How Your College or University Can Grab the Attention of Prospective Students

How Higher Education Can Win!  Tips for universities and colleges to use email marketing to reach prospective students


If you want to connect with prospective students, email marketing is the way to go. It’s not enough, however, to simply send an occasional email. Your newsletters must be mobile-friendly, concise, and provide calls to action.


Did you know that over 67% of email users will check their email on a mobile device? Prospective students fit a more mobile-friendly dynamic than other generations. Digital marketing is an essential way to connect with them. Email marketing is still the most effective marketing tool out there, and is trusted above social media interaction.


Here are our top tips for creating an effective email marketing campaign:

  1. You must have an opt-in for a newsletter subscription. Make it easy to unsubscribe, or your newsletters may be marked with SPAM. If enough people mark you as SPAM, your emails will be automatically filtered as SPAM before it reaches your next student. You don’t want to send personal emails to your list. Instead, use a service provider.
  2. Put a subscribe link on your website, social media accounts, and in email signatures. This allows you to organically grow your list. It cuts down on those who aren’t really interested in your programs, and prevents you from working harder than necessary.
  3. Keep your formatting mobile-friendly. Videos, gifs, and image-heavy emails will drain the resources of a smartphone user. It can also take forever to load. Instead, keep your emails to one or two images at the most, a campus header, and then link to your website for more information. A key point here is to make sure the link matches up with the content. If you have a summer registration flier on the site, clicking on the link in the email should go straight to that page. If it goes to the home page, instead, your potential student may lose interest. Make sure you send test emails to yourself first, and view it on mobile and desktop devices.
  4. Have content that you can use as a student magnet. If you have a new student guide, use it as a lead-in for them to sign up. Once they sign up, the student magnet can be delivered automatically to their email. This is very easy to set up with your newsletter service provider, and most companies offer step-by-step tutorials.
  5. Provide a sign up that is specific to different times of the year.


When you send your emails there are two things you need to remember. The information must be relevant and useful. It must be easy to read and understand. Here are some additional tips on how to use your next email to engage with prospective students:

  1. Discuss offerings available such as majors, student associations, study abroad programs, and open campus dates and times.
  2. Share wellness tips with potential students about being productive, time management, healthy eating on a budget, and safety in travel.
  3. Promote upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.
  4. Use segmented lists to connect with your prospective students. You do this by tagging them based on how they signed up, or by using a survey to connect them with the correct pipeline. Scholarship students will have completely different priorities than those who are active duty military. Segmented lists are an excellent way to tailor email messages to the right students. You can also use segmented lists to automate a sequence of emails. Registration and payment date reminders are great examples of this in use. Send out a reminder a week ahead of time, the Monday before it ends, and the day before, and you’ll see a lot more interaction from prospective students.
  5. Use catchy subject lines that correspond with the content of the email. Personalize the subject line by using “you” and “your” to gain the most impact.
  6. Provide a printable list of items every college student should have when they leave home for the first time.
  7. Provide an update for important dates. Put it in list form in the email to make it easier to read on mobile devices.
  8. Send notices of upcoming events hosted at the campus.


In every email there should be a call-to-action and a way to follow through on the email. If you tell them to contact an individual or section, make sure you provide that contact phone number and/or email in the message. Include your administrative contact information in the footer. This should include the email address, mailing address, phone number, office hours, etc.


When it comes to timing, regular emails are welcome, but not daily. It’s better to do a summary newsletter than a daily one. Most of all, stick to the weekdays. A great rule of thumb is “if the office isn’t open, then emails don’t get sent”. There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to follow up immediately with a department only to find that the office isn’t open.


It is essential that your automated content (such as registration and payment dates) are up-to-date. Make sure the new information is provided as soon as the next semester’s registration opens up. Finally, make sure your social media links and buttons are located at the top and bottom of your message.


Email marketing is a fundamental and essential part of fielding quality applicants. Set up your list today, and you’ll see results before you know it.