Need More Applications? Here’s How to Boost Lead Generation for Higher Education

Strategies, Secrets, and Steps for Attracting and Converting Quality Leads


Applying to post-secondary institutions can be a stressful and challenging process. Students are given limited time to make big decisions about their lives, all while being bombarded with advertisements asking them to do the one thing: APPLY NOW.

Your higher education marketing campaigns have to stand out against all the other universities and colleges trying to garner students’ attention. Students will apply to schools that promote ideals they resonate with, and they’re more likely to accept an offer of admission from a school that makes an effort to welcome and accommodate them. 

The best way to get a student’s attention is to target their interests with relevant content that speaks directly to them. In Noetic Marketer’s Guide to Lead Generation for Higher Education, we’ll walk you through strategies, secrets, and steps you can take to make sure prospective students notice when your school’s name is on the screen. 

Why Is Lead Generation So Important?

There are few things more important for higher education institutions than generating leads.

Since colleges and universities need to attract the attention of new students every single year,  they are always looking for ways to generate leads that can be nurtured, qualified, and eventually converted to enrolled students. 

Using our experience and expertise in higher education marketing, Noetic Marketer has developed a list of 3 essential elements to any higher education marketing campaign. We’ve also provided some strategies and tips to help you improve your marketing within each of these categories!

  1. Your Website

Whether a prospective student is already familiar with your school and its programs, or they’re just discovering what your institution has to offer, your website will become their go-to source for information. It also may weigh heavily into a student’s decision to apply to your program.

Here are a few strategies you can use to make your website memorable and student-friendly.  

Make Information Easily Accessible - 

Nothing is as off-putting as a website that makes you work to find information. Prospective students want to look through your website and find every answer to every question they may have. If they have to spend time digging through wordy web pages and useless blurbs, they may just choose to look for their answers on another school’s website. 

Universities and colleges with multiple programs, clubs, and support systems should have clearly labelled websites that make it easy for students to navigate through their pages of interest. 

Schools should also have readily available “Admissions'' and “Tuition and Fees” pages, as many students will base their decisions on information such as admission average, required prerequisites, and scholarship opportunities. These figures help students envision themselves in your programs, set expectations, and create goals to work towards. Having this information readily available for potential students allows them to quickly assess if your school is the right fit, which in turn helps them to determine whether they’ll be sending in an application. 

Make Resources Easily Accessible - 

Prospective students have a LOT of questions. As they explore your page, they’ll want to be able to find answers efficiently

Make sure your website provides prospective students with the means to find those answers, whether that be through informational videos, FAQ pages, chatbots, or neatly organized web pages that help students easily navigate to the information they need. 

Another great way to make sure students have access to all the information they need is to host information sessions! Events like “Ask An Academic Advisor,” student panel discussions, and professor Q&As greatly benefit prospective students. A lot of the time, these individuals will be able to anticipate potential worries and questions, helping to ease students’ fears and help them on their way to making an informed decision.

If you host these engagements, try to record them and post the videos in a section on your website. That way, the information provided within these sessions is available to everyone that visits your page, not just those who were lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend. 

Make Your Website Pop - 

No one wants to look through a boring website. Most people are not drawn to your copy first; they assess the quality of a website based on what piques their interest visually

Eye-catching graphics, user-friendly design, and fresh, updated content all play a part in whether a student wants to spend time looking through your content. Some ideas include:

  • Liven up your web pages with videos, graphics, pictures, and interactive elements like questionnaires or virtual tours. 

  • Choose colours that stand out and invite your reader to continue browsing through your site.  

  • Make sure to pick a font that’s easy to read and stands out on the page so that students have no problem navigating through the information you provide!

Link Your Social Media - 

Having a nice website is great for initially attracting prospective students’ attention, but it won’t be enough to keep it. Social media is the number one way to continue holding students’ interest. 

We’ll talk more about ways to use social media to your advantage in the next section, but making sure there are easy ways to navigate to your social media pages will encourage students to continue exploring all of the great things your school has to offer.

Make sure you have links to all your active social media pages at the bottom of your web pages. You can even have your social media pages listed on your “Contact Us” page so that students know your school is dedicated to answering all their questions and is available through many platforms.

2. Social Media

Studies show that people within the Gen-Z age group spend nine hours a day in front of a screen. This makes social media the best place to reach higher education’s prime target audience - prospective students. 

Higher education institutions should take advantage of Gen-Z’s greater tendency to use social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Youtube, and Twitter. Schools can generate leads through these channels by merely creating a profile for their institution and providing regular updates with engaging content. 

