Recruiting a Diverse Cohort Post-Affirmative Action

Posted: July 10, 2023

Joy George Proofreader

It’s been over a week since the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action, which means it’s more important than ever for higher ed institutions to ensure they have a diverse pool of applicants that are right-fit students. On the latest episode of our Rock Enroll podcast, VisionPoint’s Vice President of Business Development Dana Cruikshank chatted with Marketing Strategist Cassie Fleming and Senior Digital Marketing Specialist Victoria Navaro about the strategies and tactics institutions can still utilize for recruiting a diverse student cohort.

So, how does the court’s ruling change higher education digital marketing strategy?

Over the last year, platforms have enforced certain targeting restrictions, but there are still plenty of advertising methods to reach historically excluded groups. Platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Youtube are good places to begin. These top-of-funnel channels with KPIs focusing on impressions, clicks, and engagement, are generally the first step to engaging with these prospective students and getting them into the funnel.

Your institution may need to create or revise your marketing goals to ensure you’re recruiting a diverse cohort. These goals will help keep you focused as you analyze and adjust ads throughout the course of your campaigns and recruitment efforts.

Moving Beyond Purely Digital Marketing

The strongest results we see in campaigns focused on historically excluded groups are campaigns utilizing digital marketing along with other avenues such as traditional marketing and in-person strategies. Many historically excluded students miss – and need – the in-person connection provided by the campus, so strategies that incorporate in-person sessions can be extremely beneficial. Reaching out to both students and parents and starting those relationships even before the enrollment process starts can help build a diverse cohort.

Some other tactics for historically excluded groups are:

  • Including seminars to engage with first-generation students and historically excluded groups that may be less familiar with the college application process. Focusing on the application process and the financial aspect of higher education can spark engagement and provide much-needed information for these students.
  • Providing transparency around tuition. Many students look for this information, but it can often be hard to find or understand, especially for first-generation students who may not have a resource at home to ask for clarification. Making this information accessible on your website will help you stand out.
  • Personalizing landing pages to reach and enroll historically excluded groups. These pages can help communicate important information relating to financing and organizations on campus focused on supporting this specific group of students. Incorporating another language can also help make non-native English speakers feel at home and engaged.
Focusing on the application process can spark engagement and provide much-needed information for historically excluded groups.

Digital Authenticity

Truth in marketing post-affirmative action will be essential, even though it may take a little more effort. If, during the discovery process, you discover that the feeling of belonging at your institution isn’t as solid as you thought, do the work. Use a Listening Tour to understand the needs of your current students and what brought them to you. When we do a Listening Tour for a client partner, our goal isn’t to put the burden of advertising on these historically excluded groups but rather to speak to the students and community to learn what they think of the ads we’re running and what they think are the strengths and weaknesses of the support for their community on campus. Hearing this firsthand is the most likely way to be able to reach prospective student communities. Take this information and use it to communicate what you have available and what you are hoping to achieve by having this diverse cohort at your institution.

Showcasing your diversity organically can include video takeovers to showcase the lives of your diverse students on Youtube, TikTok, and Snapchat, authentically showcasing the diversity of the campus and allowing historically excluded students to see themselves at the institution. Getting authentic images and videos can show what historically excluded students can expect to see and do on campus. User-generated video helps back up the claims your institution is making about commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Showcase your diversity organically, allowing historically excluded students to see themselves at the institution.

Be Flexible and Optimize

One key to this new post-affirmative action world is to be nimble and optimize often.

At VisionPoint, we start with the channels and messages we think will work. But, we don’t set it and forget it. We look at data, optimize, and expand as necessary to achieve our client partners’ enrollment goals. If an ad set isn’t engaging our historically excluded audiences, we try to understand if it’s how we’re targeting or the content that isn’t working. Being flexible and changing tactics to reach and find the perfect mix is of vital importance.

Our work with the College of DuPage led to creating ads to specifically reach Latine audiences.

This is daunting work, yes, but it is also very important work. So when you’re looking at your enrollment marketing strategy, let the importance of the work be what motivates you. Every institution in the country now needs to draw in a diverse cohort of students in new ways. And it’s not a campaign that will see results overnight. It takes time to see the actual effects when trying to reach these historically excluded groups, especially if there has been little engagement in the past. Just remember your goals and understand that you need to cultivate familiarity and comfortability as you continue to recruit a diverse cohort.

Work With Us

We know this change in recruitment may feel like a big lift. If you’ve got questions or want to see how our 22 years of enrollment marketing experience can help you reach diverse student audiences, fill out the form below to start a conversation.

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