Discover How to Increase College Enrollment

Institutions of all shapes and sizes are concerned about enrollment numbers, and for good reason. While postsecondary enrollment saw a slight uptick in 2023 (after several years of decline), a recent Gallup poll demonstrated that the number of Americans with strong confidence in higher education has dropped to just 36% — indicating skepticism about the value of a college degree. 

Additionally, the number of young Americans is declining. The national birth rate fell by nearly 23% between 2007 and 2022, according to CDC data reported by Axios. That means the traditional higher education market is shrinking, inciting fears of an enrollment cliff. 

But not all institutions are experiencing enrollment declines. Your institution can still attract and retain students by using creative ways to increase college enrollment. Let’s take a closer look at where your recruitment strategies may have some blind spots. 

What Is a Prospective Student?

Prospective students are individuals who are interested in your college or university’s program and are at some level in the student journey funnel. 

To prospect effectively, it’s important to understand the search intent and needs of a student at each level of the funnel.

More broadly, there are just two types of prospective students — those who are aware of your school and those who are not. Initially, the goal of higher ed marketers is for both types of prospective students to choose their college or university. But even if the goal is the same, the approach should be slightly different.

10 Creative Ways to Increase College Enrollment

Many powerful strategies for marketing to prospective college students can help increase their awareness and familiarity with your brand. 

These strategies include awareness tactics, which increase brand and program awareness. Prospective students who aren’t aware of your school and are still in the shopping-around phase benefit the most from awareness tactics such as paid media and strategic inbound marketing.

They also include familiarity tactics. Students who are aware of your institution most likely have a list of schools and programs they’re interested in. The first place they’ll seek more information is your school’s website

1. Develop Paid Media Campaigns

Paid media campaigns are a great awareness tactic. Pay-per-click (PPC) is a great channel to use in order to introduce new prospective students to schools and programs. It works exactly the same way as when new brands and businesses want to be found by customers. 

Google Ads, Bing, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram are the main channels to pursue. By creating a strategic lead-generating PPC campaign, universities can increase the number of students signing up for programs or seeking more information. The only drawback of using these channels is the cost.

2. Use Inbound Marketing Practices

Higher education institutions seeking creative ways to increase college enrollment should also make sure their websites follow on-page search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. Strategic interlinking throughout program pages and content can help a user feel connected within the ecosystem of your site and gain interest in learning more about your brand. These inbound marketing strategies help increase awareness of your school.

3. Utilize Data-Driven Recruitment Tools

Institutions need to leverage data analytics to better understand and target potential students. By analyzing data on application rates, demographic information, and interest areas, colleges can tailor their marketing campaigns to address the specific needs and interests of different groups, raising awareness in specific target demographic areas. This personalized approach can improve the effectiveness of outreach efforts and increase the likelihood of enrollment.

4. Develop Mobile-Friendly Pages

Mobile traffic accounts for approximately half of website traffic worldwide, according to Statista. In the last quarter of 2023, mobile devices generated nearly 59% of global website traffic — indicating that the trend towards mobile is only expected to continue. 

If you’re advertising on paid social media platforms, an even greater percentage of users are likely reaching your website via a mobile device. Having an easy-to-navigate and mobile-friendly website is key not only for user familiarity but also for SEO. Google values and prefers sites that are optimized for a mobile experience

5. Create Valuable and Informative Content

Creating high-quality content helps increase feelings of familiarity and trust among regular website visitors. When creating content, schools should never forget whom they’re trying to reach. As such, content should be student-focused and highly relevant to the reader. 

Text, video, and other forms of content should provide insightful information, tips, best practice guides, news, and other topics of interest. In other words, you should always consider what a student wants to know rather than what your institution wants to tell them.

You should also think back to the student journey funnel when creating informative content, and speak to students where they are. Top-of-the-funnel students will be attracted to career or broad industry outlook topics, whereas students near the bottom of the funnel will be interested in how their career or degree is related to current events or what kind of direct impact they can have in their field.

6. Develop a Good User Experience

College and university websites are typically large and complex. You can simplify the user journey by making sure the website has a clear navigation system, with the most important pages no more than three clicks away from the homepage. The homepage also should have a search box and a request form to facilitate familiarity and flow through the website and offer a better user experience (UX).

