The Ultimate Student Recruitment Playbook

Written by Rob Carrol

Learn How School's Recruit with CampusReel

Student recruitment is tough. Compare your strategy today to even 5 years ago and it’s likely a very different picture (maybe even unrecognizable). Perhaps you’re shifting dollars away from print marketing and more toward digital, or maybe all your info sessions are taking place on Zoom.

Student recruitment is a race to keep pace with technology and media trends.

The winners of this race, the ones that embrace change and iterate quickly, will win the attention and tuition dollars of their prospective students. The institutions that shy away from change, clinging to the “old ways of doing things”, will be outcompeted quickly

The ultimate reason why innovators in the recruitment space will win is because embracing technological progress positively impacts all metrics – reduced cost per lead, reduced cost per application, increased yield rates, decreased dependency on name buying (a relic of the past), etc.

Here’s the best part: the framework for a new student recruitment strategy is simple, and its impact is immediate.

It’s 2024 - the best systems only take a few minutes to plug in. The best strategy augments your current strategy, but will not change your day-to-day responsibilities.

A proper student recruitment strategy reduces your workload while enhancing your outcomes.

Throughout this post, I’m going to outline the 3 most important components for your student recruitment strategy. Combing all 3 will create the most robust strategy, but even implementing 1 component will make a monumental difference. Most importantly, these core recruitment ideas translate across education verticals, whether you’re recruiting high school students, MBA candidates, or community college applicants.

At CampusReel, we’ve worked with hundreds of schools around the world to support every element of the enrollment funnel – if you find this content useful then I encourage to schedule a call with our team, or share the article with a colleague who’d appreciate the insight.

Organic Leads - 1st Key Component of a Student Recruitment Strategy

If there are two words I hope you take away this post, they are: organic leads

Organic leads are the holy grail of lead generation. These types of leads outperform purchased names across every worthwhile recruitment metric (inquiry-to-application, inquiry-to-yield, etc.). Most importantly, they are infinitely cheaper to generate.

What are organic leads? Organic leads are generated through students on your website who self-identify by filling out a form. Now PLEASE STOP 😊 and drop your assumptions if you think this is obvious and you’re already doing it. No offense, but we’ve yet to come across a college, K12 school, community college or graduate program who maximizes this channel 😊 .

Yes, every single college or school has a contact form on their website that people fill out. For most universities and colleges, this is tucked away in the menu bar under a “Contact Us” button. If you embed a form here and there around your site so that it’s in more than one location, you’re already in the top 1% of organic lead generators.

I’m extremely confident that the number of people who fill out this form is less than 1% of your website traffic.

For example, I talked with a small college just last week that has 265,000 visits a year to their admissions and recruitment pages. How many organic leads do you think they generate?

800. That’s a 0.3% conversion rate on their website traffic.

How many names do you think they purchased from 3rd parties?


Because they can’t generate more leads on their own, they are forced to buy from 3rd parties.

Here’s where it gets crazy:

Organic Leads Purchased Leads
# of Leads 800 10,000
Cost Per Lead $0.00 $2.50
Total Cost for Lead Category $0.00 $25,000
Lead-to-application Rate 59% < 10%
Lead-to-yield Rate 11% 2%
Applications 472 1,000
Enrollments 88 200

They are spending infinitely more money on the worst-performing data.

I can’t overstate how many colleges, universities, programs and schools we come across who try to solve their lead generation problem by buying more names ☹ it didn’t work the first time, and it won’t work the nth time. But most schools don’t realize there’s an escape hatch from this cycle of bad data.

If this school increased their website conversion rate to 3.7%, they would generate the same amount of 10,000 leads per year – but without spending $25,000 per year purchasing elsewhere.

Most importantly, those 10,000 organic leads would outperform the purchased leads by 5X or more across every enrollment metric. Let’s pretend the school converted traffic into leads at a rate of 3.7% - it looks like this:

Organic Leads Purchased Leads
# of Leads 10,000 10,000
Cost Per Lead $0.00 $2.50
Total Cost for Lead Category $0.00 $25,000
Lead-to-application Rate 59% < 10%
Lead-to-yield Rate 11% 2%
Applications 5,784 1,000
Enrollments 1,078 200

The entire makeup of their funnel changes within minutes. This demonstrates why school’s primary focus should be on its own lead generation capabilities.

So, what does this mean?

Schools don’t have a traffic problem, they have a conversion problem.

If the “Contact Us” form example above resembles your current organic lead strategy, take a few seconds to reflect on who fills out that form, why they do so, and when.

You’ll probably come to the same conclusion as most of our clients – there is little to no incentive to fill out the form, and therefore the only people who generally do so have very specific questions or reasons. Most of your website traffic is browsing content around the site, such as your admission requirements or student life pages.

The vast majority of website visitors (>98%) are simply consuming content and researching. There is no reason to fill out a generic form, because they do not perceive it as meaningfully adding to these goals.

