How to Drive Enrollments With Student Journey Mapping

In today’s higher education landscape, college marketers need to find innovative and cost-effective ways to bring qualified prospective students to their programs. One tactic for doing this is to leverage student journey mapping in your digital marketing plan.

Student journey mapping is key for driving enrollments because it allows you to align your marketing efforts with the mindset of your prospective students. 

In the year ahead of enrollment deadlines, most prospective students go through various phases of mindset: researching different fields of study, considering specific programs, and ultimately, making a final decision. 

Student journey mapping enables you to determine when you should be prospecting, running campaigns, retargeting prospective students, and personalizing messaging. Ultimately, aligning your digital campaigns with student journey mapping will drive enrollments!

Your Student Journey Mapping Milestones

There are four key mindset stages in prospective students that you’ll want to cater your digital efforts towards. 

1. Start With Driving Awareness

To achieve your student enrollment targets, be prepared to start your college marketing efforts a calendar year in advance. The goal is to achieve your enrollment targets and to influence applicant decision intent to include your institution for consideration. You’ll be able to achieve this by making people aware of who you are and what you have to offer.

About a year in advance of enrollment deadlines, prospective students are very much in their discovery mindset. They are thinking broadly about what they want to study and where. At this stage, awareness campaigns will resonate most with prospective students. 

Running awareness campaigns 12 months in advance will get your institution and programs on the radar of prospective students. At this stage, students are looking at broad options and with an awareness campaign, you will get on their radar, so that they think about your institution when they move into the consideration stage.

2. Provide Information for Students to Consider

About 9 months out from your enrollment deadline, students are moving into the consideration stage. They’re beginning to narrow down the programs and schools that they feel could be the right fit for them. 

At this stage, focus on targeting your prospective student audience with digital campaigns that provide more detail about your offerings. To do this, leverage engaging video advertising to inform students about your institution and programs, and use native ads to drive prospective students to your website with the objective of collecting their information.

3. Leverage Retargeting to Encourage Applications

At about 6 months from your institution’s enrollment deadline, it’s time to encourage students to apply to your programs. Deadlines for applications will be coming up soon, and so this is the perfect moment to nudge prospective students. 

Throughout the consideration stage, prospective students were driven to the institution’s website. You can retarget those visitors, and also you can upload any 1st-party data you collected from the start of the campaign. 

Retargeting campaigns should emphasize a call to action. Encourage students to attend an open house, learn more about pricing, or submit their application. 

4. Drive Enrollments With Personalized Messaging

In the 3 months ahead of your enrollment deadline, it’s time to personalize your campaigns. At this stage of the student journey, prospective students are in decision mode. Your goal at this time isn’t prospecting. Instead, you need to target students with direct messaging and creative. 

Leverage your CRM list to retarget with highly-personalized ad creative. Use interactive ad formats to capture the attention of prospective students, and use creative tactics to personalize even further. 

Creative tactics allow you to set parameters on a campaign to use specific creatives under defined circumstances, without having to create a separate campaign for each rule. For example, you could set the parameters to show different creatives based on the time of day, day of the week, device type, geo, and even by domain. 

Student Journey Maps For Higher Education Marketing

With programmatic advertising, every ad space you purchase is targeted towards a receptive audience, so you are more likely to see a greater return on investment. 

When you use student journey mapping to guide your digital efforts, it’s easier to get across an authentic message that resonates with Gen Z high schoolers, online students, and continuing education students—all looking forward to their higher education future.

With the right programmatic partner, you can incorporate programmatic into your media mix with confidence and make the grade for your institution.

Want to run exceptional higher education campaigns? Request a demo to learn more about StackAdapt.

Erin Hynes
Erin Hynes

Content Marketing Manager


Erin is a content marketer with experience crafting thought-provoking content that drives awareness and supports customer acquisition. She is also a travel writer and podcaster in the tourism space.