April 8, 2020

How to Market to Transfer Students During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has left schools and their students with uncertainty. Much of our insight into the coronavirus’s impact and how to deal with it has focused on marketing towards new students. Yet, there is another segment of prospects who are equally impacted – transfer students. 

How COVID-19 Impacts Marketing Towards Prospective Transfer Students

Every year, over one-third of higher education students transfer to a new school. Typically, this is a great pool of prospects, intent on continuing their education. Higher education marketers count on these prospective transfers to increase enrollment.

However, today, it is unknown how the pandemic will affect total transfer student numbers. At this time, it is still too early to tell whether the total pool of students who opt to transfer will change. That data will only come after the fact. 

What we do know is that coronavirus is creating more hesitancy for prospective students to make decisions about secondary education. We’ve already seen that prospects are taking longer to research schools, complete applications, and move through the enrollment process. This reluctance could result in fewer students transferring to your school right away.

With uncertainties around class schedules and program offerings (things transfer students are often looking to first), it’s quickly becoming more difficult to engage and attract this niche pool of prospects. However, despite the uncertainties, there are a few ways your college or university can use digital marketing to boost transfer student enrollment even during COVID-19.

Create a specific landing page for prospective transfer students.

The most important thing for schools to do during this crisis is to be transparent and thorough with information and updates. This approach needs to be applied to transfer students, especially.

These students are often looking to make quick decisions and change schools in a short time before the semester starts. They also have unique variables in play, such as transfer credits and transcripts, on-campus needs, etc. As digital marketers, we have the ability to help students make those decisions while also helping colleges increase enrollment.

Ensure prospects remain engaged and create a landing page with valuable, transfer-specific information. Most colleges already have specific information sections for transfer students. If that’s the case with your school, use it as a foundation to also share COVID-19 related topics. Don’t bury transfer-specific information among other coronavirus announcements meant for existing students and faculty. Here are some things that would be important to list out for transfer prospects:

  • Changes in student application or enrollment deadlines
  • Links to virtual tours or advisor live chats
  • Changes in how you plan to accept or evaluate transcripts
  • Changes in whether you require standardized testing to be completed or how you are using it
  • Financial aide and fees information

When it comes to transcripts, know that many schools are moving to a pass/fail system during COVID. Make sure you are upfront in stating how such grades will be accepted from transfer students coming to your school.

Use remarketing on digital channels to build urgency.

Just because we are dealing with an unprecedented situation doesn’t mean you should relax your digital marketing strategies. Instead, use digital tactics to keep prospective transfer students engaged and updated. 

Once you have launched your dedicated transfer student information page, use remarketing from that page to continue engaging those who visit. Deploy banner ads and social media ads to these users, highlighting things like countdowns to the transfer deadline to build urgency. You can also use this opportunity to provide info points that will instill confidence and calm, such as updates to relaxed transcript policies or waived fees.

Use digital marketing ads to engage and retain current students.

With so much focus placed on getting new transfer students to attend your school, it can be easy to forget about engaging with existing students. But in this age of COVID, a lack of trust from existing students could lead them to transfer out and affect your retention rates. Especially with relaxed regulations now allowing schools to poach other students.

conversions by action type graph for student engagement
This graph shows the importance of student engagement across a number of mediums.

Digital ads can provide a low-cost way to reach out to current students while they are away from campus during coronavirus. You’re likely sending out campus alerts and emails with campus updates. But you can also use custom audiences in display ads and on social platforms to get the right messaging across.

Load student information from your CRM into audiences in platforms like Facebook Ads. Then serve digital ads specific to that group, providing feel-good messaging and transparent updates. This will instill trust, build calmness, and let current students know they attend a school that is with them through this difficult time. Every bit you can do to build goodwill with your current students goes a long way. It ensures you don’t lose students to transfers during such an unpredictable time.

Want to learn more about dealing with your higher ed marketing during COVID-19? Get in touch with our digital marketing experts today.

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