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Advertising to Students Online: Must-Know Tips For Higher Education Marketers

advertising to students onlineAs a higher education marketer, you know engaging prospective students is harder than ever. While you may have more opportunities for advertising to students online, this young audience is bombarded by messages all day long.

Standing out from the noise can be challenging, but higher education institutions that successfully reach and establish a connection with prospective students enjoy higher enrollment rates and greater brand recognition.

Here's how to connect with prospective students from Gen Z. 

Which Types of Ads Perform Best When Advertising to Students Online? 

Here are the top five digital ad formats used by colleges and universities for engaging prospective students, according to eMarketer PRO:

1. Facebook Ads

While this demographic may use platforms like Snapchat to interact with friends, Facebook is a powerful channel to connect with prospective students. Facebook ads are the top ad format used by colleges and universities, according to the Ruffalo Noel Levitz E-Expectations Trend Report. Students even say it is the best social media channel for learning more about a school.

2. Display Ads

Eye-catching display ads, including banner ads and videos are a great way to engage prospective students while they're browsing online. High school students are willing to engage and click on college ads. Google, Facebook and YouTube as the top ad platforms, according to the Trend Report.

3. Retargeting Ads

It's no surprise that attention spans are shrinking. Today, marketers have about eight seconds to grab a prospective student's attention before they scroll or click away. A purposefully placed retargeting ad can be the gentle nudge needed to ensure a prospective student takes that next step, or best of all, completes and application.

4. Search Ads

Thirty-one percent of high school students use search engines when they want to find specific information on a college website, according to data from Ruffalo Noel Levitz. Leveraging pay-per-click search ads can ensure you reach prospects when they make these relevant searches. Paid search campaigns also help you reach students further along in their decision-making process when the conversion is more likely to happen. 

5. Instagram Ads

Instagram is the most important social media app for people born between 1996 and 2000, according to a study commissioned by, and the second most important for those born between 2000 and 2004 (behind YouTube). By advertising on this platform, you can reach your target audience in one of the spaces where they spend the most time.

How Can You Make Your Ads Stand Out?

In addition to using the right format and the right platform, you'll also want to make sure your message resonates. Here's how:

  • Provide a personalized experience. Gen Z has grown up in a world of data-driven marketing, so they expect (and want) personalized messaging in advertising.

  • Use personality. Appeal to your audience's emotions, especially their sense of humor. This will ensure a positive brand association.

  • Leverage current students. Younger generations appreciate authenticity and like to hear from people in their own age group. By featuring current students, you can help establish a sense of trust. 

Higher education institutions have plenty of opportunities to reach prospective students online, but it takes special care to make sure your messages reach your target audience. By using these tips, you can ensure your advertising efforts resonate with this digitally savvy generation.

Related Articles

Higher Education Marketing: 3 Tips to Reach Prospective Students

Generation Z: 6 Must-Have Marketing Strategies

Advertising on Facebook: Boosted vs. News Feed Ads


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