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This post is written by Court Champion, Director of Marketing at OmniUpdate.

The high school students you want to recruit spend nine hours a day on their digital devices. That’s four times the average time they spend doing homework, twice the average time spent on daily extracurricular activities, and even more than the average 8.5 hours they spend sleeping. In fact, almost half of teens report that they’re online almost constantly.

These startling statistics confirm what higher education marketers and administrators have witnessed in recent years: digital engagement is the most important strategy for engaging Generation Z.

But what are the right solutions and strategies to maximize your engagement with this crucial target market?

Which approaches align with the expectations of the students you are trying to reach?

And more importantly, how can you make your institution’s unique brand stand out in a technological sea of messages?

I’ve Read the Data: What Do I Do Now?

The 2019 E-Expectations Trend Report provides valuable data about the digital habits of high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. This article discusses those insights, but goes a step farther by identifying ways you can put the data to work for your college or university. This includes:

  • Personalizing your web pages to meet student interest.
  • Tailoring your marketing efforts for the most impact.
  • Creating forms that get submitted.
  • Reaching this generation of digital natives where they are—on Snapchat—before the platform is crowded with competitors.
  • Placing paid ads to garner the attention of your target population.

This year’s report confirms several long-standing assumptions about how high schoolers engage digitally, and it also identifies several opportunities that you should take advantage of now to get your school noticed.

The 2019 E-Expectations Trend Report is based on data from 900 participants, 26 percent of which are seniors, 37 percent juniors, and 37 percent sophomores.

Get all of the data by downloading The 2019 E-Expectations Trend Report now.

Data: 54 percent of students report they prefer websites that allow them to personalize content to meet their interests.

Solution: Personalize your web pages as much as possible.

Everyone likes to feel special, so take the time to include personalized features that not only attract prospective students, but entice them to continue interacting with your website. One example that many schools are adopting is a personalized pathway for specific degrees that show what classes a student will take, what jobs he will qualify for, and what salaries he can expect to make.

Additionally, make sure that your content management system (CMS) has a robust search feature. A quality CMS will even allow you to customize search results, especially if it’s designed specifically for higher education. If a prospective student can’t find what they are looking for via navigation, a strong search feature on your website will be the next best solution.

The 2019 E-Expectations Trend Report identifies several features students like and dislike about college websites.

Keep in mind that your website is your school’s digital storefront, a vast repository of all things related to your university. It’s also the most important element in your digital marketing strategy, The more you can personalize your website and keep it current and fresh, the longer prospective students will linger and delve deeper into all that your school has to offer.

Data: Students get information about colleges and universities from multiple channels, including forms on your website (76% overall), listing the school on standardized testing applications (54%), college planning sites (49%), campus visits (40%), and responding to mailed brochures and information (39%).

Solution: Create a layered marketing campaign using multiple channels to reach students from different angles.

This year’s research found that students no longer rely on just your website as the main source for information. Instead, they seek information from multiple channels. For example, they might look for admissions information on your website, but turn to social media to learn more about student activities and campus life.

What this means for your marketing efforts is that you must have a multi-pronged approach to recruitment, with the information you want to share matched with the appropriate digital channel.

How do you match messages to platforms? Look at each to determine who is interacting and how:

  • In your Facebook feed, who is responding to your posts? If it’s mostly parents and alumni, then devise a strategy aimed to inform them about issues that concern them.
  • Snapchat is about quick, instantaneous information, and it’s overwhelmingly used by students. Post about admission and financial aid deadlines, quirky campus facts, and student and campus life videos.
  • Instagram is all about appearance. Both students and adults use this platform frequently. This is where you can make use of all of the beauty shots you have of your campus, and it’s also a good place to post student stories.
  • Twitter is newsy. Post teasers with links to more in-depth stories.

For the best results, applying the data such as that found in this report as well as other sources can boost your marketing strategy in the right direction.

Data: 76% of students overall will complete a form on your website to get more information about your college BUT 47% of seniors will stop completing a form if it asks for too much information.

Solution: Keep forms short, asking only for the most needed information, then follow up with more specific requests.

Students freely give their information to all sorts of websites, but the key to getting them to submit an actual form is to keep it short. To limit the information on a form, ask yourself (and your team) exactly why the information is needed. If you want to make an initial contact, ask only for an email. If the student is farther along in the admissions process, ask about career interests and financial considerations.

