Students might be wondering how to get into grad school, but you have to wonder how to get those students. You know the best college recruitment strategies, but you need more; you want to really stand out. Get creative and you will get better results. Since every other school will advertise in the same few ways, if you provide something a little bit more unusual, you will stand out.

In this article, we will go over enrollment stats and trends, look at several original ideas for increasing enrollment, and take a look at specific demographics you might want to target – as well as how to get those students. We’ll also look at what to generally do and avoid, so you have a bit of an “unofficial guide” to come up with more original ideas, or to tailor our ideas to fit your school’s needs exactly.

Note: If you are a university, business, or student organization representative and want to partner with us, visit our partnerships page.

Article Contents
12 min read

College Enrollment Stats – Trending Up or Down? How to Stand Out – A List of Creative Enrollment Ideas What Kinds of Students Should You Attract and How to Target Those Demographics Getting the Word Out – How to Advertise A General Guide of What to Do and What to Avoid Conclusion FAQs

When you are looking to assemble the best student body for your institution of higher learning, your best results are going to come from looking at creative ways to increase college enrollment. Why? Because you want creative, thoughtful students and creative enrollment methods will connect to those top-tier individuals who will really excel in your program. What’s more, you will stand out like a beacon if everybody else is just going to high school events with a booth representing their post-secondary institution and a few pamphlets. Instead, use our creative college enrollment strategies or discover how university partnerships can help you attract students.

College Enrollment Stats – Trending Up or Down?

The National Student Research Clearinghouse (NSRC) reports that numbers are very much down. Recent years saw the largest drop-off in student enrollment in almost a decade, and that trend continued in subsequent years.

In short: the trend is going down, not up. This suggests that, more than ever, you are going to need to take a look at recruitment tactics and how to increase student enrollment. You could boost your numbers higher and reclaim some of that missing cohort. It’s also more important than ever to make sure the students who are coming to post-secondary educational institutions see yours as a top choice.

Why use creative college enrollment strategies?

  1. College enrollment is trending down
  2. Attract creative, thoughtful students
  3. Increase college student retention

It's important for educational institutions to stand out from the crowd. Which is why BeMo has partnered with colleges and universities to offer the university student benefits program. Students can benefit from coaching from BeMo's certified admissions experts when applying to university and get help with their studies, career planning and professional skill development once they've been accepted. Through this partnership with BeMo, universities can save money and attract more top students.

How to Stand Out – A List of Creative Enrollment Ideas

There are obvious ways to increase student enrollment at college or university, like having desirable courses and helping students with job placements and advancement in their careers. But every institutions knows this – it's common knowledge. To stand out in today’s competitive markets, you might want to try and color outside the lines.

#1: More Art

Campuses can be one of the most attractive things about a college or university. Visiting students – prospective students – will be looking around and evaluating your campus based on many factors, including how easy it is to get around and how friendly it feels. But what about your campus’ looks? The aesthetics will be a factor here, so do all that you can to make your campus interesting to the eye.

If you have venerable, old buildings with ivy on the walls, that’s a start, but why not add some art? This could be a three-dimensional sculpture or murals painting on buildings – depending on the building. Seeing a place where different art forms are represented will be inspiring and interesting.

#2: Classes for Life

A student transitions during their post-secondary life into adulthood, and the prospect of freedom is appealing. But that journey can be scary or disorienting for plenty of students. Depending on their background, they might need more help than others.

Consider setting up some workshops that teach life skills like how to wire a light switch, how to change a tire, and how to set up a basic household schedule for doing laundry. Some people don’t have those basic skills and knowing that there is a way to learn all these useful skills will be appealing to a good subset of students.

Offer them alongside other, more college-specific workshops, like essay workshops for students, or an interview skills workshop for students.

If possible, make the workshops free so that those students who need it can get it.

#3: Student Autonomy

Advertise your student body’s ability to change their environment. Do you have a student senate? How much power do they actually have? While you don’t want to hand over the keys to the school completely, you might attract a large number of students just by offering more power and control to the student body.

How much should you give? However much you can while still reliably running your school. Make sure they’re invited to major decision-making meetings of faculty and staff. Give them a voice, at least, and make sure that you are transparent with them. Include your student body in the discussions that dictate their environment. Students will appreciate being treated as adults and being given the ability to directly affect their world.

#4: Learning Environment Options

Do you have a learn-from-away scheme? Can your students tune in to a class online? In-person learning provides many advantages, but some students might be introverted or have difficulty accessing all areas of campus. If you offer them the ability to do remote learning, when possible, you can access swathes of students who might be drawn to learning in a non-traditional method.

Remote learning allows for more access to students abroad. As international student recruitment strategies go, it can be very effective to offer a student the possibility of attending your institution without needing to worry about travel.

#5: Maximize Accessibility

On that note, figure out anywhere in your school that is difficult for a person to get to, particularly a person with disabilities. Think beyond ramps and elevators for people who have a mobility handicap, but consider how breezy it is for a blind or deaf/mute person to access learning in your institution. In addition to appealing to students with handicaps, you also just make your campus a kinder place.

#6: Faculty Autonomy

Just as students appreciate autonomy and control over their environment, the teaching staff appreciate being able to approach subjects without feeling constrained. How free are your instructors to build their curricula their way?

How could this increase enrollment? If professors and instructors are allowed to hone their courses exactly the way they want or tailor those courses to fit their classes, they stand a better chance of being one of the best classes any given student has ever taken. Most students have a class or two that they don’t like, but if a professor can alter material in a way that the professor knows will benefit a particular class, or allow a unique learning opportunity for a student, then those students will have fewer disliked classes.