Interlinking is another great tool to leverage. By developing a clear path for the user that is informative and addresses the needs of that user every step of the way, you create a better UX and encourage them to remain on your site longer.

You can also enhance the digital experience by offering virtual tours and interactive online experiences of the campus. With many students unable to visit all their potential choices, providing a virtual reality tour can give them a sense of the campus atmosphere. 

Interactive elements like live Q&A sessions, virtual events with current students, and 360-degree video tours can engage prospective students and help them envision themselves at your institution, eventually leading to an increase in college enrollment. 

7. Use Social Media Platforms

There are many ways to reach out to future students — including those who are aware and those who are not aware of your institution. While traditional methods such as high school visits, college fairs, and print material still have their place, they aren’t enough to make a university stand out from competitors. Connecting and making an impact with today’s prospective students requires a tailored approach to the incoming students’ media habits.

Social media is a powerful marketing tool, which is why the online space is so crowded. But getting more than a glance from visitors to platforms like Facebook and Instagram takes strategy and great content. 


With nearly 2.4 billion users worldwide in 2024, Instagram is among the most widely used social media platforms across generations and populations — and one of the best avenues for marketing to college students.

Universities can use the platform to share engaging brand images and videos, such as highlights of a school’s location. They can also showcase student life and campus activities and engage with users who comment and share on the platform.


TikTok has skyrocketed in popularity among Gen Zers and millennials. Many universities have jumped on the bandwagon to get in front of a younger audience. TikTok can be a way to engage prospective students who want a real look at the student life experience.

Universities can use TikTok to share videos of sports games, campus life, research projects, and new developments in programs. With strategic hashtagging, they can generate a consistent following and have a wide appeal to prospective students. 

8. Appeal to Students With Video

While traditional blogs and other written content are still relevant and important for digital marketing, posting short videos is a great way for schools to interact and connect with younger generations. Video posts or blogs let viewers immediately engage with current events. 

Many higher education institutions already publish various content on YouTube and other platforms, but live streaming could support immediate interaction with potential students and alumni by showing schools’ events, lectures, and other creative content.

9. Enlist Influencers and College Ambassadors

Influencers and brand ambassadors are powerful forces in today’s social media-driven marketplace, and higher education is no exception. Gen Zers and millennials both respond well to word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM), often putting more trust in it than in more traditional forms of promotion.

That’s why maintaining close relationships with alumni who can act as influencers and talk up your institution is a great way to attract their followers to your school. Enrollment marketers should consider organizing online or in-person panel-style meetings for prospective students with influencers where alumni share their experiences and answer questions. 

Capitalizing on these valuable relationships with successful and notable alumni can help promote different school programs and boost brand awareness.

10. Develop Partnership Programs

Developing partnerships with high schools and community organizations can create a pipeline for prospective students. Through these partnerships, colleges can offer workshops, college credit courses, or summer programs to high school students. This not only builds awareness but also gives students a taste of college life and academics, making the transition smoother and your institution more appealing in its familiarity.

Universities can also develop partnerships with local employers. These partnerships help businesses develop a pipeline for new employees while also promoting a school’s services to prospective students — a win-win situation for both parties.

Build a Creative Marketing Strategy to Increase Enrollment 

Millennials and Gen Zers gravitate to authentic, creative brands that speak with a clear voice. Today’s digital technologies, social media platforms, and apps present enrollment marketers with countless creative ways to increase college enrollments. 

Here at Archer Education, we partner with universities to help higher-ed leaders and marketers accelerate online learning growth. We offer a variety of tech-enabled marketing, enrollment, and retention services. If you’d like to learn more, contact our team and explore our offerings today. 


Axios, “The Birth Rate Ticked Up in 2022. Can the Reversal Last?” 

Gallup News, “Americans’ Confidence in Higher Education Down Sharply”

The Hill, “College Enrollment Could Face a Big Hit in 2025. Here’s Why”

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, “Stay Informed with the Latest Enrollment Information”

Statista, Percentage of Mobile Device Website Traffic Worldwide