It also helps to include customized forms on specific web pages. For example, if you advertise your engineering program, when the student clicks on the link, they should go directly to the engineering home page. This is the perfect page to place a customized form that asks for student information and their specific program of choice.

Regarding platforms, remember that students often access your website from their phone where it’s harder to complete a lengthy form. You’ll have more success if you can gather the essential information and then follow up via email, text, or mail.

And finally, don’t forget about accessibility requirements. Your forms should be readable by everyone.

Data from the 2019 E-Expectations Trend Report shows that students won’t complete lengthy forms; keep yours short and to the point for the most success.

Data: Snapchat reigns supreme, with 75% of seniors, 83% of juniors, and 66% of sophomores engaged daily BUT only 15% of seniors and juniors and 8% of sophomores use it for research.

Solution: Establish your Snapchat presence now—before the platform becomes crowded by competitors.

Snapchat is overwhelmingly the high school student’s social media channel of choice, but interestingly, usage numbers are low when it comes to college research. Why the low percentages? We suspect that it’s because most colleges and universities have yet to figure out how best to engage with students in this format. This is a golden opportunity for your school to establish a presence in a social media space that is not yet crowded with competitors.

Data from the 2019 E-Expectations Trend Report identifies Snapchat as the social media channel of choice for high school students BUT few use it to conduct college research.

If you are uncertain about how to start, pull together a group of students on your campus and ask them for ideas and suggestions. This might even be a good time to create a takeover campaign, where students “take over” your social media with stories they create about certain aspects of student life.

However, continue to include all channels in your marketing efforts. Even though Facebook is dwindling in student popularity, it’s still the main social media channel for parents. And YouTube and Instagram continue to be strong channels for sharing information about your college or university.

Data: 63% of seniors and 64% of juniors click on banner ads.

Solution: Stop hesitating about running paid ads: the research shows that they work in attracting high school students’ attention.

Banner ads increased in popularity as a way to learn more about a specific college or academic program. Students who clicked through spent time reviewing information, watching videos, completing forms, and registering for events.

The data from the 2019 E-Expectations Trend Report shows that high school students are increasingly clicking on ads to learn more about colleges and academic programs.

The data shows that the most effective ads remind students about important dates, offered specific, feature information about the college or a program, and direct students to new information on a school’s website.

If you decide to place banner ads, make sure to incorporate them into your overall marketing strategy, such as using consistent themes in ads and on your social media posts.

You will also need to think through the steps of your advertising campaign. If a prospective student clicks on the ad, where do you want them to go and what information do you want them to access? Once they land on a page, what’s the next step? For example, for ads that click through to your home page, include videos since they are a popular way for students to learn more, but also include links that entice students to interact with other areas in your website. Above all, ensure that your ads are mobile-friendly and are attractive across multiple platforms.


Generation Z is digitally savvy and your college’s marketing efforts must be on point if you hope to attract and recruit students through your digital presence. However, considering the data compiled in this year’s E-Expectations Trend Report, there are several opportunities that await if you put the data to work in maximizing your marketing efforts.

This article highlights only a few of the topics discussed in this year’s data. Download the full report now for access to topics such as alternative intelligence usage, social media insights, and other data that you can use to devise tactical strategies to help increase traffic on your website and drive your school’s enrollment.

Get all of the data by downloading the 2019 E-Expectations Trend Report now.

Ready to see what OU Campus can do for you?

Learn more about how implementing a new CMS complements the website redesign process by downloading our FREE comprehensive College and University Website: The Ultimate Guide.


Article Author

Mallory Willsea

Mallory Willsea

Executive Producer
Director of Marketing and Business Developement, mStoner, Inc.

Mallory Willsea brings more than a decade of marketing, digital, and enrollment marketing experience to Higher Ed Live and mStoner. Mallory serves as the main point of contact for Higher Ed Live sponsors. As head of marketing and sales for mStoner, Mallory develops the firm's marketing strategy and works with potential clients to identify right-fit solutions.


Mallory Willsea

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  • Bryan Reece

    Spot on! Amazing how much time highschool students spend on their devices. LOVE the suggestion to establish a personalized website that is designed around a pathways framework. bryanreecephd.com

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