How Technology is Changing the Way Colleges Recruit

Technology has transformed the way colleges run — from classrooms to learning management systems to handing in homework. It’s also changed the way colleges recruit students. Most colleges now only accept paperless applications and students normally interact with a college digitally before they even visit or apply.

Admissions offices are not only taking advantage of the new ways in which they can get students excited about their school, but entrepreneurs are looking at how they can help students in their college search.

YouVisit, a website that takes prospective students on virtual tours, was created by international students who were frustrated at the lack of materials they were given over the web. The website now has over 1,000 virtual tours of college campuses students can visit without spending all the money on a plane ticket and hotel room.

Suzanne Sanders, Director of Marketing at YouVisit, says virtual reality is changing the way colleges recruit students. “Through virtual reality, colleges and universities can show prospective students their school in the most immersive way possible,” said Sanders. “YouVisit has converted all of its tours to be compatible with leading virtual reality platforms such as Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Zeiss VR, and Google Cardboard. Today, students can view any tours on YouVisit.com using one of these headsets.”

YouVisit works with admissions offices and with the technology and marketing departments in order to make their vision a (virtual) reality. Sanders says it’s important for colleges to keep in mind how they can serve all of their prospective students’ needs through technology. “The current trend is that students are making more college decisions based on information they are finding online; so to stay competitive, universities must offer the best experiences possible to students who are searching for schools on the web.”

Christopher Wright, the Director of Enrollment Technology at Emerson College, knows all about that. His job is to figure out the best ways technology can be used to give prospective students the most effective experience online.

He says the biggest shift in enrollment and outreach is trying to personalize the online conversation. Wright says they are looking to implement a robust CRM so that when a student takes an action on their site, the system stores the data points needed to help inform the admissions office. “Technology platforms have to be dynamic enough to understand who they’re speaking to and what actions they have already taken to make sure they are given the right messaging at the right time, all the time,” said Wright.

Wright also mentions that they are working on their mobile experience, since over 80% of the students who look at their website are doing so on a tablet or phone. “We do not want to turn someone off because they can’t scroll quickly enough to get to the link to request more information.”

Since so many students are turning to the powers of their mobile devices in the application process, it only makes sense that companies cater to their experience.

Bobby Touran, CEO and Founder of ApplyKit, said he and his team saw an opportunity to improve the college search by focusing on mobile devices. ApplyKit gives prospective students a mobile tool to start a process that can be a headache. “A problem with “searching” is that it generally implies that the person conducting the search has an idea of what they are looking for,” said Touran. “Applying to college is such a large and awkward process for the average high school student, and most don’t know where to begin.”

To help with this, ApplyKit developed a College Match app that assists students in finding the best colleges for them using an algorithm. Students answer indirect questions about what they are looking for in their college experience and helps organize and keep track of their searches.

Touran said there is more data than ever to aid students in the often burdening process of looking for a college. Edtech entrepreneurs and admissions offices are looking to technology to help students find the best school for them and to make the process of applying online less of a pain.

 Photo Credit: Adrian Duque Photography

Michelle Harven

Michelle Harven

Michelle is a current graduate student at Emerson College and an intern at Boston's public radio station. She enjoys exploring the world of educational technology and writing about the ever-changing sector and its potential.