We explore how XCM can help give you cut-through at a crucial time and increase your chances of recruiting best-fit students.
For many higher education institutions in the UK, Clearing has become the most important part of the recruitment cycle. In 2020, 73,320 students used Clearing, a further 28,030 students who had received an offer released themselves into Clearing, and a record 19,640 applied through Clearing without having made any sort of application earlier in the year.
Obviously, Clearing is a crucial part of the UK student recruitment calendar and, over recent years, has become an incredibly powerful tool for students; they often enter Clearing in a strong position and will use it to find their best fit course, rather than simply finding somewhere to study. Clearing is no longer just about missed grades.
Because of this, it is a highly competitive time of year, and the challenge for institutions is to do something that will make them stand out and attract their ideal applicants. Luckily, one effective way of doing that is using the experience of what it’s like studying at your institution as a marketing tool, and connecting potential applicants with your ambassadors to allow them to talk, ask questions, and work out if you’re a good match.
In this article, we’ll cover some key ideas about how you maximise your use of our platform and your ambassadors to create a powerful campaign for Clearing.
Clearing 2021 is officially open from 5 July - 19 October, although activity often peaks around A-level results day (10 August) and the days immediately afterwards.
With that in mind, you want to ensure you have your campaigns ready to go as soon as Clearing opens, so it’s worth planning time in May and June to commission content from your ambassadors, send them FAQs to answer, and possibly even recruit extra ambassador especially for Clearing, to cover any subject areas where you might be lacking.
Ahead of Clearing opening on 5 July, why not allow applicants to pre-register for more information, if you haven't done so already? This could be a great way to collect email addresses and find out about courses applicants are interested in, which you can then feed into your campaign and content planning.
Key things to remember
While you might have targets around particular courses or subjects, one of the most effective things you can do when planning your Clearing campaigns is to put yourself in the shoes of your potential applicants and think about what they want, what they think, and what they might be feeling.
Even if those applicants enter Clearing with a strong position, it can still be a daunting time. They will often have to make a huge decision - possibly the biggest they’ve ever made - it’s a short, frantic space of time and set against a background of multiple offers and information overload. It’s effectively an entire year’s worth of recruitment activity condensed into a few weeks, or days.
You should aim to make their Clearing experience with you as painless as possible. Give them easy access to relevant information, serve them with useful content, and, of course, put them in contact with your ambassadors. Wherever you can, make your communications with them segmented and personalized - it will show you see them as an individual and will help them get to the most relevant information as quickly as possible.
Using TAP to support Clearing - an example
In 2019, the University of Sheffield made great use of TAP and their ambassadors to support their Clearing efforts and help get across valuable insights into the experience of being a student at Sheffield.
Of the 15 clearing-specific new leads who chatted to Sheffield ambassadors via TAP, 13 of them went on to register as a student and enrol. That’s an 87% lead-to-enrolment rate. Across the whole month, Sheffield saw 17 of 68 leads register, a 25% lead-to-enrolment rate.
For more details about exactly how the University of Sheffield approached Clearing on TAP in 2019, check out this case study.
Maximizing TAP for Clearing
Your ambassadors can help you make fantastic content to power your Clearing campaigns and, through direct conversations with applicants, can also get across that vital information about the experience of studying at your institution, which will help close any Insight Gap and allow applicants to make an empowered and confident decision.
Below, we’ve put together ideas around FAQs and content prompts to send your ambassadors, as well as reminders of useful features in our platform that you definitely employ.
Suggested FAQs - gather answers and use quotes from them on social media, in emails, and other campaign materials
What makes <your institution name> a special place to study?
Why did you decide to study at <your institution name>?
What is accommodation like for first years?
What is there to do on campus during evenings and weekends?
Describe being a <your institution name> student in three words
[Video] Your Uni in 15 seconds challenge - get your ambassadors to set a timer for 15 seconds and then cover as much as possible before the alarm goes off.
[Photo] My best photo of campus - get your ambassadors to look through their camera roll and share their favorite snap.
[Video] Why I chose my uni - ask your ambassadors to talk briefly about why they picked your institution.
[Photo] Campus insider - encourage your ambassadors to share a photo of the best place on campus that someone might not necessarily know much about, and have them explain more in the caption.
*If any of your ambassadors were Clearing applicants themselves, have them create a short video about that process and how they ended up at your institution.
*With this content, don’t forget to take it beyond your TAP Feed; download it, repurpose it on your other digital channels, and use it to point applicants back to your TAP Feed and the profiles of the ambassadors who created it.
Other TAP features to use
Popcards - they’re a really reliable way to drive traffic through to your TAP Feed, so make use of them! Either add them to targeted pages of your website, or even consider adding them across your entire site during Clearing and make it as easy as possible for applicants to find your ambassadors.
Tracked links - you can create as many of these as you need, so don’t hold back. Make them for your different channels, for online ads, and even for individual emails to individual applicants - particularly those who pre-register for more information. Send them a link that takes them to a pre-filtered page all about the subject they want to study.
Content schedule - use the schedule to create a set of content requests to automatically go out during Clearing so you’re always gathering new material from your ambassadors and keeping your TAP Feed fresh.
Group Chats - create public Group Chats on popular topics and encourage your ambassadors to get involved and keep the conversation. And, don’t forget, you can also create Private Group Chats if you want.
Add your email domain to your approved list - this a small tweak to make in your keyword settings, but could save a lot of time in the long run, as your ambassadors will easily be able to share relevant email addresses when they’re chatting to prospects.
Some final tips
Email - don’t be shy in reaching out to your potential applicants via email and use those emails to point them in the direction of your ambassadors. It’s a great, and direct, way to get conversations started.
Bespoke landing pages - make a dedicated Clearing page on your website and embed a profile carousel on it to highlight the availability of your TAP Feed.
Inform your ambassadors - it’s reasonable to think that prospective students might be wondering what plans are for them studying in-person in September, is there going to be an online element, are there any COVID-restrictions in place on campus, what are your plans for Fresher's this year etc. Make sure you answers to these questions somewhere on your website and make sure ambassadors know where to find them, so they can answer questions confidently in Chats!
Recruit additional ambassadors - this might not be possible for everyone, but hiring some additional ambassadors for the Clearing period could be a huge help. We can still get them trained on TAP - either contact your Customer Success Manager to arrange a session, or point your new ambassadors in the direction of our monthly training webinars.
Clearing is a busy but potentially rewarding part of the recruitment cycle. You’ll be working hard to stand out, which is something your ambassadors can help with. Those ambassadors can also be vital in getting across the experience of life as one of your students, so make the most of them!
Good luck with Clearing - if you any more help getting the most from our platform please contact your Customer Success Manager or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.