Insights from the Latest College Enrollment Cycle

As we transition into the yield phase of the college enrollment cycle, Zozimus EVP of Digital Marketing & Analytics, David Wilson, has reflected on our observations from the recruitment of the class of 2028 over the past couple of months.

As background, Zozimus collaborates with a diverse range of clients in Higher Education, from College Admissions Consultants to colleges aiming to attract both undergraduate and graduate students. Our unique position grants us valuable insights into the current trends influencing college enrollment.

Major Factors Affecting College Admissions

Beyond the challenges of the Enrollment Cliff, colleges face the mounting cost of higher education. With some schools in Boston now charging over $90,000 annually and Vanderbilt University surpassing $100,000, many high school students are reevaluating the financial feasibility of attending college. Despite the growing use of tuition discounts by many universities, media focus on full tuition costs is shaping students’ decisions. This shift in mindset has led to what people are calling the “toolbelt generation.”

The “toolbelt generation” encompasses Gen Z individuals leaning towards skilled trades like welding, plumbing, and construction over traditional four-year degrees. Furthermore, the emphasis on industry certifications rather than bachelor’s degrees as entry-level requirements is prompting students and families to reconsider their educational paths.

Read WSJ article: “How Gen Z is becoming the Tool Belt Generation,” published April 1, 2024.

Additionally, updates to the FAFSA program, including enrollment forms and aid decisions, are anticipated to influence this enrollment cycle’s yield.

The combination of the Enrollment Cliff and the emergence of the toolbelt generation has reduced the pool of high school candidates available to colleges, increasing the cost and effort required for recruitment compared to a year ago.

(Source: Nathan Grawe, Professor of Economics at Carlton College, “Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education”)

Effective Strategies Today

We’re proud to report another successful year with record-breaking client inquiries and application deposits. How did we achieve this?


Understanding the Student

We invest significant effort in collaborating with schools to identify their ideal student profiles. Leveraging data science and our unique predictive modeling approach called “Zoz Predict,” we create lookalike audiences of these profiles to target our messaging effectively across the most relevant channels.

Collaboration with marketing and admissions teams is crucial for maintaining lead quality. Ensuring that inquiries align with a school’s offerings is vital for successful outcomes.


Emphasizing Outcomes

While the trend towards outcome-focused messaging began during COVID, it continues to yield the best results in advertising, particularly on Search and Social platforms. Combining data-driven targeting with outcome-oriented content has made Google search our top-performing channel for inquiries and applications.


The Power of Social Media

TikTok stands out as the most effective social media platform for engaging high school students, while Meta remains the preferred choice for reaching parents. Content showcasing campus life, daily experiences, and dormitory tours resonates well with prospective students. For graduate students, long-form content on LinkedIn and Instagram, focusing on faculty or student experiences, attracts those considering advanced degrees.


Engaging Parents/Guardians

Parents and guardians are often overlooked in the recruitment process, despite their emotional and financial investment in their child’s education. Tailoring marketing efforts to this group can make a significant difference in decision-making. What we have found however is that most parents/guardians are not prepared to help their oldest child make one of the biggest decisions of their lives. We have more on this topic here.


Unique Approach for Graduate Programs

Unlike undergraduate marketing, which focuses a lot on the school and/or the outcomes of the major, the best way to market the graduate programs is to focus on the individual graduate programs themselves. Going deeper into each program has yielded the best results. Aligning advertising with landing pages, providing relevant information, and minimizing distractions improves conversion rates and lowers costs per click.


Holistic Marketing Approach

A successful enrollment campaign requires a multi-channel strategy. We achieve the best results when we seamlessly integrate with a school’s admissions and marketing teams, aligning search, social media, SEO, email, and out-of-home advertising efforts.

David Wilson

EVP of Digital Marketing & Analytics

David has more than 20 years working in digital marketing, covering in-house for a variety of companies, agencies and running his own digital marketing company. He has worked on Fortune 500 clients in the Pharmaceutical , CPG, Financial Services, and Healthcare verticals.

David brings a passion for proven results to the Zozimus digital marketing team. When asked what he likes about his job, David says that “every day his team has metrics that they are trying to hit for clients. At midnight the scoreboard gets set back to zero and we either hit our goals or we didn’t.”


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At Zozimus, it’s important to us that we achieve great results, while still maintaining authenticity and thorough strategy for your brand. Our team is committed to working hard to make your dreams come true, while not taking ourselves too seriously in the process. We’re ready to dive into your next campaign together.