Tips for communicating with your future students
Prospective students who want to study outside of their country of origin, usually spend a tremendous amount of time searching for their next study programme. This process can be very lengthy, consisting of different steps which correspond to different levels of interest.
However, due to varying standard, language barriers, confusing information students usually need additional information before deciding where to spend the next years studying. When students reach out to universities for additional information or details about a study programme, they expect a speedy and useful reply, and we have some tips for how to manage these very important enquiries.
1. Respond to student enquiries within 24 hours.
Before submitting an application, prospective students usually approach multiple universities in order to make the best possible choice. At this stage in the student choice process, students have probably browsed through countless study programmes and have narrowed down their search to a handful of programmes. That is why a prompt and swift reply to initial enquiries is a proactive way to keep the student’s attention and interest and show that they will be well treated if they choose your university. If you cannot provide a full answer to complex student emails within the day, then please let your prospective students know that they will receive a more lengthy email in the coming days, and that you are working on giving them the most informed answer you can.
2. Implement a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to keep track of student inquiries and communication.
Depending on the size of the university, some admission or recruitment offices may be simply overwhelmed by the number of daily emails and enquiries. At this point, a simple emailing system is no longer good enough to keep track of all student emails, replies and keep an accurate history of all conversations, especially if you have more than one contact person within the department.
A CRM system will allow you to have plenty of data about your students and their enquiries structured in groups. This also makes it easier to reply to students with more standardized emails, follow-up with certain students that are of high interest, or students interested in the same discipline or study programme, or from the same country of origin. Want to reach prospective students over a certain point? Or, maybe you would like to send updates for the university’s courses? Then you can create target groups and keep track of all the student enquiries, therefore, make your communication plan stronger and maintaining a longer relationship with your prospective students. StudyPortals even compiled a comprehensive report about CRM systems in higher education comparing all options universities have access to.
3. Make a clear action button for your contact form to prompt students to get in touch.
Overall, it should be very easy for students to contact you. Having an action button inviting students to make an enquiry if they have a question about a study course is a visually appealing way of inviting these sort of enquiries. Make sure that your action button is visible to your prospective students. You can use phrases such as “Apply now” or “Contact us.” Underneath is an example from the University of Law the action button is visible and the student knows exactly where to ‘click’ in order to receive more information.
4. Make sure your contact form is easily accessible and quick to fill out.
Once prospective students click on the “Make an enquiry” or “Get in touch” button, they should be directed at either an email address or a form that they can easily fill in. Forms are a bit more useful because they can provide some useful information about prospective students, such as their email, country of origin, programme of interest, wished start date and so forth. That’s why we also allow our university partners to include forms within their campaigns to make it easier to gather standard information about their prospective students. Overall, the process of contacting your university should be effortless for the student. When providing a contact form, make the structure clear, visible and easy to fill in. The contact form should ask information such as:
- First Name
- Last Name
- E-mail address
- Date of birth
- Country of origin
- Wished start date
- Category of enquiry (for example registration-deregistration, application for admission, tuition fee, housing, none of the above)
- Your message, or question: –fill in–
In the case, a contact form is not available then your contact e-mail address should be easy to find within your website and that it urges students to use it. Similarly, including an international phone number students can reach you, or having a live chat function can be powerful tools to help prospective international students reach out to you and your team.
5. Send confirmation emails on receipt of student inquiries and inform the students you will follow up with a more detailed answer as soon as possible.
It is as equally important to inform the student that they will be hearing from you as soon as possible as actually replying to them. The message can be as simple as “Thank you for your message, we will get back to you as soon as possible” or “Your enquiry has been received, we usually reply within 24 hours.”
If your university is experiencing a surge of emails and you need longer than usual to reply to student enquiries, you can also inform students about any difficulties or delays: “Thank you for getting in touch with us. We have been receiving a higher number of emails in the last weeks, and we are working towards answering all of them as soon as possible. You can expect to hear from us within seven working days.”
6. Make your replies more personal, such as by referring to the person’s background or specific questions.
If you have information about who your prospective student is, you can also use this information to customize your response email with information based on the student’s background or programme of interest. Personalizing emails is a great way to give students individual attention and make them feel valued by your university, which can positively reflect on their future evaluation when the time comes for them to make a choice. In the event that a student asks a specific question, the reply needs to be at least be sufficiently informative and to the point.
Those are some ideas of how you can keep your prospective students happy and finally apply to your university. In the next weeks we will run through some of the best replies we’ve received from our mystery shopping research of the top 1,000 universities in the world. Feel free to get in touch and share some of your best practices!
Read more about how the world’s top 1,000 universities look like through student eyes.
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