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University Websites, Stop Encouraging Students to Apply!

No qualified student completes an application the first time they land on your university website. With the exception of legacy families who raise their kids wearing your colors, prospective students will return to your site multiple times to look through your academic programs, financial aid, and other content before finally completing an application.

When a student does apply, tracking their entire website journey can range from extremely challenging to impossible. For example, with larger universities it’s common for a prospective student to spend time on a specific college or department website before applying on the main university website. Since college and department websites often track web traffic separately from the main university website, this connection gets lost.

Adding a Request Information form on your website can be the golden ticket to measuring connections with prospective students.

Then, many universities don’t include application forms on their websites. Instead, they send prospective students to Common App, Coalition App, Universal College App, and the like. Since these platforms don’t provide universities with any Google Analytics data, you can track clicks on your site’s links to these platforms and that’s about it; there is no way to know which clicks actually resulted in completed applications.

For these reasons, “Apply Today” should not be your website’s primary call-to-action. Instead, add a Request Information form on your website. Not only does it require less commitment from the prospect, but it can be the golden ticket to measuring connections with prospective students, better understanding their overall experience on your site, and driving more high-quality applications through ongoing, targeted marketing efforts. Let’s take a closer look.

Request Information Form

There are three reasons why a Request Information form should be the primary CTA on your university website:

1. To capture student contact information

When any prospective student arrives at your site, the most urgent priority is to get their email and mailing address so you can continue to entice them with marketing materials. This gives you the opportunity to present your best content over time, and it’s this slow burn that will help the student choose you.

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2. To track marketing campaign performance

When you have a featured CTA on your website like a form, you can more effectively track how SEO, ad campaigns, emails, and other marketing channels are driving conversions — meaning driving prospective students to complete the form. By tracking form completions as goals in Google Analytics, every report suddenly takes on deeper meaning and success can be measured more concretely.

For example, which pages on your site are driving the most form submissions? If you work to optimize those page titles and content, are form submissions increasing alongside traffic? Or those Facebook ads you ran — they may have yielded a solid click-through-rate, but what percentage of the users who clicked subsequently filled out the Request Info form?

3. To design and advertise with a goal in mind

When you design your marketing materials and ads to drive a goal like Request Info form completions instead of solely focusing on applications, you’re saying goodbye to reporting on impressions and clicks while blindly hoping for a larger applicant pool. Now, the mission is gathering contact information and measuring marketing performance. Your copy becomes much easier to write when the ask is “we’d love to hear from you,” versus, “please attend our school.” And the result is a much larger group of prospective students to court in the months leading up to your application deadline.

Once your Request Info form is up and running, track common themes in the submissions and adjust the form’s design and copy accordingly. If a common question surfaces — such as students looking to schedule a campus visit — you can either create a separate form for this new CTA or include it as an option in the main form.

Final Thoughts

Of course, it’s important that prospective students can easily apply to attend your university when they’re ready. However, your website should focus on the primary action you want them to take before they leave your site the first time, so you can capture their contact information, pull them into your marketing funnel early, and better track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

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