Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… January 2022

January… Nothing will be easy this month as the latest COVID strain moves about the U.S. and colleges and universities scramble to find the best response. We can hope that February will bring a calmer time and that vaccines takers will continue to increase.

Many of you are regular readers of the Link of the Week website selections that follow each month after this newsletter. Now you can quickly scan the 2021 selections to find your favorites from the U.S., U.K., and Canada in a new LinkedIn article “2021… 35 Link of the Week Websites.”

How to create a strong(er) marketing website? Keep potential students smiling after their first visit with rapid completion of the tasks that brought them to your site. Gerry McGovern’s Top Task webinar series continues on January 20 with “Top Task Questions and Answers.”

Join 890 higher education professionals on the members-only Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group at LinkedIn. Review my posts with top tasks for potential high school students and graduate students. Join at

Follow along with 7,200+ people for my daily marketing updates on Twitter.

Forward this newsletter to a friend. Only email required here to subscribe for a personal copy.

And now, your marketing news and notes for January.
Cartoon of the Month: “Decision Paralysis”

Research tells us that almost every organization struggles to make decisions in a timely fashion, wasting precious people resources.

Tom Fishburne notes that decision paralysis is “particularly acute in the face of an uncertain future.” As in a new COVID-19 wave that continues to disrupt regular operations and expectations.

Help your team move forward in 2022 with a visit to “Decision Paralysis.”
College Admissions: High School Seniors Respond to a Survey

What do 6,000+ high school seniors responding to a December ZeeMee survey say about the college admissions process? Here are some key learnings:

  • Email communications are most preferred (68.4%) followed by texting (57.1%).
  • Most (80.9%) felt it was “likely” or “extremely likely” they would enroll at a “good fit” college.
  • Only 37.4% said the admissions process was “moderately” or “extremely” stressful.

An important marketing note for website content improvement: 83.6% said they were worried about the cost of attending college, with 33.6% “extremely” worried and 44.1% “moderately worried.”

More from high school seniors at “Current Sentiment Among High School Seniors on the College Application Process.”
Email Marketing: 6 Tips for Better Subject Lines and More Opens

Email contacts might be most preferred by potential high school students. But that doesn’t mean just any email. The folks at Higher Education Marketing Solutions have put together a 6-step guide in increase the marketing impact the subject lines in recruitment email.

Let me add a caveat re one recommendation: “Engage Hesitant Prospects by Adding Urgency in Your Higher Ed Email Subject Lines.” Don’t add false urgency with a new email every week moving the previously “urgent” application deadline. My secret shopping tells me that too many schools (or their agencies) never know when to quit. After a while that just gets silly.

More for better email marketing at “Compelling Email Subject Lines to Boost Your School’s Open Rates.”
College Admissions: Merit Aid and Early Decision

Do students who are admitted by Early Decision indeed have to enroll at that school?

Not if they don’t know the actual price they will pay when they receive an acceptance letter writes Ron Lieber at the NY Times. He focuses on schools that don’t tell people how much merit aid they will receive when an admit decision is sent. If they later decide that the cost is prohibitive, says Lieber, they have every right to enroll elsewhere.

The merit aid practice for Early Decision at Northeastern University sparked his column. He credits Whitman College and the College of Wooster for more transparent practices. And he quotes Andrew Stickler, dean of admission and financial aid at Connecticut College: “I fervently support a student’s ability to discontinue their candidacy at Conn…” if the cost is too high.

Note that Lieber refers to Northeastern as a “highly rejective” school rather than “highly selective.”

More on Early Decision at “Merit Aid (or Lack Thereof” Makes Early Decision Ever Murkier.”
Parent Communications: What is of Most Interest?

Survey responses received from just under 300 parents responding to a Niche survey showed:

  • early involvement (25 percent exploring for their children before the junior year)
  • college websites as their most important source of information
  • campus safety as the most important single element of interest
  • relatively little interest in athletics
  • graduation rate as the most important quality indicator followed by job placement

More details to improve website, email, and text content at “Niche 2021 Survey of Parents Searching for Colleges.”
Digital Design: What’s Important to You?

What are the Top 5 features of sustainable website design that are most important to you? Gerry McGovern is running a top task survey that should take no longer than 3 minutes to complete.

Pick your top 5 elements from his list (and receive a copy of the overall results) at “Digital Design Sustainability Principles.”
Loan Growth & Degree Earnings: Wall Street Journal Debt Series

The Wall Street Journal is running a series on schools where debt loads for undergrad and graduate programs are unusually high compared to earnings after graduation, with special attention to Plus loan growth.

Schools highlighted in the series include Baylor University, New York University, Northwestern University, and University of Southern California.

To learn more about what potential students might be reading, start with a detailed recap of the series from WSJ reporter Melissa Korn.
Higher Education Finances: A Reading List for Marketers to Explore

Become among the savviest people on your campus re higher education finances with selections from Robert Kelchen’s (professor and head of the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of Tennessee) reading list for his updated spring PhD course on higher education finances.

Kelchen doesn’t use a textbook because the field is changing rapidly. You’ll find a collection of articles and data sources divided into 10 topic areas. Marketers might be most interested in “The financial viability of higher education” and “Student debt and financing college.”

Find what is most important to you at “My 2022 Higher Education Finance Reading List.”
Website Usability Testing: A Checklist

If you plan a 2022 website usability test before making changes in your website the Nielsen-Norman Group has a useful checklist to review. Included are the differences between qualitative and quantitative reviews, approximate costs, remote vs. in-person testing… and more.

For successful usability testing visit “Usability Testing 101.”
Most Popular in December Newsletter: Cartoon of the Month: “Spam, Spam, Spam”

Tom Fishburne returns to Seth Godin and the original 1999 idea of “Permission Marketing” to better define what’s spam and what’s not.

It can, for instance, exist in email sent after “permission” was given by potential students adding themselves to an inquiry pool. Think of overly frequent contacts extending application deadlines.

Review your 2022 recruitment communication plan against the wise words in “Spam, Spam, Spam.”

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