How do students research universities before applying?

BLOG POST

BLOG POST
September 2016

We conducted a small research study to help us understand how prospective students research and engage with universities before applying.

BLOG POST

How do students research universities before applying?

Here at Touchpoint, we’ve got a pretty good idea about the best ways for universities to engage with prospective students online. It is, after all, what we do. But in an industry that changes so rapidly, it’s crucial to keep up-to-date on the latest platforms, trends, and what prospective students are really looking for in a university. So we thought, well, who better to ask than the students themselves?

We conducted a small research study last month to help us understand how prospective students research and engage with universities before applying, and how these interactions are influencing their decision on which ones to choose. Our survey was answered by people at various stages of their studies; some are eager first-years while others are now graduates entering the working world. Here are a few of our key findings:

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We wanted insight into the factors students consider most important when deciding which universities to apply to. Location came in as the top answer, highlighting how students today are just as concerned about where they’ll call home for the next few years as they are about the education they’ll receive.

The best way to showcase what both your university and your town/city have to offer is to invite prospective students to come see it with their own eyes. We found that 73% of our respondents visited the university they chose as their first choice, and 67% of these people claimed it was either extremely important or the deciding factor to their final decision. While encouraging students to apply for courses is the ultimate goal, don’t underestimate the power of using social media and content marketing to drive them to book on Open Days and Campus Tours – it may lead to more applications in the long-run.

“Having Open Days is great as it gives you a chance to get a feel of the location,” one of our respondents, Owain, said. “But many people can’t just travel to every university they’re considering.” Because of this issue, strong and compelling content on a university’s website and social media is crucial in helping capture its brand personality.

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When asked which social media platforms they use, unsurprisingly Facebook was revealed to be the most popular channel with 100% of respondents owning an account. Instagram and Snapchat came in as second and third choice, highlighting how millennials favour visuals (photos and videos) that are both easy and quick to engage with. Particularly now since the launch of Instagram Stories, both platforms can be utilised to put out content that’s ‘real’ and natural; a refreshing change to the polished and pre-planned content found everywhere else online. This can provide prospective students with a reliable insight into what a university is really like.

So when do they actually begin their research into which universities to apply to? When is the perfect time to launch a campaign to target these prospective students? Well, according to our findings, there isn’t one. Students start exploring their options at completely different stages, meaning a consistent marketing effort throughout the year really is the best way to maximise the chances of obtaining as many high-quality applications as possible.

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For more information on new ways your university can engage with students online, please get in touch.

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