Reaching the Right Students: Education Advances Award Finalist Share Recruitment Strategies

Adapting recruitment efforts to reach prospective students will be more important this cycle than ever, thanks to the unsettling novel coronavirus pandemic. Students are much less active in the college search process compared to last year, according to our recent Naviance Student Survey. Many 11th grade students had not started the key steps in college and career planning. For example, this group reported significant decreases in college visits (18 percentage points) and in meetings with counselors and teachers (23 percentage points). Additionally, fewer 11th graders took their first SAT/ACT tests (down by 28 percentage points) and last SAT/ACT tests (down by 34 percentage points) in the spring. 

Making up for those gaps will be tough as fall semesters begin with the pandemic still out of control. Building engagement with prospective students throughout the entire recruitment process will be vital for attracting and enrolling students during these tumultuous times. 

In this context, the stories of finalists for this year’s Hobsons Education Advances Award (EAA) in the Admission category offer guidance for a path forward. Their creative use of student-centric recruitment practices immensely improved their ability to successfully reach, connect, and engage with best-fit students.  

The key to success, finalists say, was using data to attract students and personalize outreach. This enabled admission counselors to better understand student interests and connect with students who would be the ideal match for their institutions. 

Read the Hobsons EAA finalists’ stories for additional inspiration to boost recruitment efforts in the coming year.  

Reaching More Prospective Students: Mercy College 

This year’s EAA winner, Mercy College, a four-year comprehensive college serving 10,500 students on four New York campuses, was going through a period of tremendous change, including: 

  • welcoming 1,700 students from The College of New Rochelle, which was closing 
  • accelerating academic offerings, particularly in the field of nursing 
  • refurbishing its Manhattan campus with state-of-the art facilities 
  • adding a new residential program in the heart of New York City 

Mercy College leveraged Intersect by Hobsons’ capabilities to communicate the latest information about the institution and to improve the geographic diversity of its inquiry and applicant pool, particularly among underrepresented student populations.  

Most importantly, the college zeroed in on enrolling students who seemed to be a good fit and most likely to succeed.  

Put simply, our partnership with Hobsons has allowed us to improve our enrollment in our historic feeder areas and expand our reach. 

– Mercy College  

As a result, Mercy increased brand recognition, inquiries and enrollment in a competitive market.  

  • Senior, freshmen inquiries (demonstrated interest) increased by 34%. 
  • Underclassmen, freshmen inquiries more than tripled for terms Fall 2020 – Fall 2022. 
  • Total new student enrollment increased by 14% from fall 2018 to fall 2019. 
  • First-year retention has improved 5% overall since 2013. 
  • Retention of African American and Hispanic/Latino students improved 17.4% and 9.9%, respectively. 
  • The six-year graduation rate has improved by 18.7% over the last 10 years. 

Meet the 2020 Education Advances Award Winner


Increasing Accessible Education: Southern New Hampshire University  

Striving to grow its global brand, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) has long been a leader in finding ways to make education accessible, affordable, and achievable. Using Intersect solutions to strategically reach out to students who could be a great fit to the university, SNHU has seen a surge in applications and national visibility, with 7% year-over-year increases and a 25%+ increase since 2015. They have created a recruiting and admission program that ensures students get personalized support and are treated as unique individuals, not numbers. 

Increasingly, our work will have us reach upstream to serve more pre-college students and downstream to serve more workers and adults long past traditional college age. We envision a learning platform which people will go to get just the right learning at just the right time, in just the right way for their needs, over the course of a career and a lifetime.

 – Southern New Hampshire University 

Creating Personal Connections: West Virginia University 

 Leveraging Intersect by Hobsons to build an outstanding enhanced profile, West Virginia University has been able to establish a national brand, leading to record-setting enrollments and new student classes the past two cycles. 

They have made recruiting more efficient by reducing planning and travel time. Using technology, West Virginia University also began centralizing information to organize school visits, college fairs and individual notes, key details about schools, and other valuable resources. 

Most importantly, West Virginia University has strengthened relationships with students and schools, especially in their target recruitment area of Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. All Intersect connections are followed up through a strategic communications plan that offers fee waivers and calls with recruiters, tailored to students’ interests. 

One of the biggest reasons a student connects with a university is due to major alone. The ability to provide specific messages to a student concerning a student’s major of choice is an incredible (Intersect) Advanced Awareness resource.  

– West Virginia University  

Lessons for Recruiting During a Pandemic 

These finalists show how strategic recruitment efforts can pay off in attracting and enrolling best-fit students. As these stories demonstrate, colleges and universities can personalize outreach even when they cannot interact with prospective students in-person. 

  • Engage students with messages aligned with their selection criteria during the upcoming recruiting process. 
  • Communicate transparently about financial aid, scholarship and cost of education, and share this information early in the process.
  • Recruit future classes with additional flexibility, support and personalization. 
  • Focus on differentiating your visit experience among a sea of virtual options. 
  • Connect and engage with students through innovative experiences tailored to their interests, including completely virtual and hybrid options. 


Topics Admissions and Enrollment Management

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