Student Recruitment: Exploring the Factors Behind College Decisions

Student recruitment is an important part of an institution’s success. Colleges and universities have to find the right students to fill their classes and they must understand what factors play into a student's decision-making process. In this blog, we'll explore the various factors that can influence a student's decision to attend a particular college, including cost, geography, student/parent communication, social media, majors/interests, family history, and more.

Understanding Student Needs

The first step in college recruitment is understanding the needs of students. What do students need and want from college? Do they want a large school with lots of activities, or a small school with a close-knit community? Do they prioritize cost, location, or academic reputation? This can vary from student to student, and it's important to understand the needs of your target audience before you start your recruitment efforts.

Understanding student needs also involves understanding what motivates them. What drives them to choose one college over another? Motivations can include the presence of a major or program of interest, the availability of financial aid, the presence of alumni networks, or even the location of the college. By understanding the factors that motivate students, colleges can tailor their recruitment efforts to those needs.

Cost in College Decisions

Cost is often a major factor in college decisions, and it's important for colleges to understand the financial needs of their prospective students. Financial aid comes in many forms, including grants, scholarships, and loans. Providing enough financial aid to make college accessible can be a key factor in successful student recruitment.

It's also important to understand the cost of living in the area surrounding the college, as it certainly plays a role in making a final decision. Colleges should be conscientious and open to speaking about the cost of living in their area, understanding a student’s options not only for paying tuition but also for supporting their other costs during study.


Geography is another important factor in college decisions. Students may be motivated to attend a college if it is close to home, as this allows them to stay connected to family and friends. On the other hand, attending college far away from home is something that looks appealing in popular media, and comes with the unique freedom that many teenagers may seek. 

Considering where your student body may be arriving from is a useful component to strategizing recruitment, as it will inform what resources you provide prospective students. 

Student & Parent Communication

It's important for colleges to communicate effectively with both students and parents. Colleges should provide clear and accurate information about their admissions process and financial aid options, and they should make themselves available to speak with curious parents.

It's also important for colleges to communicate regularly with prospective students. Sending out newsletters and emails about upcoming events and deadlines can help keep prospective students engaged and informed, but sending personalized outreach via video messaging can help you stand out from competitors. We know Gen Z appreciates video and their parents will too!

Social Media in Recruiting

Social media has become an important tool for college recruitment. Colleges can use social media to reach prospective students and connect with them in a more personal way. Colleges can post about upcoming events, provide information about their admissions process, and even showcase their campus and student life, as has been done on several school TikTok accounts.

Colleges should also make sure to monitor and respond to comments and questions on social media, as this can help build relationships with prospective students.

Majors & Interests

Majors and interests play an important role in college decisions. Colleges should make sure to provide ample information about their different majors and programs, as this can help prospective students decide which college to attend. 

Colleges can also use their majors and programs to engage prospective students. Hosting webinars and Q&A sessions with faculty can help prospective students learn more about a particular major or program and get a better sense of what the college has to offer. 

We have seen some schools send video messages from faculty themselves to offer introductions and a direct line of communication for prospective students to ask questions, which accomplishes information sharing while also restoring human connection.

Family History

Family history can also play a role in college decisions. Prospective students may be more likely to attend a college if they have family members who attended or are currently attending the college. 

But what about students who are first generation and have no tacit knowledge of the institution’s practices? It’s important to understand a student’s level of understanding of your institution, because this also informs how you want to approach them. A first generation student may be more intimidated and feel less like they are entitled to an acceptance or that they belong. This is where approaching them with a human element works best, as a school can seem daunting to applying students who are unfamiliar with the process and potentially overwhelmed by the online literature. 

Every Student is Unique

It’s never wise to assume that one cohort of students (especially based on the conditions by which we group them) are all after the same goals/interests. While generalizations like this can help us excel in efficient outreach at the inquiry stage, being more personalized and attending to specific needs later on is a valuable way to show students that you care about their success at your institution. When students are deeper in the funnel, this is an incredibly important consideration. 


The future of student recruitment is clear - colleges must understand the needs and motivations of their prospective students and tailor their recruitment efforts to meet those needs. By understanding the factors that influence college decisions, colleges can create successful recruitment strategies and attract the right students.

Are you considering video messaging as a viable way to recruit future students?

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