Connecting with Influencers During the College Search

When you see the word influencers in a blog post you probably think about individuals who share amazingly crafted photographs on Instagram or choreographed dances on the popular app, TikTok.

However, the true influencers of today’s high school student are likely to be family members and/or teachers/counselors. These are the people who students interact with on a daily basis as they seek out advice and insight during their college search. In the recent Naviance Student Survey, students listed their personal ‘influencers’ – family and teachers/counselors – as two of their top four sources of information for college searches.

Using Questions to Ensure Connection with Influencers

As mentioned in previous blog posts in this series, questions are an essential aspect of the admission playbook. Understanding what it takes to keep communication lines open with influencers is a must. Admission offices should use the following questions to inform their practice:

  • Do we have frequent discussions with parents and family members of prospective students?
  • What channels are we using to reach out to counselors and teachers?  What is the frequency of our communication?
  • How are building up connection and community with parents, families, teachers, and counselors?

Engaging with influencers starts with an audit of current practices and then seeing what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to be adjusted to remain connected to their needs.

Maintaining Frequency with Counselors, Parents, and Families

It takes a concerted effort to build partnerships and communicate with key influencers on a regular basis. High school counselors can’t just be jumbled together in an impersonal contact database. Admission staff need to reach out and stay in touch so that both parties are in the know when it comes to updated initiatives, resources, and processes.

The high school visit (in-person or virtual), for example, is not only a great resource for students but also beneficial to lay the groundwork for relationships with counselors. Counselors can share relevant questions and interests from students and admission reps can inform these high school influencers on important information beforehand.

Outreach to parents and families also requires tending. These are trusted influencers that students often use as their own proxies. For example, parents and/or family members will frequently log into their student’s account on college readiness platforms, such as Naviance. Familial involvement is to be welcomed as this allows for multiple avenues of contact for admission materials.

Many institutions have created dedicated information channels for parents and families in the form of specialized websites, newsletters, social media groups, webinars, and virtual meetups. In turn, these influencers then become outreach ambassadors for a college as they have had access to important timelines, conversations, and resources. Parents and families of current students connecting with prospective students and their families can be powerful assets for recruitment and admission.

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Engagement

One of the most valuable aspects for institutions engaging with influencers is being able to use that connection – trends, unique questions, and popular networks – to drive changes that will be beneficial to overall recruitment efforts. Creating strong bonds with individuals who have the most influence on a student’s college search process is a vital way for institutions to provide meaningful pathways for student success.

The Student-Centric Recruitment Framework

This post is the fourth in a series of six principles that will assist higher education institutions as they navigate the future of recruitment. The next blog post will be about how colleges conduct ethical data practices. For more student-centric recruitment strategies, download the framework.

Here are links to the other posts in this series:

Topics Admissions and Enrollment Management
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