Karine Joly No Comments

Exclusive Preview of the 2018 Student E-Expectations Survey in 4 Parts

The results of the 2018 Ruffalo Noel-Levitz survey on the E-expectations of high school senior and juniors (n=529) will be officially released on July 25.

I got access to the results of this survey a few weeks ago – before anybody else – courtesy of Stephanie Geyer from RNL. Stephanie will present these findings first next week at the NCSRMR Conference in Orlando, Florida.

This annual survey launched in 2005 has become a staple in audience research for higher ed marketers and communicators. It’s the gold standard for digital expectations and habits of the new class of college freshmen (high school seniors) and the new crop of prospective students (high school juniors).

The data is super fresh (March and April 2018) and has a 95% confidence interval with a +/- 4% margin of error.

Since there are so many great insights in this research, I’ve decided to break them down into 4 different posts:

  • Email & Text for Students (this post)
  • Search Engine Optimization & Advertising (to be published July 20)
  • Higher Ed Websites (to be published July 23)
  • Social Media (to be published July 25)

Exclusive Preview of the 2018 E-Expectations Survey Part 1: Email & Text

Top Insights on Email and Text for Higher Ed from the 2018 Student E-Expectations Survey

So, let’s start with the findings about email and text!

Email: Alive, Influential but only on THEIR Terms

Emails from schools made it in the top 3 influential resources when it comes to the college decision process for students. After websites and financial aid calculators (for the obvious reason), email takes the 3rd place this year again.

This makes it a valuable higher ed marketing channel, because 91% of seniors check their email at least a few times a week – on their smartphones – as you can see.

Frequency at which students check their email

So, prospective students check their email often and 94% of seniors and juniors are also willing to share their email address when they request more information by completing an online form.

Type of information students are willing to share when filling out an online form on a college website

This makes email the preferred channel to interact or share more information about college admissions when students initiate the first contact. Don’t take this as an invitation to spam them as much as you can if you bought their email addresses though. You will waste your time, your budget and might get into trouble on the privacy front.

Email is one of the best ways to get back to students requesting more information via an an online form.

Best ways to get get back to a student after the submission of a request for more information on a college website

Don’t waste this opportunity and make sure you give students a good reason to open your email messages. They do get many, many emails from the different schools reaching out and marketing to them, so relevance is paramount.

The more interested they are in enrolling at your school, the more they will open your email. Looking at the data, it seems that the open status of your emails to a given student could be a good metric to measure its interest in your school.

Familiarity, curiosity and a well-crafted subject line can help too.

Top reasons to open emails from colleges - students

Let’s Talk about Text, Baby!

Texting and messaging apps are widely used by prospective students: 78% use the text app on their phone, followed by 63% of seniors using Snapchat and a third Facebook Messenger. These messaging apps are convenient, easy to use and part of students’ daily routine.

Text and social messaging apps used by students

If 94% of students are willing to share their email address when they fill out a request for more information form, 75% of seniors and juniors will give you their cell phone number. More than a third (37%) of seniors and 42% of juniors will welcome a text as a reply after submitting an RFI form. It’s less than email, but it shows that texting is also a good channel to communicate with prospective students further in the funnel.

When asked specifically the question whether or not colleges could text or message them on social app, only 19% said it wasn’t ok. About half of seniors are fine with text messages and 26% via social apps.

Students who are willing to receive text messages sent by colleges

While a large majority (81%) of seniors is happy to hear via text or social messaging apps from colleges, 59% (vs. 42% last year) of seniors had at the end of the recruiting cycle in April. So, it looks like some schools have been catching up with this trend. If yours isn’t there yet, it’s probably missing out.

Students who received text messages sent by colleges

Yet, this opportunity is NOT an invitation to spam prospective students via text.

If your school wants to use text to communicate with prospects, it’s important to meet their expectations and align your messages with the nature of the channel itself. Your text messages should be time-sensitive, to the point and personalized when possible.

Text is a wonderful channel for deadline reminders and details about student applications, but also good news (yep, you could actually text acceptance notices to give them the good news even faster).

Reasons to receive text messages from colleges - students

While 46% of seniors say they are also ok with rejection by text, call me old school, but I think this is one of those rare cases where it’s probably not a good idea to give them what they want 🙂

Next: Insights on SEO & Ads

Stay tuned (or subscribe to my newsletter) for my next post in this series with insights from the 2018 E-Expectations Survey.

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