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At this point, it doesn't come as a surprise that you need strategic enrollment marketing to have the best chance of meeting your institution’s enrollment goals. There are multiple elements that impact your plan’s success and need to be considered when developing your strategic enrollment marketing plan. 

Take timing as an example. To truly optimize your enrollment marketing, you need more than a hunch at when your campaigns and messaging will be most successful. You need a strategy to ensure that will be the case.

That means you must understand the optimal time frame for targeting prospective students, depending on their stage in the student journey

Table of Contents:

The Benefits of Early Targeting in the Student Journey Stages

Let's begin with the most fundamental piece of the timing puzzle: you need to start early.

Most college application guides now tell high school students to begin looking at potential colleges during their junior year. But in reality, many of them start even earlier. According to the 2021 E-Expectations report, many students begin their college search as early as their sophomore or freshman year of high school.

That's an undeniable opportunity for your enrollment marketing. Most colleges and universities still focus their campaigns around the most immediate outcome -- the application, which cannot happen until prospective students' senior year in high school. If you can begin your campaigns earlier, you can get out in front of a crowded field.

Research also shows that students' first impressions of an institution significantly impact their later decision. Suppose you target at least some of your enrollment marketing strategies toward high school juniors and sophomores. In that case, you have a higher likelihood of an untarnished first impression that will lead to significant brand equity and recognition down the road. 

Prioritizing Different Campaigns As Your Students Move Through the Enrollment Marketing Journey

Of course, early engagement campaigns are just some of the pieces to pay attention to as you plan your enrollment marketing strategy. To truly build a long-term relationship with potential students, building your campaigns around key milestones that matter to them can be immensely effective. 

For example: 

  • As the application process opens for high school seniors, campaigns with a heavy call-to-action focus make the most sense.
  • Campaigns heavily focused on financial aid and support work well in the weeks leading up to the annual FAFSA deadline.
  • Yield campaigns can kick in after students have been admitted, driving toward the deposit and admitted student day visit.
  • In the summer before their college journey begins, a melt campaign can focus on the engagement and excitement of campus life.

Of course, these are just some of the countless examples at your disposal. The key remains the same. Once you understand the admissions funnel for your target audience, you can time your campaigns accordingly to build more relevant messaging and more closely connect with prospective students as they sort through their college journey.

Timing Your Student Engagement Tactics to Align With Needs and Preferences

Enrollment marketing campaigns work only as well as the engagement they generate among your target audience. Getting that engagement can be tricky, but one guidepost will always lead you to the right end goal: the ability to align your messaging with student needs and preferences.

Take the above-mentioned FAFSA deadline as an example. Studies repeatedly show that most students don't know what the FAFSA means. And yet, finances are among the most important consideration points for students when choosing their future college. 

If you can build a campaign designed to make FAFSA more approachable for students and connect it directly with your college's affordability, imagine how powerful that campaign can be at just the right time in the enrollment journey.

Student needs and preferences, of course, also enter the equation for other audiences as well. Take adult students as an example. Generally speaking, this audience makes their enrollment decision (and even applies to colleges and grad schools) much later than their traditional, full-time counterpart. 

If you know the preferred application timing for your prospective students, you can build campaigns designed explicitly around getting the right message into the right hands at the right time.

How to Leverage Timing through Analytics in Your Marketing Plan for School Enrollment

So far, we've discussed how timing can impact your marketing plan for school enrollment. But all of that is just theoretical. Through your analytics, you can determine that impact for yourself--and improve your enrollment marketing processes.

For example, you can run the same messaging simultaneously via email or paid ads, and see the difference in engagement and action impact. 

  • Does brand awareness messaging make more sense toward the enrollment journey's beginning or end? 
  • Would application push messages only make sense when the app first opens or does a second round around the national deposit day in May make sense?

Optimize Your Timing to Drive the Success of Your Enrollment Marketing Plan

You can't deny the effect that timing has on the success of your enrollment marketing plan. And that's where we come in. As a dedicated enrollment marketing agency, we know the nuances of higher education marketing and how to get your school in front of the right prospective students at the right time.

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