By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
It’s becoming harder and harder to get prospective students to open an email and then not only read some or all of it, but also 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.
As I’ve shared many times before, the biggest thing students want more of is personalization. In the words of one student, “My counselor kept in touch with me and wanted to know how I was doing in general, not just in my search for colleges. This personal touch made that college a top contender in my choices.”
Personalization matters always, and in all ways.
Today I’m going to focus on a few things you may need to stop doing before you hit send. Most of these are easy fixes, but one or two may require a shift in your mindset. Just remind yourself that everything I’m sharing with you is grounded in survey data from your target audience.
- Stop using the same subject line that most colleges and universities are using. A growing trend right now is to put the student’s first name and the college’s name together. The problem is, it looks exactly like every other college email in their Inbox. Instead, use a subject line that’s clearly helpful (Ex. Picking a college is hard, let’s talk). Or, use something that feels personal (Ex. Our students want you to know this). You could ask a question (Ex. Is this how you feel <Name>?) You could say something that sounds exciting or interesting (Ex. Really cool story). Or you could even use something that seems out of place (Ex. Don’t leave me hangin!) Students tell us that subject lines like those stick out and get their attention, as do words like important, urgent, deadline, and scholarship.
- Stop starting your emails with “Dear.” It’s outdated language that screams this is a mass message, and it’s impersonal.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 <Name> or Hey <Name>. If your message is for a parent, you can simply start with their first name.
- Stop being so formal. Admissions counselors and marketing/comms staff alike continue to think their recruiting messages need to sound extremely professional and be perfectly written. They don’t. In fact, students tell us that when you use a lot of big words and write in an overly formal tone, it almost sounds fake. That leads them to believe your email is a mass message written for thousands of other students and not them individually. Along with that, stop using language like “I am” and “Do not.” Instead, use more contractions (I’m and Don’t) as they too feel more conversational and personal. A casual tone gets better (and more) responses.
- Stop using multiple links, hyperlinks, and videos. The more links you use, the less personal your message feels. Plus, students rarely click on more than one link in an email. When it comes to links and videos, copying and pasting the URL continues to prove effective for our clients. It may look a little “uglier” but students tell us it definitely feels more personal.
- Stop having multiple calls to action. Your email should have one clear call to action, and it shouldn’t be the same transactional “visit,” “apply,” or “deposit” every single time. When you do that it often comes across as pushy and disingenuous. Instead, I encourage you to ask the student or parent for their feedback on something. Ask a question that ties in with the body of your email. Or ask them what they see as the next step in their process.
If you want to increase your open rates and your level of engagement and action, stop doing those five things and instead take a more student-centered approach with your emails.
If this article was helpful, go ahead and forward it to someone else on your campus who could benefit from reading it.
And if you’re interested in more articles with tips and strategies that you can use right now, you can find them here in our Admissions BLOG.