On-Campus, Off-Campus, Commuter-Campus: Marketing Student Life Across the Spectrum

Life as a student—that’s the fun part of college. Students look forward to making new friends, trying new clubs or hobbies, getting educational support services, and having a great experience in college. While education is the central mission of higher education institutions, all the “life” surrounding time spent in classes strongly influences student experience and, ultimately, student success.

Successful enrollment recruiting requires intelligent targeting of the “right” students for your school’s programs and environment. Whether you offer primarily in-person classes or programs online—or a mix of both—finding the students who can thrive in the atmosphere you offer can help bolster your enrollment. This is especially necessary as we face a crisis in undergraduate enrollment due to the enrollment cliff, plus uncertainties around many aspects of higher education. Targeting the prospects that seek your student life experience can be just the emotional factor that can tip the balance in capturing those crucial enrollments.

Since so much has changed during the pandemic, student life may look different for many prospective students. However, student life is part of the flavor of your institution, so you need to be able to market that experience to all the students you are trying to attract. Indeed, online students need student life just as much as (or maybe more than) your campus-dwellers!

A Sense of Belonging Influences College Choice

Research repeatedly shows that a “sense of belonging” leads to increased student motivation, retention, and success. This is especially important for historically underserved and non-traditional students, groups essential to current recruitment efforts.

The sense of belonging strongly influences prospective students’ choice of school, making it imperative that enrollment professionals communicate the aspects of academic and social life to help prospects feel they will fit in. Because students come from varied backgrounds, examples of individual student experiences can help demonstrate possible scenarios. Including diverse settings where people of different backgrounds, ages, life experiences, and other qualities work together to learn can help to bring a sense that there are many versions of “belonging” at your school.

Personalization of Messaging About Student Life

Personalized marketing efforts that listen and respond are more likely to send the message that a student’s interests, concerns, and aspirations align with the programs offered. Responsive and targeted messaging through multiple channels can reach various groups that can benefit from your institution. Individualized communication and enrollment counseling continue this pattern to assure that a student has the support needed to complete the enrollment process.

Inclusive Events to Highlight Institutional Culture

Whether your institution’s programs are online, hybrid, or on the physical campus, ensure that you cast a wide but appropriate net to encourage participation in enrollment events. For example, co-sponsoring outreach with student groups, sports teams, and academic departments can bring specific interests to light while exposing prospective students to the cultural environment of your institution.

The webs of connections between people create an institution’s culture. While some of that is initiated from the top down by the institution’s mission and values, nuances and individual efforts make a school environment what it is. The more interactive and multichannel your communications with prospects, the more you showcase the multiple ways to connect with people at your institution.

Marketing the many ways students can interact with faculty, staff, and peers can help establish your institution in the minds of prospects as a welcoming place for them to study. Clubs, support services, study groups, online and on-campus social spaces, and special events are all essential to include to give prospects ideas of how to become a part of the learning community.

Testimonials Speak Directly to Students

The student experience is one of the best ways to market your student life offerings. Testimonials about specific academic departments will often speak to aspects of student life, often how peer and faculty interactions were supportive.

Yet you can also solicit testimonials highlighting the support services, social interactions, and community to help learners envision a place where they can succeed. Testimonials from students can communicate how different aspects of their experience helped them meet college challenges while thriving as engaged, motivated, growing individuals. For some, it could be financial aid, others appreciate health and wellness services, and others could find tutoring or student clubs to fill their needs.

Extending Student Life into the Digital Realm

All your students spend time online, which is part of life nowadays. Incorporating the online student experience for in-person learners can help you further understand students’ lives. Marketing the aspects of student life that take place online requires recruitment professionals to research the experiences of current students.

But for online learners, the sense of belonging is harder to establish without the physical space on campus. That makes it especially important to personalize outreach for students to bring as much of the student experience as possible to where they learn. In addition, support services for hybrid and distance learners must be flexible, comprehensive, and available.

For people who may work and have families, you need to clarify how you can bring college life to them. Welcoming students’ lives into the college experience can help bridge the gap for non-traditional students and make student life a reality—albeit a different version of student life—for students who benefit from getting a degree while maintaining family and financial responsibilities outside of school.

The Upshot

Life looks different after our online experiences during the pandemic, and student life is no exception. While we bring back on-campus life for many, the pandemic lessons about connecting through technology and over distance can help us radically beef up our student life offerings for online learners. Making the services, forums, and support explicit in your marketing for students who study in all formats will help you to lure potential students into feeling that they could become a part of your university community.

If you would like help with digital marketing, we can support the digital transformation of your enrollment efforts. Please contact us for more information.

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If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you adapt to the evolving education marketing landscape and ramp up your efforts, please contact us today.

Parent & Student Survey Whitepaper


The Annual PARENT & Student Survey

Advance Education conducted a nationwide survey to learn what students and their parents are looking for from institutions – and the right marketing channels to reach them.

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