If you’re a college basketball fan, there is no better time of year than March when the top 64 teams in the country square-off for arguably the most dramatic tournament in all of sports.
If you work in admissions or marketing at one of these institutions, March can be an exciting time for you too. One of the biggest reasons for March Madness being a must-watch event is the number of upsets that happen in the first and second rounds of the tournament.
On occasion, a relatively unknown university will advance to the later stages of the tournament. When this happens, the institution can expect to see more interest due to an exponential rise in awareness. For instance, The Atlantic cites a Bloomberg report stating that in 2013 when then-15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament, applications increased nearly 28 percent.
Not only can a deep run spark more interest, it can also sway higher quality students that would’ve otherwise considered other institutions. The Atlantic cites a 2013 study from Doug J. Chung, an Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, which found that the number of high-achieving applicants increased with athletic performance.
Following Loyola-Chicago’s Final Four appearance in 2018, the university enrolled its largest freshman class ever with just over 2,900 students.
If your institution is in the NCAA tournament, the next two weeks could be an exciting time. However, a big win can overwhelm marketing and admissions offices that are ill-prepared for the spike of attention they’re likely to receive.
Here are a few tips that can help you harness new interest into a smooth experience.
Don’t let your site crash!
If your school is relatively unknown to the masses, you might not be used to getting a high amount of traffic. So while your team might be a Cinderella, your website could feel like a small glass slipper.
Before your team plays its first tournament game, check with your IT team to see if your servers can handle a significant amount of traffic. You might need to get more space or upgrade your data cap.
It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to invest in a content delivery network so that your site stays online even when there’s heavy traffic.
Keep website information current
If possible, make sure your website is updated with up-to-date information on admissions. If you have a list of questions that prospective students tend to ask, be proactive by creating content that’s easy to search and user friendly.
Students want to self-serve whenever possible. Think about questions that the student might be curious about and answer those proactively.
In addition, make sure that the information itself is easy to find. Prospective students will want to get what they need with minimal effort so keep navigation as simple and user-friendly as possible. Otherwise, you’ll squander what otherwise would be the perfect marketing moment for your institution.
Automate some of your communication
Students checking out your website will likely browse your social media channels before applying to your institution. Capitalize on this touchpoint by considering an automated messaging platform, such as a chatbot that can integrate with Facebook Messenger.
Automating some of your communication allows you to converse with students on their terms, while also off-setting a significant amount of pressure off your department. A chatbot can assist in answering questions related to out-of-state tuition, application deadlines and other basic inquiries you likely won’t have time to answer.
A chatbot not only answers the preliminary questions that students might have - but also draw them to your institution. Remember that your prospective students are accustomed to communicating via text and social media messaging platforms. Create a more gratifying experience by meeting them where they are.
They can also collect lead data in a conversational format so your marketing team is better equipped to capture a higher percentage of conversions on the website.
At a time when some are questioning the value of higher education, March Madness has the potential to jump-start an enrollment surge across the country. Institutions that are fortunate enough to find themselves in the nation’s prestigious collegiate tournament need to ensure they are prepared to meet a surge of demand.
Are you anticipating a surge in admissions? Contact us to learn how your institution can successfully handle more student interest.