How student-recruitment-ready are you for 2021?

Student recruitment Ready

I’m a huge fan of the HE Fair. Why? Show me another industry where you can showcase your organisation with as much creative autonomy, and encounter so many prospects who are definitely going to make a ‘purchase’. I’m not sure you can.

In the commercial world, exhibitors would kill for such an effective method of engaging (and I mean really engaging) with hot prospects. We’d be throwing serious money at those exhibitions to ensure we had the most eye-catching and interactive stand.


For years universities have participated in these exhibitions (big and small) and, in my view, only a handful have really grasped the opportunity that these events have provided.

The problem

Just as we started to realise the potential of these events – there was a major problem. For obvious reasons most of the 2020 major exhibitions had to be cancelled. And we were thrown into a world where our authentic face-to-face conversations with prospective students were lost.

The possible consequences of this:

  • A high number of uninformed/under-enthused young people who are more likely to apply only to the well-known universities for 2021 entry.
  • Significantly emptier CRM systems for university student recruitment and marketing teams to work with.

As many of my clients know, I’m a huge believer of the power of stronger engagement with applicants and offer-holders in order to plug the leaks in our hosepipes. But without our usual high levels of enquirers, that job is likely to be much more difficult this year.

Top tips to improve your Student Recruitment Hosepipe for 2021 entry

Have you compared, right now, how many enquirers you have for 2021 entry with the volume of enquirers you had at the same point in the cycle for 2020 entry?

If you have fewer enquirers you’re not alone. The good news is there is still a small window of opportunity for you to make sure you can achieve strong results for 2021.

Here’s what you can do to improve your 2021 applications

  1. Make sure that all of your leads captured from physical (pre-COVID) and virtual schools’ liaison activities are in your CRM system (ensuring GDPR compliance of course). You should know more about these prospective students than most of your other enquirers. Have you developed a specific campaign to remind them about your university before they finalise their shortlist? Remember to remove any students that have already applied.
  2. Ensure that your messaging is clear, appealing and personalised. Why would that particular student be a great match for your university? All too often we fall into the trap of thinking that if we’ve sent an email, we have ‘engaged’. Remember, every touchpoint must have a purpose, it must communicate your distinctive brand value and be memorable. A simple ‘apply now’ message will deliver limited results.
  3. There are other paid-for opportunities that, if purchased now, could make an impact on your 2021 applications rate. These opportunities will give you access to students who may consider stretching their travel distance or even trying a university they are unfamiliar with. The most recent HEPI blog stated that only 40% of students have chosen their final shortlist. This is MUCH later than usual. If you need any advice on this, drop me a line.
  4. Remember last year? I think we may have witnessed the biggest 15th January surge in applications ever seen. We’ve always been used to that last-minute rush to press ‘submit’ on deadline day but it’s swiftly becoming the norm, causing many mid-January sleepless nights for university professionals. I suspect we may see an even bigger last-minute deadline frenzy in 2021.

So, if all of your early applicant indicators are positive i.e. you’ve had strong attendance at virtual open days, positive social media engagement and a healthy level of enquirers, you may well have a great recruitment cycle.


A final word on HE fairs

Fingers crossed, students may get the chance to attend a few of the big fairs this year. Here’s my advice for preparing for the 2022 cycle:

  • Invest a decent amount of budget on a jaw-dropping stand
  • Train your staff so they can hold inspiring and unforgettable conversations
  • COLLECT YOUR DATA. This will make sure your ‘tap’ is full in preparation for the 2022 cycle
  • Ensure you’ve addressed all of the leaks in your hosepipe and captalise on the leaks you’ve already plugged*



*Book your free Leaky Hosepipe discovery call to find out a selection of your leaks and get recruitment-ready for 2021 and 2022.