College Prospects Should Be Shown – Not Told

A great article posted to Magna Publications’ Recruitment and Retention newsletter reminded me that when prospective students and their parents need reliable information about your college or university, they go to your college website first. Parents often build the initial college list and are co-decision makers with their child for the final choice.

But parents don’t find college websites user-friendly. They have to click through too many pages to find basic information. Why is this? Because most websites are organized by internal office structure and not by user experience. Information about majors, financial aid and admission probably are found on different pages. They shouldn’t be. If a parent is trying to compile comparable information on 10 or more colleges, this can lead to frustration and even to abandoning your site.

Videos help a college website stand out. Students and parents say they remember college websites that include effective videos. When asked, no student or parent could remember the president’s message, the college mission statement or statements about how beautiful the campus is. But they remember the video. Why? Because well-produced videos will have stunning imagery and tell a compelling story. It’s the old saw, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Most college websites are text-heavy and hard to read.

One of Tribe’s most successful videos has no words at all – unless you count the song lyrics. It’s a music video about life at the University of Vermont.  This video tells more to a prospect or parent in three and a half minutes than any written statement from the dean of admission about why you should choose their college.

In the research we have done for scores of college videos, students and graduates say they chose a particular college because “it felt right.” After all the facts and figures are gathered at home on a spreadsheet and colleges compared, the final decision comes from the gut. The best way to show the heart and soul of an institution is to go for a well-told story that reaches the emotions. Prospective students want to see who they will be living with for the next four years, and parents want to see professors engaged in effective teaching. Video can show these things better than any other media.

But be careful. Many colleges flood their websites with videos, and most of the time, quantity sacrifices quality. Video tells stories best and stories create your brand. The last thing you want is shoddy video content. You want something that truly represents who you are and shows you off at your best to the world. Remember what we first said – parents and students remember your video. They don’t remember even the most superlatively written website prose.

So, logically organize your website to fit user experience and not your departmental structure. And include well-produced, targeted videos in prominent places on that site. Do this, and parents and prospects will enjoy their experience on their virtual visit, they will remember your college and they will apply!

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“It’s one thing to understand the role of video in business communication, it’s another to know how to use video to solve actual business problems. Vern Oakley gets that.”


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