From Direct Mail to Digital: How Your School Can Avoid the Dreaded #CollegeMail

Taylor Corrado
Taylor Corrado



junk-mailLetters, brochures, and magazines from hundreds of schools overwhelm students as soon as they start their college search. But current high school students are more connected online than any other generation, ever.

You don’t want thousands of dollars of “marketing” to go right into the trash or end up in the wrong hands. In fact, the deluge of mail has gotten so bad that many students have started posted using the hashtag #CollegeMail -- on both Twitter and Instagram.

Take a look:


And another: 


And yes, another:


Don't let your hard work be mocked on social media and end up in the trash. You want to send right information to the best potential applicants at the right time to get the best return on your marketing investment. Here are four ways to attract the right applicants to your school and engage with them online.

Offer information online that you would usually print. 

Not everyone is ready to apply today. They may be looking at different programs, and want to learn more about your school. Instead of sending out thousands of brochures and magazines, offer this content online -- specifically through downloadable PDFs that are available in exchange for personal contact information. You can host this content on landing pages and promote it via your social channels and on your website homepage. You can even offer online informational sessions for those that cannot attend an in-person event.

The goal here is to make it easy for the potential applicant to learn more online on his or her own time.

(Pro Tip: Make sure to include specific questions on your landing pages so you can use the submitted information to segment your prospective applicants better. For example, asking about their program of interest can help you provide more tailored content to that individual that helps nurture them over time to apply.)

Start blogging about specific areas of study.

If you have an area of study or a specific program that you're trying to fill with applicants -- let's say nursing, for example -- it's important you start creating content soon to help potential students with their research.

You can start writing blog articles about your program, students that have been successful getting jobs post-graduation, and upcoming student events where interested candidates can network. You can also target students that are looking for a program in your city by writing location-specific content -- such as posts around “nursing programs in Chicago.” To help give that content a boost, you can invest some paid social promotion behind it that's geo-targeted to the location you're going after.

At the end of these program- and/or location-specific blog posts, make sure to include a call-to-action to download more information about the program, directing the reader to a program-specific landing page. This is how you can grow you potential list of applicants that you can then nurture with relevant content via email.

Share your content on social media.

Your future students are all using social media to stay connected. If you're sharing your content on your Facebook Page, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Instagram, you have a much bigger chance of getting those students to visit your website, download your content, and provide you with their contact information.

Remember: Be sure to drive your social media traffic to landing pages that offer educational content they can download. That's the best way to inform your applicants while giving you the opportunity to keep the conversation going.

Build a LinkedIn University Page.

LinkedIn University Pages are a great way to make use of LinkedIn’s millions of members, including high school students who are now able to create LinkedIn profiles. You can create LinkedIn groups to connect your current and graduated students with prospective ones that want to get a feel of what it’s like to be a student on your campus. Learn more about LinkedIn University pages in this blog post.

Offering information online is the best way to save direct mail costs and convert the right potential students into applicants. As you're going through this process, be sure all your content is mobile-friendly and can be viewed on a smartphone or tablet -- as many Millennials are doing their research via mobile, too!

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