By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
4 minute read
It’s becoming harder and harder to get prospective students to open an email, let alone read it and take action.
The good news is there are effective strategies out there. Students continue to provide valuable insights in our ongoing survey research when it comes to college email do’s and don’ts.
Today I’m going to focus on a handful of things you may need to stop doing before you hit send. Most of these are simple fixes, but one or two may require a shift in your mindset. I encourage you to remember that everything I’m about to share is grounded in survey data straight from your target audience.
- Stop using the same subject lines as most of your competitors. If you’re putting the student’s first or preferred name, and/or the name of your college or university in the majority of your subject lines, you’re not standing out. Students skim through their Inbox and when subject line after subject line has the same two things, everything runs together. To be clear, I’m not saying that those things aren’t helpful when you put them in a subject line. If your school is well known, the name recognition is definitely a benefit and will influence some students to open your message. If your school isn’t well known, focus more on coming up with a subject line that feels personal, is helpful or relatable, asks a question, or creates curiosity. While the name of the school is the number one thing (according to Tudor Collegiate Strategies data) that gets students to stop and open a college email, number two over the past year is the subject line. 28.5% of students told us that was the number one thing that influenced them. A few recent subject lines that we’ve come up with that have worked well for our college partners are, “What our students like most”; “Pros and cons about college”; “Something fun for you”; and “You will feel supported here, <First/Preferred>”.
- Stop sounding so robotic. You do that by using more contractions (ex. You’re instead of You are). Also, your tone needs to sound and feel more human. For example, the main body of your email needs to sound like you’re having a 1-on-1 conversation with the reader. Lastly, get rid of any complicated language or acronyms and abbreviations that are unfamiliar to most students and parents.
- Stop starting your emails with “Dear.” I’ve been saying it for 9 years. It’s outdated language that screams this is a mass message, and it’s impersonal. Start your email to a prospective student with either “Hi <First/Preferred>” or just “<First/Preferred>,”.
- Stop using multiple links and hyperlinks. The more links you use, the more your email will feel ‘salesy’ and ‘spammy.’ Plus, students rarely click on more than one link in an email. If you want to include a link, only include one.
- Stop the information dump and word vomiting. It not only makes your message way too long, but it’s often confusing, slows the pace for the reader, and last but not least, you’ll likely bore the reader. There’s no expectation that you tell them everything about a particular topic all at once. Focus on one thing at a time, and if you have multiple value points to share on a topic, share them over consecutive emails that feel connected.
- Stop having multiple calls to action, and stop overusing the ‘big three.’ I’m referring to visit, apply, and deposit. Your email should only have a singular call to action. Just like when you include too many links, multiple CTA’s is confusing and feels very transactional and ‘spammy.’ Besides asking the reader to take one of the aforementioned next steps, I encourage you to mix in some direct questions that ask for and encourage the reader’s feedback or thoughts.
If you’d like to talk more about emails, feel free to drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you found this article helpful, forward it to someone else on your campus who could also benefit from reading it.