Here are some ways colleges and universities can maximize their social media lead generation potential:

Utilize Multiple Platforms and Posting Methods - 

Not every prospective student will use every social media platform. To ensure maximum outreach, make sure to utilize multiple platforms. Today’s most popular social media apps among young adults are:

  • YouTube

  • TikTok

  • Instagram

  • Snapchat

  • Twitter

  • Facebook

  • Reddit

  • LinkedIn

Using different platforms also allows you to harness the power of various social media content types. While Instagram pictures and funny Tweets attract a lot of attention, recent studies prove the value of expanding your content creation calendar to include short and long videos. 

“Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it on video, compared to 10% when reading it.” If you want students to remember a specific message, conveying it through video is much more valuable than through an article. 

Videos are also one of the best ways to boost conversion rates. “The increase in click-through rate with video is as high as 96%, and videos are shared 1200% more times than links and text combined.”  By utilizing videos throughout your social media, you’ll be sure to increase engagement with potential students and boost traffic to both your social media pages and your website!

Some ways your institution can engage with students through video include:

  • Posting videos on YouTube

  • Starting a TikTok account

  • Posting stories or videos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat

  • Utilizing Instagram’s “Reels” feature

Stay Active - 

If your social media accounts stop posting, most students will move on to the next page. Schools that are consistently active on social media, both through their own content and engaging with students, are more likely to gain a following, which is key to building a good reputation amongst today’s student population.

Inactivity is one point listed in Noetic Marketer’s blog guide “11 Common Mistakes in Blog Marketing”, which you can read here

If possible, the best thing a post-secondary institution can do is post daily! If you have a blog, update your social media pages when a new article is published. Post fun facts about the school, pictures of your campus, holiday acknowledgements, interviews with professors or staff, popular course spotlights, and answers to students’ questions. 

Your school can post anything you think will make your page stand out against your competitors. The important thing is that your account continues to maintain an active presence on these platforms. 

Another way to stay engaged is to utilize “Instagram Stories,” which “are vertical photos or videos, up to 15 seconds, that disappear after 24 hours after posting.” The great thing about this type of post is that it does not appear in a regular feed, instead showing up at the top of the screen - making it easy for social media users to access them quickly. 

Use these “Instagram Stories” to give quick answers to student questions or even host polls or quizzes. These are a great way to make your social media pages interactive, giving students a personalized experience. 

Attract Attention - 

This “personalized experience” is a great way to attract attention, but there are other ways to convince students to follow your school as well! 

One effective way to increase outreach and engagement is to hold contests! Use headlines such as “Schedule a campus tour today for your chance to win school merchandise!” or “Follow our page and tag two friends to win a gift card for any campus food spot!”. These contests can quickly boost followers and engagement, as they generally require students to tag other people, therefore exposing a broader audience to your social media. 

Have More Than One Account - 

One way to effectively target potential students is to cater to their interests. Students may not be interested in following your main page, but they might find your Science department page useful. 

If you’re looking to maximize your social media outreach, create and continually update pages for each department within your institution. That way, students can find programs and clubs that interest them, leading to more invested followers on your social media pages. This shows potential students that you’re invested in their areas of interest, making them more likely to consider your school as an option. 

Utilize Paid Advertising on Social Media - 

While all of these strategies are sure to boost your follower count, there is one more way that higher education institutions can maximize social media’s potential - advertising. 

Students aren’t going to pay attention to ads in magazines or on billboards. Even advertising through commercials is becoming obsolete, as most students watch TV through streaming services, or they pre-record shows on primetime networks just so they can skip through the commercials. 

Advertisements that show up on their social media pages are the best way to get students to listen. All it takes is an engaging video or a post that showcases a unique value proposition, and students will immediately click the “Learn More” button. 

Make sure to take advantage of the various ways you can advertise on social media. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, and even LinkedIn all offer ways for you to promote your school on a wide scale, reaching a bigger audience than ever before.

Not sure how social media advertisement strategy could help your higher education institution? 

When the Telfer School of Management began working with Noetic Marketer, their leads needed to be higher.

So, Noetic Marketer developed a plan, using pay-per-click advertising, social media promotion, and content marketing to boost applications and overall student outreach.

The results?

272% increase in leads from the previous year.

123% increase in applications from the previous year.

290% increase in Canadian leads compared to the previous year.

A conversion rate five times higher than the industry average.

