“Looking at a College Website on a Cellphone”: Study on How Prospective Students Research Their Options for College Reveals Shifts in Preferences toward Websites, Mobile

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Nearly Every Senior Finds Reliable Information on School Websites, 80 Percent Have Registered for an Open House Using Their Phone, According to New Study from OmniUpdate, Inc.

Students look to higher education institutions’ websites first when researching colleges and universities, and are likely to be looking at a small screen when doing it, according to a new national survey of more than 3,000 high school juniors and seniors.

Available on OmniUpdate’s website at http://omniupdate.com/resources/research.html, the report provides marketers and admissions officers with fresh data about online and mobile marketing preferences as they map out their recruitment strategies. OmniUpdate’s content management system, OU Campus™, is used to manage more than 700 college and university websites worldwide.

“The findings include surprises – like how nearly every student surveyed looks first and foremost to college websites for reliable information about schools they are considering. And students can be harsh critics, actually judging the quality of the school based on their experience on the website,” said Carol Clements, director of marketing for OmniUpdate.

The 2015 E-Expectations Report, titled "What 10 Years of Research Has Told Us about College E-Recruitment," is sponsored by Ruffalo Noel Levitz, OmniUpdate, CollegeWeekLive, and the National Research Center for College & University Admissions.

The report found an increased reliance on college websites, and that interest in a school was more likely to be formed based on a website rather than other marketing materials like print publications.

Nearly every senior (98 percent) said they find reliable information on school websites. Of seniors, 78 percent say that the website made a difference in their perceptions of a given school. That’s an increase of 11 percentage points over 2014, demonstrating the growing importance of the website as a marketing and recruitment tool. Four out of five seniors said schools’ websites influenced or highly influenced their interest in specific colleges or universities. This compares to 33 percent who say print publications influenced or highly influenced their interest.

“Schools and marketers should be asking themselves hard questions: Is my website an efficient, self-service resource for prospective students? How can we go beyond ‘Click, Read, Leave,’ and keep students engaged?” said Lance Merker, president and CEO of OmniUpdate. “The colleges and universities that use our OU Campus content management system are focusing on information architecture, content strategy, and search engine optimization to create this digital hub for students.”

Students also report using mobile devices to interact with colleges online. Holding steady from 2014, 40 percent of students use mobile for all their web browsing, meaning that offering a mobile-friendly online experience is important for many users. Nearly two-thirds of juniors and seniors are checking email on their mobile device at least once a day, and many are checking more than once a day. Four out of five seniors have used their mobile devices to register for open houses.

“It’s hard to understate how connected young people are to their phones,” Merker said. “High school students are reading email and viewing websites from their phone. If emails, websites, landing pages, and online forms aren’t set up for small screens, schools lose out. Content management systems with adaptive, responsive templates can make it easier for schools to be mobile-friendly.”

Students are also open to connecting with schools in new ways. Nearly three-quarters of seniors are willing to allow a college or university to send them text messages, up from just over half last year. Reflecting a growing interest in online video, half of seniors and 70 percent of juniors say they might attend a webcast held by a college or university in the future.

“High school students are open to receiving information using chat, text messages, and online meetings,” said Clements. “It’s time for schools to get creative.”

About OmniUpdate, Inc.
OmniUpdate is the leading provider of content management solutions designed to streamline content administration and solve the digital marketing and communication challenges of higher education. Its user-friendly platform and award-winning technology and support empower customers to be engaged and personalized in their communications, cost-effective and efficient in their channel management, and scalable and extensible in their development. For more information, visit http://www.omniupdate.com.

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