August 12

Back to School: 5 Events to Plan for in the Months Ahead


Fall is a critical time for education marketers. Here are five especially important events for the back to school season and how to get the most out of them.

It’s that time of year again. Students are ready to move back on campus with school starting up in just a few short days. 

Whether you work in Admissions, Advancement, Student Services, Marketing or other campus offices, the fall semester brings critical ways to improve your education brand. It’s also a great time to strengthen relationships with students, families, alumni and friends of the university, college, or independent K12 school.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at five key events taking place the first semester and how you should be viewing them from a marketing perspective.

Move In

First-time freshmen are at an emotional high coming into move-in day; a mix of nerves and excitement for both students and families alike. 

This day is also one of the few in the school year where you’ll have new students, returning students, parents, professors, and staff all converging to work together on the same day. 

Students may even bring along their young Gen Z siblings. It’s a chance for you to provide a truly “wow” experience for all your marketing audiences.

How do you accomplish this?

First, think of move-in day (and all the others I’m going to mention later in this post) as the assets they are. 

When you’re involved in the preparation and organization of campus events, it can be difficult to view it as an asset. It can even feel like a burden because of the pressure and stress packed into one day in the year.

However, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to celebrate new adventures on your campus. 

If the different teams from your campus will work together to make this day special for both incoming students and returning students, buzz will be positive from the get-go to kickoff your school year. 

Move-in day is great for photo ops and hashtags

Parents will most certainly be recording video and taking photos of their students as they move into a new campus. Therefore, I recommend using move-in day hashtags for your social media channels. This will allow everyone involved to be participating in the story for the day. 

If your team has not yet established hashtags for your education marketing strategy and events, it’s time to brainstorm short tags you can use to label the event. 

Between now and move-in day, prepare ways for parents and students to continue strengthening their bond with your university. 

Set up photo-ops throughout campus – inside the dorms, outside the dorms, etc. Perhaps even set up a scavenger hunt for your students to complete and tag themselves all over campus. 

This is a great way to show the world your campus through images on social media!


New Student Orientation

For my friends working in student retention, new student orientation kicks off the retention cycle before school even begins.

How does your campus encourage new students to buy in right away?

Engage them in volunteerism

Perhaps it’s through a community service project. It’s been said that Gen Z students are “hyper aware” of the world around them. They are driven to serve and then to share their service on social media. 

As part of new student orientation, why not gather your students and launch them into the community to engage in volunteerism? 

You serve a personal purpose for these students who are said to volunteer more than any other group, and again, you’ll be setting them up to take images of these service projects and post to social media.

Make them feel included 

Did you know that Gen Z teens have been said to feel lonely

This may come as a surprise since this generation is also the one most digitally connected to the world. However, personal relationships can be hard to come by for these teens.

Moving into a new place without Mom and Dad can feel quite intimidating. So, how is your school reassuring students they’ll be well taken care of and connected? 

One way is to set up mentorships with older students on campus. Another is to create multiple residence hall events in order to allow students to get to know others in their hall. 

The point is, your staff should be proactive about making sure students don’t slip through cracks. Building relationships with them immediately will help their success and your retention rates.

Fall Visit Days 

High school students begin seriously considering colleges as early as their freshman year. Visiting those colleges is a critical step in narrowing down the field of possibilities. 

If your college makes the list for them to visit, you better put your best foot forward.

Students are encouraged to visit colleges and universities during the fall semester due to nice weather and the high energy a new school year brings. Particularly for high school seniors, fall semester visits can be the final look before making a college decision.

Therefore, rolling out the red carpet for these students can make all the difference. 

The A-List for Campus Visits

Before a student even steps foot on your campus, you need to begin anticipating the needs, questions, and feelings your students and families will have. 

Clear up anything that may cause confusion for someone visiting for the first time: 

    • Will we need to pay for parking? 
    • Do we have to buy lunch? 
    • Will we know where to go once we arrive?

Once the student  arrives, acknowledge them. 

Something as simple as putting their name on a message board on campus to welcome them can go a long way. 

Spoiling them with a little school swag and allowing them to experience “VIP” meetings with faculty, coaches, choral directors and other staff will personalize their experience even further.

Keep your prospective student and family attentive and attracted

You truly do only get one chance to make a good first impression. Keep the schedule moving for the student so there isn’t much “dead time” between activities. 

Make sure your campus is in tip-top shape… particularly the welcome center, as it’s the first place they’ll see upon arrival.

Finally, have answers for these students. 

They’re visiting in order to see if spending the next four years at your campus is right for them. They will have many questions. Be prepared with answers; from financial aid, to dorms, to academics, to athletics, to food.

Wooing your Alumni: Homecoming

The fall semester will also bring your alumni back to campus for Homecoming.

Sell the benefit to your alumni about why they should attend. Remind them they can reconnect with old friends, mentors and professors from their time at your school and see updates and changes to campus. 

And, of course, they should come to have some fun!

Special events as part of Homecoming

Be sure to promote the special events coming as part of Homecoming. These things might include parades, banquets, picnics, friendly competitions, and even football games. 

Homecoming should be about your alumni – not about you. 

Make sure they know how valued they are by accommodating to various personalities and needs to remain connected to your education brand.

Keep in mind many of your alumni will now have children. 

Make sure you have something fun to engage the kids. In addition, pass out something from your school those kids can take home and display – such as a poster. 

Kids as young as seven and eight begin to form opinions of colleges. Why not start building that loyalty now?

Use the Internet to your advantage

Livestream the events of Homecoming. In this way, alumni who could not attend can still engage and feel like they can participate from afar. And, this allows you to gain more World Wide Web exposure to your campus.

I recommend using Facebook Live or YouTube to accomplish this.

The goal, of course, would be for your alumni and friends of the university to share these livestreams on their own personal social channels.

Christmastime’s A-Comin’

I am not sure when you read this if it will make you have feelings of happiness or fear, but we’re less than five months away from Christmas Day. Which means we’re only four months from the kickoff of the Christmas season, which traditionally begins after Thanksgiving.

What can your college, university or independent K12 school do and provide to your current students, prospective students, families, donors, alumni and friends to celebrate the holiday season?

It’s time to begin thinking about these things now. Maybe even yesterday.

Perhaps your school wants to orchestrate a Christmas giveaway. Or, maybe coordinate a banquet to celebrate the holiday season and invite the community in. 

Digital marketing at this time of year will also be your friend. 

Use content creation, email marketing, social media ads, and targeted PPC campaigns to your advantage this season.

Consider getting help to promote your campus events.

Sometimes you simply don’t have the manpower to accomplish all the things I’ve recommended in this post. Sometimes it makes more sense to hire a marketing agency to help you manage these events and create quality content marketing.

A partnership with an agency can help you provide consistent results. For honest solutions to your marketing needs, contact us today.

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Featured image by Georgerudy via Adobe Stock

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