March 4

3 Essential Questions Your School Website Must Answer [Plus BONUS Questions]


by | Mar 4, 2024 | Websites, Featured, Strategies

Of all the communications channels you have, your school website is arguably the most important in terms of where students go to get more comprehensive answers to their questions about your school. 

As I’ve written before, it’s imperative that marketers optimize their school websites for enrollment

Optimizing your website for enrollment includes everything from conceptualization to design, but in this post, I want to talk specifically about the five questions your school website must answer clearly for potential students.

I’d also like to dedicate this post to my colleague Bob Johnson, a veteran higher ed marketing consultant who is officially entering retirement. 

Like me, Bob is a big advocate for the strategic importance of your school’s website. 

Websites are still the primary place potential students will search for the information that’s important to them about a college of interest. That seldom is a brand message. Or a welcome message from a president or dean. Know the top tasks that potential students want to do on your website. Give that content priority on the home page and elsewhere within your site.

(If that link above doesn’t work, it’s because his website is closing April 2024. I recommend you go there and check out some of his resources before then!)

Let’s dive into the three essential questions your school website needs to answer for potential students (plus two bonus questions we highly recommend).

1. Will I fit in?

Embarking on a journey through higher education is about finding your tribe in a new setting. 

Prospective students are eager to discover whether they’ll connect with the campus culture. They want to feel like they’re at home.

They will probably compare the students on campus to their high school buddies or friends from their previous stomping grounds, wondering if your college is a match for their beliefs, aspirations, and social needs. 

Your website is the place where potential students are going to look to see if they will find a home on your campus. 

Here’s how you can help paint the picture for them so that they’ll know if they will fit in:

  • Use original photography, especially if you can showcase a diverse student life on your campus. However, keep in mind what we’ve learned about authenticity from our conversation with Eddie Francis: “If you don’t have an ethnically diverse staff or student body yet, don’t look for the one ethnically diverse person out of the whole college and place them on your collateral. Be real.” 
  • Provide infographics detailing student demographics, perhaps showing the percentage of first-generation students or the geographical diversity.
  • Highlight student success stories or testimonials.

The objective here is to leverage these social proofs to demonstrate to potential students that your campus is where they’ll meet their tribe.

2. Do you have my major?

Potential students want to know what programs a school offers, what the curriculum and requirements are, and how those align with their interests and goals.

This really is the most basic question a student has on their mind when they come to your website.

By highlighting your academic programs, you can make it easy for them to identify the academic route that interests them. 

This way you’ll also be able to showcase the breadth and depth of your school’s offerings. 

Make It Easy for Them

Schools should present their academic programs in a user-friendly manner, incorporating clear, concise descriptions. 

I also recommend leveraging multimedia elements such as videos and virtual tours to give prospective students a closer look at what they can expect. 

Don’t have the budget for an interactive tour? Here’s a marketing hack: Use Google Maps to give a virtual tour of your campus for free!

Interactive features, such as program comparison tools and personalized content based on visitor interests, can further optimize the experience of your potential student.

Make It Exciting

Integrating success stories and testimonials from alumni within program pages can significantly enhance engagement. 

These narratives provide prospective students with relatable insights into the potential outcomes of their education, adding a layer of trust and authenticity to the program information. 

By highlighting the achievements of its graduates, a school can effectively illustrate the value and impact of its academic offerings, encouraging prospective students to envision their own success.

3. How much does it cost?

Potential students want to know how much a school costs, what scholarships and grants are available, and how to apply for financial aid.

Transparency about tuition and fees, along with a breakdown of expenses such as books, accommodation, and other living costs, can demystify the financial commitment required for higher education. 

While being helpful, seeing the cost of education can be intimidating for students and families with already tight budgets.  

That’s why schools should emphasize the difference between the sticker price of programs and the actual cost to students after financial aid, scholarships, and grants have been applied. 

This distinction assures them that an education with you is more accessible than they might have thought.

Offer an Interactive Tool

I highly recommend incorporating interactive tools and calculators on your school website that allow users to estimate their personal academic costs after financial aid. 

Such tools can offer tailored estimates based on a student’s financial situation, academic achievements, and other relevant factors, providing a more accurate picture of the financial investment involved. 

By doing so, you can alleviate concerns about affordability and empower students with the information needed to plan their education funding.

Bonus Question 1: What are the career-related outcomes?

Potential students want to know what kind of jobs and salaries graduates from a school can expect, and what alumni networks and career services are offered.

For your prospective students, it’s not just about the degree. It’s about where that degree can take them! 

Schools should showcase real-world success stories of alumni, providing concrete examples of career paths, salary expectations, and employment rates within various fields. 

These kinds of stories make the journey from education to employment real in the mind of the prospective student, offering a tangible glimpse into their potential future with you.

Make It Engaging and Helpful

When presenting student outcomes, it will be helpful if you make it engaging and accessible. 

Interactive dashboards, visual infographics, and short video testimonials can make the data come alive, making it easier for visitors to digest and relate to the information. 

Also, offering detailed insights into how your school supports students with services like internships, career counseling, and job placement programs can reassure prospective students of your school’s commitment to their success. 

Bonus Question 2: How long will it take to complete the program?

Potential students want to know how long they will spend in your program preparing for their future career.

As with all of the questions in this post, this is a very basic consideration, which makes it easy for marketers to forget. 

It’s easy to assume that everyone knows just how long a program will take, but your potential student is not yet a part of your school. 

They simply don’t know what you know!

By clearly listing whether a program takes two, four, or more years to complete, you can help prospective students make informed decisions about their education and life plans. 

This information should be easily accessible and highlighted in program descriptions, using clear, straightforward language.

Make It Student-Oriented

If possible, craft and offer academic programs that are more student-oriented in terms of their duration. 

Including flexible options or pathways, such as part-time studies or accelerated programs, caters to diverse student needs, showcasing the institution’s adaptability.

Besides helping the potential student make a good decision, explaining the implications of program duration on costs and career timelines can aid in setting realistic expectations.

You’re more likely to attract mission-fit students if they fully understand how your program will fit into the chronology of their life’s plans.

Priorities for Your School Website

When it comes to school websites, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important. 

There are so many demands on what a school website should do and whom it should serve. 

But I’m convinced that these are the top priorities every school should adopt when crafting their websites for potential students. 

For more insights into optimizing your school website, contact us today!

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