Social media advertising works
Check out our case study with Telfer to see what our strategy looked like!

3. Targeted Messaging and Content

Whether a student is on your website or browsing through your social media pages, messaging is an essential part of the content you put forward. Your outreach only benefits you when students relate enough to your content to continue on to be loyal followers.

Here are some ways your institution can use messaging to create the most effective marketing campaigns possible: 

Show Students The Value Your School Brings - 

People apply to programs they believe will fulfill their needs: where they can thrive, gain professional training, or receive an education in a specific subject area. Many students view higher education as an investment, so four years is a long time to be spending somewhere if it doesn't lead to anything worthwhile! 

Lead Generation for higher education.jpg

If your institution offers any sort of internships, work or volunteer opportunities, or really, anything that will help students build their resumes while in school, highlight it! Every student considers programs that allow them to build real-life work experience and connections in their field, as having a comprehensive education serves as an asset when applying to jobs post-graduation. 

Be sure to emphasize your student support networks and resources as well! Students want to know why going to your post-secondary institution will benefit them, and while cool courses and a good reputation are important, many students assess factors such as:

  • Accessibility services 

  • Mental health counselling

  • Sports teams

  • Clubs

  • Tutoring centres 

When students attend a post-secondary institution, they’re looking for more than just classes and services; they want an experience. Make sure to paint a detailed picture of what life on your campus looks like, as students are more likely to apply to a school if they can visualize themselves attending classes and living on or near your campus. 

There are many ways to highlight student experience through your messaging. Aspects to highlight include: 

  • Study abroad programs

  • Writer/Artist-in-residence

  • Student publication opportunities

  • Award-winning teams, clubs, or student societies 

  • Research positions

  • Any program unique to your school 

Opportunities like these set your school apart from the rest, as they showcase that your institution offers unique chances for your student body to make the most of their university experience. 

Give Specific Metrics - 

It’s one thing to say you have the edge over competitor schools; it’s another thing to show why your institution is the better option. 

One of the most important things a university or college can do is show potential students concrete metrics that prove their worth. Figures such as graduation rate, student satisfaction rate, and employment rate post-graduation should be highlighted, especially if your numbers outshine the competition. You want to make sure potential students know exactly what benefits are attached to attending your school. 

Another area to showcase is your scholarship section! If you have funding opportunities for specialized student groups, let them know! Often, students aren’t aware of scholarships or bursaries they can apply for, so making sure students can easily access information about these funding opportunities can be an easy way to show them the value of applying to your institution. 

Show Students They’re More Than A Number - 

More than anything, students want to feel valued. It’s great to use your advertising to highlight why your school is great, but the best way to attract and hold students’ attention is to showcase how each and every student can fit in within your institution. 

As you continue to develop your marketing messaging strategies, always keep the student at the forefront of your mind. Remember, the most essential things to showcase are the aspects of your institution that directly benefit your potential students.

Using these steps and strategies for your higher education digital marketing campaigns will have lasting impacts, bringing you a follower base and reputation that will benefit your school for years to come. 

Implement a plan that works for you, and your higher education institution will be well on its way to increasing quality leads, resulting in greater top-tier student enrollment and the eventual strengthening of your alumni network!

Noetic Marketer is a full-service digital marketing agency with roots in both Ottawa and the GTA. We specialize in creating and maintaining digital marketing campaigns for higher education, e-commerce, and professional services. As digital marketers, we strive to find solutions to every company’s lead generation challenges, creating personalized marketing strategies that suit the specific needs of our clients. 

Need help with developing effective messaging for your higher education digital marketing campaigns?

Check out Noetic Marketer’s Higher Education Marketing Services page to learn more about how we can help you achieve your digital marketing goals. 

If you have any questions about higher education marketing, or if you’re looking to start a digital marketing campaign, schedule a free consultation with us here.


About The Author


Juliana Stacey has always had a passion for stories. Luckily, the time she spent reading in the dark (with a flashlight, of course) far past her bedtime when she was little has paid off; she’s taken that love of literature and language and turned it into her life’s work, studying English and Professional Writing & Communications at the University of Toronto. As a Content Marketing Strategist at Noetic Marketer, Juliana has had the opportunity to apply her studies in writing and editing to content creation and copywriting for a variety of industries, and she loves being able to help different companies convey their messaging and stories in ways that are accessible for all readers. When she’s not writing or editing, Juliana loves to play the violin, catch up on the latest bestsellers and Netflix shows, and absolutely spoil her two dogs.


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