How One University Used Digital Search to Reach Enrollment Capacity

The Challenge

How-One-University-Used-Digital-Search-to-Reach-Enrollment-Capacity.jpgThis institution — a small, liberal arts university — had experienced a substantial increase in its undergraduate enrollment so turned its attention to graduate recruitment. In particular, the administration wanted to meet enrollment capacity in 4 online master’s programs. Calculate recommended a digital campaign that would attract “perfect-fit” prospects based on demographic and self-reported traits.

The Goal

  • To launch an affordable, high-yielding search for prospects through digital platforms
  • To write, design, implement, and monitor an online campaign that:
    • Sold the value of each degree program
    • Reached the appropriate audiences
    • Converted leads to applicants
    • Was quantifiable and affordable


The administration was reluctant to try a digital campaign based on a previous experience. Earlier in the year, they spent $16,900 on a large firm that promised a lot but delivered a campaign that yielded little. They also tried traditional forms of marketing (a billboard and radio campaign) but enrollment still lagged.

Calculate’s analysis:

  • The problem was with the marketing, not the product.
  • Previous campaigns:
    • Did not identify or reach the right audience
    • Focused on impressions, not clicks and completed actions
    • Sent ad traffic to the institutional homepage rather than a landing page, thereby losing conversion opportunities

The Solution

The university set a modest budget ($13,000) for a 3-platform campaign: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google AdWords. To reach ideal prospects, we adhered to Calculate’s carefully cultivated best practices: research, specificity, and constant monitoring.

Then, we:

  • Wrote ads and landing pages based on research (of program, audience demographics, and desired outcomes)
  • Interviewed students, alumni, and faculty of each program to:
    • Identify program highlights
    • Develop audience profile
    • Collect and use authentic testimonials
  • Used active language and clear calls to action to entice engagement
  • Used authentic (not stock) photos specific to the institution and program
  • Targeted specifically via institutional/programmatic success and industry trends (per program)
  • Created a specific landing page for each campaign utilizing best practices
  • Developed keywords for each academic program
  • Monitored results and adjusted to maximize effectiveness (re-wrote, re-designed, added incentives)

The Results: Enrollment Capacity!

  • The campaign ran for 2 ½ months and was stopped early because all 4 programs reached their enrollment capacity.
  • 2,360,363 impressions that cost $0 (pay for clicks only); free branding and awareness
  • 6,233 clicks from highly-targeted prospects to dedicated landing pages
  • 139 conversions via completed engagement forms
  • Increase in general inquiries to these programs outside of the landing pages (most likely due to the impressions above)
  • Total cost: $12,378.96
  • Cost per click: $1.99
  • Additional engagement: 597 posts, likes, and shares to the Facebook ads

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