Let’s talk about student recruitment without the data for a change. Let’s talk about the underpinnings of this human experience of recruitment. Stay with me here.
Why are we doing this work in the first place?
The cynical among us point to the economics: we recruit students to get their tuition dollars. Ok, this is true. Faculty must be paid to get them to deliver education services. They actually get pretty adamant about this. And administrators need to get paid to keep the operation going.
Bigger thinkers among us believe education fosters cultural understanding. And global education fosters cross-cultural understanding. All this education helps build stronger economies (think jobs) and more peaceful times.
Personal growth and communal growth.
And how in the world will this blog intro bring us to our favorite topic: student recruitment? Trust me and read on...
With two imperatives in mind, economic and personal growth, we think about the holistic approach to marketing that helps each institution articulate what makes it a valuable opportunity for curious minds. You’re still with me?
If your audience does not know what makes you valuable, you really do need to find a way to make that known. That’s what marketing is all about. And making that value known requires strong messaging and authentic messengers. The way your audience hears your story has everything to do with whether they find it credible and engaging.
So, here’s the big payoff
Let’s consider your newly enrolled students. When an academic institution welcomes a new, curious mind to campus, when you open the doors and say, “So glad you are here. Please come right in,” you are welcoming them to engage in your community. Great, right?
Well, that’s really just the first step and that is not enough.
“Where you belong is where you constantly choose to show up.” ~ Karina Antonopoulos, Life Coach for Highly Sensitive People
There is a lot of talk here in the US about inclusion and what it means. I recently heard this definition: Welcoming is being invited to the dance. Inclusion is that while you are there, someone asks you to dance.
A fabulous metaphor. And let’s take this one further.
Inclusion is so important for domestic, non-traditional and your international students so far from home. It is the rare student who shows up on campus without some level of insecurities – concerns of self-worth and ability. “Will I measure up?” "How can I get the most out of this investment?"
Lack of confidence emerges for all of us when we are put into new situations, new environments. And confidence builds when we find companionship among our peers.
Companionship is key. And it produces this wonderful sense of belonging.
Belonging is what this is all about. Belonging goes beyond being asked to dance. Let me tell you why.
Let’s consider some of the indicators of belonging. You know it when you feel it. Can you identify it in others when you see it?
The Aha! Moment
Think about the role student services, career services, and all those other touch points play. Points where students access your institution beyond the classroom and the faculty.
The Indicators of Belonging: People who feel they belong have a voice. They venture their opinions. They participate. And here’s the thing: people who feel they belong to a particular group invite others to join them.
And so, we come full circle back to recruitment. Your academic community remains strong when the members of that community venture their opinions and participate – this is what education is all about. Community members with confidence in their voice often feel motivated to invite other prospective students to share the experience they feel so strongly about, the experience they value.
So, back to you now.
Are you creating a welcoming environment that goes beyond inclusion? An environment that proactively reaches out to those who feel like a fish out of water? An environment that builds confidence and a strong sense of belonging?
Regardless of the type of community we are considering (academic, workplace, community initiative), those who truly feel like they belong invite others to join them. There is no more powerful or credible message or messenger.
That’s marketing. Specifically, that is word of mouth marketing.
Join us at the upcoming ICEF and AIRC conferences in Miami in December where we will be leading workshops and conference sessions on building authentic word of mouth marketing, artificial intelligence, digital marketing and so much more. Send us an email to schedule a meeting. We're looking forward to seeing you!