Karine Joly 1 Comment

Exclusive Preview of the 2019 Student E-Expectations Survey in 4 Parts

The results of the 2019 Ruffalo Noel-Levitz survey on the E-expectations of high school seniors, juniors and sophomores (n=900) will be officially released on July 24.

This year again I got early access to the results of this survey – before anybody else – courtesy of Stephanie Geyer from RNL. Stephanie will present these findings first at the RNL NC Conference in Nashville, TN.

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 & sophomores).

The data is super fresh (March 2019) 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
  • Search Engine Optimization & Advertising
  • Higher Ed Websites
  • Social Media

Exclusive Preview of the 2019 E-Expectations Survey Part 1: Email & Text

Top Insights on Email and Text for Higher Ed from the 2019 Student E-Expectations Survey

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

Email still got it if you use it the smart way!

Emails from schools made it in the top 4 influential resources when it comes to the college decision process for students. After websites, financial aid calculators and phone calls from admissions counselors this year, email takes the 4th place only losing some ground to the more personalized phone call.

This makes it a valuable higher ed marketing channel, because 98% of seniors check their email at least weekly.

Frequency at which students check their email

So, prospective students check their email often enough and 99% of seniors, 98% of juniors and 96% of sophomores are also willing to share their email address when they request more information by completing an online form.

Email is definitely not dead. It’s the 2nd referral source for higher ed websites with about half of prospective students (48% seniors, 52% juniors & 53% sophomores) clicking on website links included in email messages.

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

This makes email THE most popular channel to engage or share more information about college admissions after students initiate the first contact with a school. But, please don’t go crazy spamming prospective students if you buy email addresses. The channel is popular, but also abused by many schools sending the default email messages from the vendor or application they use.

Writing original content for these outreach email messages will always make your school look better. It shows you’ve invested time in developing unique content and didn’t just copy and paste the default template… like the 30 other schools reaching to your prospects. If you want to upgrade your writing, Higher Ed Experts’ 4-week online course on Digital Writing for Higher Ed can definitely help.

Asked about personalized content in the survey, the majority of students (more than two thirds of juniors and sophomores) vote for it.

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

Email is also the 2nd best way 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

If you want your email messages to stand a chance in the inbox, pay close attention to the top reasons prospective students will open an email sent by a college.

Whether they want to learn more or are interested in enrolling in your school, more 70% will open your messages. To increase your chances, add an attention grabbing subject line! Even just including the name of the student in the subject line will get your email opened by about a third of juniors and sophomores.

Top reasons to open emails from colleges - students

Let’s Talk about Text, Baby!

Texting and messaging apps are widely used by prospective students: 83% of seniors use the text app on their phone and close to half of seniors and juniors Facebook Messenger. Note that 1 in 5 students also use Remind (an app used by high schools) as well as GroupMe. These messaging apps are convenient, easy to use and part of students’ daily routine.

I bet that Instagram Direct would also show high level of usage, but this option wasn’t unfortunately included as an answer.

Text and social messaging apps used by students

If almost all students are willing to share their email address when they fill out a request for more information form, 79% of seniors (75% in 2018) and 78% of juniors (75% in 2018) will give you their cell phone number. Close to half (46%) of prospective students will welcome a text as a reply after submitting an RFI form. It’s less than email (61%), but the trend is increasing and it is actually the top choice for seniors with 54% asking school to get back to them by text.

When asked specifically the question whether or not colleges could text or message them on social apps, only 12% of seniors and sophomores (19% of juniors) said it wasn’t ok. When it is, it looks like text will probably get you the best results.

Students who are willing to receive text messages sent by colleges

While a large majority (88%) of seniors is happy to hear via text or social messaging apps from colleges, 76% (vs. 59% last year) of seniors had toward the end of the recruiting cycle in March. So, text has gone mainstream with higher ed admissions offices. If you’re not there yet, it’s time.

Students who received text messages sent by colleges

If you’re wondering when it’s appropriate to text, the question was asked this year! As you can see, texting seems to be welcomed by close to the majority throughout the student journey.

Appropriate time to send text to students for colleges

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 reminders and notification about student applications or scholarship availability, 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 52% of seniors (46% in 2018) say they are also ok with rejection by text, I’m amazed by their pragmatism, but still think this is one of those rare cases where it’s probably not a good idea to give prospective students what they want πŸ™‚

Next: Insights on SEO & Ads

Stay tuned (or subscribe to my newsletter) for my next post in this series with insights from the 2019 E-Expectations Survey.

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One Response

  1. Thanks for a great post and sharing your spot-on interpretations of the results! Can’t wait to see the next one!