How to Use AI to Improve the Student Enrollment Journey

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most promising emerging technologies for school marketers, especially when combined with machine learning (ML).

AI’s ability to use data to anticipate a family’s actions is already helping schools improve the enrollment journey. Furthermore, it’s possible to optimize the enrollment experience by combining AI and ML.

Parents Today Have Higher-Than-Ever Expectations

Internet users today have come to expect online information quickly and easily. For example, 53 percent of visitors will leave a website if the page they landed on takes more than three seconds to load. And 82 percent of consumers expect an immediate response to marketing questions.

When potential parents interact with marketing, they aren’t going to wait around until you have a chance to respond. A quick response is crucial when it comes to the student enrollment journey.

If you can’t respond quickly when potential parents make an inquiry, you might miss the opportunity. So how do you make sure you don’t miss out on new enrollments? You might want to consider adding AI to your marketing mix.

For instance, when someone requests information directly from your website, through a lead gen landing page, or at a recruiting event, your AI assistant can interact in a conversational manner through a variety of channels, depending on the information you have collected from the potential family. Depending on the communication preferences of the family, you could interact with them through a chatbot, text message, or email. From there, the AI assistant would log the information collected into its system.

The AI assistant would be programmed to respond to questions, handle objections and respond to requests. Once a connection is made, families would receive personalized follow-ups to guide them through the next part of their enrollment journey. And then, based on the parameters you’ve set, your AI assistant would transfer the family to the right person on your team.

Why Use AI in School Marketing?

One of the most important resources you have is your time. AI not only optimizes your time, it also optimizes your marketing and inquiry strategy. Automated assistants are able to handle routine, repetitive, and mundane tasks. This, in turn, frees up your team to handle higher-level tasks, reduces human error as well as lowering job burnout.

How AI Helps With Marketing

AI supports your marketing goals by nurturing and engaging prospective families. The enrollment journey of each prospective parent can be personalized based on their profiles and interests. You can design a system that directs each prospect to the right place, set up an appointment, or answer their question. If they have not yet asked for information, you can create demand and probe for interest.

AI allows you to write marketing messages for different scenarios and deliver them to prospective families at exactly the right time. You can then nurture them with regular and strategic contacts. AI is able to anticipate the next step in each prospective family’s enrollment journey.

AI also analyzes and reports data. As more data is collected, AI and ML will continue to refine and optimize your marketing campaigns to deliver better results. It can use data to augment qualitative data to deliver insights.

How AI Works in Each Stage of the Enrollment Journey

Typically, school marketing invites families through a 7-stage journey.

  1. Awareness

Awareness is where the family becomes aware of your school. AI can identify families who may be a good fit for your school and help them learn about your school. This stage focuses on making them aware of your school and the benefits your school offers students. Mission-appropriate families are identified and placed into your automation where AI begins the task of nurturing them with targeted, personalized messaging.

  1. Interest

In the Interest stage of the enrollment journey, prospective families are learning more about your school and whether they are a good fit. Your marketing automation should deliver helpful information and introduce what makes your school special. A free download or sign up (i.e ebook, checklist, newsletter, webinar, etc.) is a good tactic for this stage. Furthermore, it’s important at this stage to make your case why they should choose your school over other schools in your area.

  1. Application

During the application phase, parents are actively engaging with you. This is when you want to deliver customized messages that reinforce the benefits your school offers and provide specific information that overcomes their objections. Your goal at this stage is to help families make the decision to enroll. Automated email campaigns should highlight parent and alumni testimonials.

  1. Enrollment

Once a family has enrolled a student in your school, it’s time to market enrollment materials, messages that reinforce and celebrate their decision and encourage them to reach out if they have a concern or question.

  1. Retention

Once a family is enrolled, the job of a school marketer is not complete. Independent schools of today need a retention strategy. Many independent schools don’t spend as much time and energy as they should on retention. AI can help through the use of personalization and automation.

  1. Alumni

Alumni stories and testimonials are a gold mine when it comes to school marketing; AI is a cost-effective way to encourage graduates and their families to share their positive experiences with your school.

Behind every alumnus is an important and personal story. There’s a reason they chose and stayed enrolled in your school through graduation, and AI can help them share their story with the world.

Individually, they’re easy to keep track of, and at a small scale, you understand exactly why it’s important to stay connected with them. But at scale, it’s impossible for your team to keep on top of every student. AI is the key here. You don’t have to lose one of your most valuable resources. Alumni feedback platforms powered by AI and ML give alumni a place to stay connected to the school and feel like their opinions matter. AI gives your alumni a way to make sure they feel heard and to turn their insight into winning marketing strategies in the future.

  1. Evangelist

In essence, school marketing has no end. School marketers must work hard to keep families in the loop and continue to advocate for your school. Word of mouth is still a powerful way to increase awareness of your school. Of course, social media monitoring is still essential, but it doesn’t have to dominate your time. AI, using natural language processing (NLP) models, can understand and decipher human language. This offers your school a better way to automate the monitoring process, respond to and ask for evangelist input at the right time, monitor social media, websites, and other online forums, and identify mentions on social media, especially recognizing and recording positive comments.

One of the best things about AI enhancing the enrollment journey is that the benefits are mutual. While your school will benefit from being better able to meet families’ needs, at the same time, families will have greater support on every step of their journey. In education, where choosing the right school has high stakes for each student, that’s incredibly good news. Another benefit of AI: it increases your potential to stay connected with families by making sure you are always proactively staying in communication with them. That, in turn, allows you to ensure you’re maximizing their investment in your school – something that will pay off with high dividends in the long-term.

About the author 

Brendan Schneider

Hey, I’m Brendan, and this is my blog. After 28 years working in private, independent schools in mostly admissions, enrollment, marketing, communications, and fundraising roles, I decided to make SchneiderB Media my full-time job, where I help schools get more inquiries through my Fractional Digital Marketer program. I also started the MarCom Society, a membership created expressly to help, support, and train marketing and communications professionals at schools.

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