How to increase student enrollment at Costa Rican universities

You have seen it all: scholarships, discounts, corporate deals, special financing. The list of strategies universities use to increase student registration seem to be on par with the following two lines of thought: match what the competition is doing and desperate efforts of “flavor-of-the-day” offers.

But with all those examples, there is one thing that goes for sure out of the window: the unmeasured effectiveness of the marketing campaign. This campaign is unfortunately decided by trial-and-error initiatives thought of and approved during executive meetings (or none at all) or by the director of admissions in most cases.

For lack of a better understanding on how to portray appealing offers to students, universities employ social media extensively, spending millions of colones in advertising per year, thinking that a high return on investment is justified with a higher number of likes. Take for example the graph below, showing Facebook posts and the engagement it created.



Let’s get on thing straight about effectiveness among social media analytics metrics: sharing is king over comments and comments over likes due to propagation properties.

Purple University (PU), for example, experimented almost twice as many likes compared to its competitor Green University (GU)’s post, but GU had its post shared 2x+and 3x+ in comments count. This is why focusing only on likes may misguide a university representative and lead to additional efforts on topics that “produce” a higher number of likes or to boost the campaign by naively investing more colones on that specific post. But by looking at the topics posted, one can see that topics/themes tapping on personal beliefs, internal emotions or social responsibility content get shared the most. So, why are the universities still trying to sell the idea that what students care the most is a never-ending list of scholarships or having a brand-new campus when none of that matters without the quality education you deserve?

Here is the answer: universities still believe that graduating seniors’ most sought-after desire in Costa Rica is enrolling at the university. And they are not wrong! Where they are failing is at catering to their whole set of needs rather than going for their pocket’s depth.

So how does a university attract new students? Here is a short list of crucial, essential steps a higher education institution should follow if they want to remain atop of competition:

  • Re-design the pre-boarding and onboarding experience
  • Attract the right type of student base by targeting specific segments
  • Offer a wide-range of financial benefits to the students
  • Re-think price over offer
  • Rethink your retention strategy
  • Invest in an analytical solution to guide your actions; stop acting just based on intuition
  • Train your staff on providing world-class customer service

If this story sounds either in part or as a whole like the university or marketing division you work in, please contact us so we can help in crafting a winning strategy for increasing registration, increasing retention rates and decreasing student desertion. A successful business must rely on mainly two forces when making decisions: intuition and data-supported inputs. Let us help you with both.

About the author

Wilberth helps companies make smarter strategic decisions with the use of machine learning. He holds an MLA in Management from Harvard and a B.Sc in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina.

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