In higher education, successful recruitment is all about engaging prospective students quickly and effectively in order to create opportunities for person-to-person conversations. It’s also about finding innovative ways to remain competitive with other schools who are vying for those same students during a very concentrated and competitive recruitment cycle.
Wake Forest University (WFU) is a school known for its authentic relationships with students. It’s a place where students know they matter, and trust that they will be supported in their mission to make a difference in the world. Founded in 1834, Wake Forest is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offering 45 majors and an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. In September 2020, U.S News & World Report ranked WFU as one of the top 30 National Universities for the 25th consecutive year.
WFU’s School of Business is constantly evolving to meet students’ changing needs. On the recruitment side, this involves a digital transformation strategy to enhance the user experience for prospective students in a way that improves engagement and elevates the School of Business’ brand. Parts of this strategy are designed to address specific challenges:
Shifting Student Communication Preferences
Prospective students are less and less willing to engage via traditional channels in a process that doesn’t deliver the instant gratification they’re accustomed to. For example, the old method of emailing back and forth to schedule a meeting with a recruiter doesn’t fly with today’s students.
Missed Engagement Opportunities
A stealth applicant is a student who applies to a program without having had any prior contact with the School’s admissions team. While WFU’s School of Business is grateful to have these prospective students apply, their appearance begs the question – how many other students, hundreds, possibly thousands – have visited the School’s website, but failed to raise their hands? As Sylvia Green, Chief Marketing Officer for WFU’s School of Business, says, “We lose out by not knowing who these students were, what their interest level was, or anything about them because we never had a chance to engage them. We knew we were missing an opportunity to connect with them on the front end of their search process, and in a category with significant fixed costs, each lost opportunity matters a lot.”
An Immediate Need to Optimize Website Conversion
Typically, campus visits and in-person meetings with school representatives play a major role in influencing a prospective student’s decision about where to apply. COVID all but eliminated both of those activities, which thrust WFU’s School of Business website into an even more central role. To offset the loss of in-person connections, it became imperative for the website to effectively and efficiently convert traffic into critical, early conversations.