How Tech Is Transforming the College Search

In the past, anyone interested in attending a college had a challenging time ahead of them. First, they needed to fill out paper application forms. High schoolers had to physically visit campuses, which naturally restricted the number of colleges they could consider. Finally, they had to scrounge and research just to come up with a list of potential candidates in the first place.

Today, prospective students have a much easier path. Technology has streamlined the process of finding, considering, and applying to a university. Here are a few of the most significant ways that tech is transforming the college search process.

1. Digital Marketing Is Opening Up Doors

Search engine optimization (or SEO) is how an organization or individual increases their organic search traffic online. Companies use SEO as a long-term investment to build valuable e-commerce and business websites.

Not surprisingly, colleges and universities use SEO, too. For instance, WebFX highlights different ways colleges are using SEO to increase enrollment. This includes using long-form on-site content, keyword targeting, social media posts, load speed, and other factors to help students find their websites and online resources.

In addition, they use search engine marketing (SEM) to analyze target demographics. They can then funnel digital ads and promotions to their identified audience using pay-per-click (PPC) marketing.

The ability to utilize digital marketing techniques is opening up doors for colleges to reach more potential students. Things like SEO, SEM, and PPC empower higher-education organizations to widen their pool of prospects in a manner that wasn’t possible before the advent of the internet.

2. Online Content Offers Copious Resources

The online content that a college generates has also become an effective part of many universities’ recruiting tool kits. This digital content can have a significant impact on whether or not someone attends a school.

For instance, many colleges have social profiles. This can boost brand awareness and provide new avenues for PPC marketing on social platforms. This also has the effect of engaging with prospects on their terms and in their own environment, where they’re more comfortable and willing to listen.

A college blog is also a great digital content resource. It can provide everything from current class schedules to dorm info, food choices, and other common questions. Pictures and videos can also showcase important or attractive areas of campus. Again, this can set expectations and show off a school’s strengths.

3. Tech Is Simplifying Communication

Gone are the days of limited communication and long phone calls. Instead, students can now choose from various communication channels to engage with a university’s enrollment personnel.

These multiple points of contact include everything from emails and phone numbers to text messages and video calls. It’s easy to provide information about a school’s different communication channels right on its website and social profiles, too. This makes it easy for prospects to reach out and engage with college admissions in whatever format is comfortable for them.

In addition to the basics, tech is also making communication easier in more complex ways. For instance, along with traditional open houses and personalized tours, High Point University offers virtual tours of its campus. HPU presents this in an interactive online format that features visual and audible elements. The tour provides an immersive and detailed experience for anyone considering attending the school.

It’s worth pointing out that, even if an individual visits HPU in person, they can use tech to their advantage. The school also has a streamlined and painless way to schedule on-site tours right from its website. Regardless of if the activity is in person or online, it’s a good example of how colleges can use tech to enhance their communication with prospects across the board.

4. Honest Reviews Are Readily Available

Another area where tech is quietly making a difference is in the area of reviews. The internet has made it possible for anyone and everyone to have their voices heard. This has led to the creation of a powerful, decentralized review framework. Everything from employers to dog treats has feedback at this point — including universities.

There are many sites online that allow students to share their experiences from their schools. The Scholarship System has compiled a nifty list of eight of the best websites for finding authentic college reviews.

As with all feedback, it’s important to take each individual review with a grain of salt (e.g. if someone had a bad experience, expect a review with a strong negative bias at all times).

Still, the ability to effortlessly see what others think about a potential school is a powerful tool in the hands of future students. It’s also a great way for college admissions to hone their online presence and cultivate a positive brand image.

5. Paperless Processes Are Streamlining Admissions

Once a prospect has discovered a school online, conducted research via reviews and on-site content, gone on a virtual tour, and communicated with admissions to apply and get accepted, it’s time for the paperwork. Except, thanks to modern tech, in many cases, the “paper” part of paperwork has been removed from the equation.

Tools like SIGNiX offer paperless admission solutions for educational institutions. Colleges and universities can use digital signatures to speed up the process. This reduces the hassle for everyone involved. Admissions staff can devote their time to other tasks. Students can also focus on preparing for their upcoming educational adventures.

Tech Is Rewriting the College Admission Process

As with every other area of life, technology is completely changing the game when it comes to college search.

SEO and SEM are making it easier than ever for prospects around the world to discover universities that they can attend. Online content generated by universities and students alike offers a treasure trove of resources and reviews for prospects to use as they learn about a school. Tech-driven communication is making everything from asking questions to college tours more accessible. Paperless admission is taking the headache out of college admissions.

No matter how you look at it, there’s no doubt that technology is rewriting the script for the better when it comes to universities finding and engaging with prospective students.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels. Thank you!

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.

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