Therefore, simple “Contact Us” forms fall flat at generating a meaningful amount of organic leads.

The fastest way to catapult your organic lead generation capabilities is to use CampusReel’s lead generation technology on top of your video content. Read more about the technology here.

The only two things you need to generate more organic leads are content and technology. A “Contact Us” form is technology without content – a Youtube video is content without technology. That’s why CampusReel’s video lead capture technology is an absolute gamechanger, especially because video viewers are your most intent prospects.

Adding our technology to your webpages takes all of 30 seconds, and the results are instant.

This conveniently brings us to the 2nd key component of your student recruitment strategy.

Video Content – the 2nd Key Component of a Student Recruitment Strategy

Content is good. Video content is better.

You’ve probably seen all the stats at this point – internet consumption is 80% video, 82% of consumers use video in their purchase decision, etc., etc., etc.

If you already have a small video library – fantastic! Add our lead generation technology to those videos, and your organic lead generation will skyrocket.

However, most schools struggle to create a sufficient amount of video content.

Trust and engagement come from putting the right content in front of the right student at the right time. Ian Mortimer, the VP of Enrollment at Rochester Institute of Technology, helped introduce this idea to CampusReel’s product and service offerings.

It’s informed everything we’ve done since.

So, let’s solidify a few assumptions:

  1. The best kind of content is video content.
  2. Different prospects require different content. A one-size-fits-all content (and video) strategy won’t cut it.
  3. Traditional marketing videos are beautiful, but they are extremely expensive, time-consuming to create, and relatively audience agnostic. For these reasons, traditional video doesn’t scale well, and cannot be used to effectively engage different audiences.

You need more video content, but you need to scale it without breaking the bank and without spending years creating it (only for it to be outdated the day it’s released).

This requires a new approach to video. The old method of video creation won’t satisfy the demands of your prospective audience.

Here’s an important concept – “authentic” video outperforms traditional marketing video in every metric. See the below chart identifying why viewers watched what they watched:

The takeaway?

The best way to build trust, engagement and scale a video library is to create content that is “real” and authentic.

Where does this content come from?

Your community!

Current students, alumni, faculty and staff are your biggest brand advocates and they have a story to tell. By empowering them to share their story in video, you will not only create more video content than you can imagine, but it will outperform traditional video content. See some videos below that our partners have created with us:

Generating a sufficient amount of engaging video content will not only increase organic lead generation, but it will also enable you to deliver the right content to the right student at the right time. This is true not just for your website traffic, but also for nurturing prospects through the funnel.

CampusReel’s dashboard makes it easy to turn video viewers into leads, and also enables you to easily share content all around the web, including natively publishing to social, sending through email, and other important features. In addition, any videos you mark as public on CampusReel will also be available to our audience of 5M users per year.

Organic Lead Generation

Lots of video – especially authentic video

Implementing either, or both, of the strategies above will fundamentally change the way you recruit students. They will combine to increase the number of qualified leads entering the top of your funnel while providing content for them and your website visitors to engage with.

So what’s the last piece of the puzzle?

Build Personal Relationships at Scale: 3rd Key Component of a Student Recruitment Strategy

The first two components of this paradigm-shifting student recruitment strategy set the stage for an enormous amount of qualified and engaged leads.

By virtue of the quality and intent of these leads, they will already yield significantly higher than any other traffic source or channel.

But let’s solidify their emotional connection to you and build a personal relationship!

How do you do that remotely and/or digitally?

I’ll give you a hint – it’s not through brochures, generic emails, or display ads.

It’s through direct 1-to-1 connection.

Think about what some of your biggest trust-building exercises are now. Maybe campus visits, school fairs, or other methods of in-person meetings come to mind.

What if you could mimic the trust and connection of these experiences in the digital world and at scale? A “digital handshake” if you will.

Check out the video message below to see how one of our clients is doing this now:

In the above video, the admissions officer is congratulating the student on being accepted in a personal, thoughtful and direct way. He could have sent a generic email, but instead he wrote a thoughtful letter that included this video message in it. Other examples of this tactic include schools thanking families for visiting campus, sharing application best practices, and using personal videos in email communications whenever possible to build more connection.

Some large programs recruiting thousands and thousands of students may not have the bandwidth to accommodate this kind of personalization, but we see small schools thrive in this environment.

It’s just as easy to record a video message like this as it is to write an email, but the outcomes are much stronger.


So there you have it! 3 extremely valuable yet easy-to-adopt student recruitment strategies that will change the way you recruit students forever, and for the better.

I hope you found this content useful, thought-provoking and original. At CampusReel, we really pride ourselves on our ability to solve any recruitment challenge for any school or program globally.

If you did get value from this article, please share it with someone else. If you’re thinking about integrating any of these strategies at your school and want to get a better understanding of exactly what other schools are doing and what their results are, please book a complimentary call with our team – we’ll show you exactly what’s working and, equally important, what’s not.