists

After you identify your prospective summer school students, build segmented email lists that directly target those groups. Segmentation allows you to tailor your messaging to effectively speak to each audience segment.

You can also track user behavior as you send out email campaigns. Be sure to follow up with the more engaged students with a strong call-to-action encouraging them to enroll in summer courses.

Improve Performance with A/B Testing

By manipulating specific variables in your emails, you can ensure you’re sending the best possible version of your message.

A/B tests reveal your audience’s messaging preferences and what grabs their attention the most. A common way to start A/B testing is by testing two subject lines against one another. Subject line A is the original, and subject line B is the variation.

Switch your subject and preview lines for the variation. Send both emails to a small percentage of your audience, and whichever one performs the best then gets sent to the rest of your list.

Email marketing programs like Klaviyo and Mailchimp allow you to send out A/B tests to optimize your campaign performance.

Discover how to increase college enrollment during the summer with email >

4. SMS Marketing

A recent study shows 51% of Americans have increased their use of texting over the last year.

Whether you’re looking to inform students about summer class course curriculums or remind them about enrollment deadlines, use SMS (short message service) to enhance your marketing strategy.

Share Information and Content

Use SMS messages to boost your content marketing strategy or share news about happenings around campus.

If your school has a page that is often updated with news alerts or interesting stories, promote those to students through SMS. Create content about what’s to come for this summer session and send it right to their phones.

Be sure to always include a call-to-action in your text message. Give students the exact place to go to learn more and sign up.

Provide Polite Reminders

With their busy schedules, college students need reminders about deadlines.

Send a mass SMS to consenting numbers promoting summer courses with a link to the summer class schedule. Follow up with students who clicked the link with an SMS message that prompts them to set up an appointment with their counselor (or find out how to enroll).

5. Set Up a Hotline

A hotline can be useful during summer class registration. Systems can glitch, or some students may not understand your school’s online system.

Give students a way to ask questions and receive support in real-time. North Carolina State University implemented a hotline strategy during first-year orientation and answered over 6,000 messages.

Pro tip: SMS is also an excellent means for providing emergency alerts to students and their families.

Learn more about how to effectively communicate campus safety to students >

6. Social Media Marketing

Social media is a critical marketing tool for reaching college students. Seventy-four percent of Gen Z spend their free time online, with 66% of them reporting multiple connected devices being used at the same time.

As you think about your social media game plan, consider tactics like influencer marketing and user-generated content. By leveraging user-generated content, you can show students you’re tapped into your campus community.

Influencer Marketing

Standard ads don’t tend to resonate with Gen Z — they’re more likely to pay extra just to avoid seeing them on streaming services.

This demographic doesn’t want to be bombarded by ads. Influencers can help you promote your brand through a peer-approved channel.

Influencers are always coming up with new and relevant content to keep their followers engaged. Find students on campus who have a large following and partner with them.

Offer them incentives to create content that speaks to the benefits of your summer school classes. This could look like discounts at the campus bookstore, coupons to cafes or restaurants around school, or free admission to special events.

User-Generated Content

College students are more likely to be won over by content they see as authentic — especially when it’s created by someone they either recognize or can relate to.

User-generated content (UGC) can come in the form of images, videos, reviews, or even podcasts. No matter the format, it’s a means of sharing genuine experiences and content with prospective students.

Send emails or SMS messages to encourage college students to share their stories and experiences about summer school classes on social media. Reach out to students who have enrolled in summer courses in the past to provide reviews you can share on your website and on your organic social platforms.

7. Retargeting Ads

Retargeting ads help keep you in front of college students (and their parents) who have shown interest in your summer classes.

Ninety-seven percent of people who visit a website for the first time won’t convert. Consideration-focused retargeting ads can drive students to targeted landing pages and blogs that can push them to enroll.

Learn how to create a student-and-parent retargeting strategy >

Tailor Emails to Parents

Parents are often involved in decisions about their student’s college education. Whether they have an incoming freshman or a senior preparing for graduation, it’s important for parents to understand the benefits of summer school sessions.

Before you craft the perfect email copy, take time to create exceptional subject lines that’ll get your email opened:

  • Personalize the email by including their first name.
  • Tell parents the benefits of summer school — like how summer courses can support their student’s education or offer an early graduation date.
  • Don’t overuse urgency — if you’re months out from a deadline, don’t press too hard. Only use this when it’s actually their last chance to get their student in summer classes!

Seventy-seven percent of parents check their emails weekly, so don’t miss the opportunity to communicate with them!

More strategies for reaching and retargeting parents >

Increase Enrollment with the Right Plan

While marketing your summer programs can be more challenging than traditional semesters, it comes down to visibility. By promoting your school’s summer classes through content marketing, email, retargeting ads, and more, you can support more student enrollment this year.

And let’s be honest: summer is almost here. An effective marketing campaign adds more responsibilities on top of your already busy schedule.

Let CMG help you implement strong strategies that’ll give you results this summer!

Contact us for a free summer school marketing consultation >


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