Imagine a school with a reputation for having no bad classes. Do you think its enrollment will go up?

#7: Clear Values, Reflected in Learning

Your school has a motto, a mission statement, and a vision statement. Is your statement unique? Does it speak to students? Do your values line up with theirs?

We aren’t suggesting that you change or compromise values to pander to students. What we’re saying is that no matter which value or values you hold highest – knowledge, truth, justice, compassion, and so forth – there are students with whom those virtues will resonate.

Know that, whatever your school’s values are, they line up with a certain number of students’ personally-held beliefs. Shout those values far and wide, because a morally-strong institution will appeal to students. Some students really want to make a difference in the world, but even students who haven’t thought of this will find a strong mission statement appealing. Culture and mission make students feel that they are a part of something larger; they want to try and make a difference in the world, and your values statement can make them want to be a part of your institution.

#8: Value Diverse Thought

This might not be popular to say, and it might be difficult to think about, but have you looked at the represented demographics at your school? Statistically-speaking, most professors are left-leaning or further left-wing on the political spectrum. There’s nothing wrong with that, but have you taken a look at how students are being taught?

More and more, students feel like they are caught up in ideological warfare. Giving a place for students who think differently about issues and subjects than their instructors will be a breath of fresh air.

Let students know that they can come to your college to learn how to think, not what to think. Let them know that they can debate ideas without being penalized. Pushing for free-thinking on campus and in class rooms will be very appealing to a large group of potential students.

#9: Reform Your Admissions Practices

To apply to your school, every student needs to submit a fairly standardized application. Why? People aren’t standardized.

Obviously, some form of uniformity needs to be used to process students and ensure fairness in admissions, but why not come up with some alternate application methods.

Here’s an example: instead of requiring students to submit a written college admissions essay, offer them the choice to record their statement via audio or video.

Another possibility: give students a place on the application to include any supplemental college essays, or material of their choice. Perhaps they would like to submit a painting they’ve done, a song they’ve performed, or some project they’ve built.

Giving students more avenues and options in applications allows them to get creative. You’ll see students shine who might have been buried in a standardized application and you’ll also see more interest from students who are intimidated by forms and documents.

#10: Financial Aid

Inflation, booming housing markets, and constant pressure to succeed make even college-aged people anxious about finances and their ability to even afford university. Let’s ask: what are your financial aid programs like?

Make sure that these are as effective as you can make them. How many scholarships, bursaries, assistance programs, and fiscal incentives can you offer? You should create student funding initiatives and prioritize them in the budget. You don’t need to go bankrupt, of course, but remember that the goal of the institution is first and foremost to provide students with an education, including students who come from underprivileged backgrounds or who just do not have access due to financial stress.

We believe that everybody deserves and equal shot at a great education, and we think you believe that, too. Financial aid is one of the best possible ways to put that belief into action.

#11: Cutting Edge Technology

With technology advancing and becoming more ubiquitous in every aspect of our lives, it becomes more appealing for students to learn in an environment that understands this and has top-tier gear for them to learn on.

Tech can increase a student interest in your school, particularly if you integrate it. It’s one thing to have a slick smart board, it’s another thing to make sure that there are programs and classes that take advantage of tech. Imagine a class where students were encouraged to use their cell phones to interact. Imagine learning apps to streamline the educational processes of your school, and allow students more autonomy and participation.

Keep your tech up-to-date and show your students that you are a 21st century school, and you will attract attention and interest.

What Kinds of Students Should You Attract and How to Target Those Demographics

Highest Grades

Any student with a top-level academic track record will be one that you will want in your student body. High-testing students means financial support for you. Government programs and sponsors reward high scores, so they are of interest to your school on a financial level, as well as just rewarding hard work and intelligence. More sponsorships means more money for financial aid or attracting the best instructors and professors.

Appealing to these students means setting high bars for academic standards. Going off of our admissions reform suggestion, you could offer a specific stream for students who wanted to focus almost purely on academic accomplishment.

Sending the message that grades matter, or that they should understand what are the best extracurriculars for college, will appeal to those with high grades.

Underrepresented Groups

For a long time, but more-so in recent years, academia is has been coming to terms with the fact that certain populations have been underrepresented or excluded entirely from higher learning. How do you correct for this fact and appeal to these students?

First, one of the main concerns for an underrepresented student will be that they will come to an institution that doesn’t understand or appreciate them. Have diverse course offerings and curricula that represent global values and diversity and you will make your institution welcoming.

Second, offering programs for assistance for those who need it can benefit people from underprivileged or marginalized backgrounds. This might mean extra financial programs, or it might mean having a liaison who can specifically speak to these students’ needs.

Finally, increasing diversity in post-secondary institutions starts long before those students are even eligible for matriculation. Have your school start up some local programs to help marginalized communities at the elementary and secondary levels. These programs might include educational assistance or free classes for younger students. Allow admission based on need so that you help students with fewer opportunities available to them.

Make the effort to strengthen your community. Charitable acts today will translate into goodwill tomorrow, and in addition to becoming champions for all people in your community, you will see an increased interest in your altruistic institution, and most importantly, you’ll make your community a better place.

Creative Thinkers

A creative thinker appreciates being free to think. The aforementioned suggestion to allow them an alternate application track will appeal mightily to a creative thinker.

Getting the Word Out – How to Advertise

Of course, none of these changes matter if nobody knows about them. So, what are the best ways to let a potential student know about your institution?

These avenues have not really changed, and advertising is often found online. Your marketing campaign might target social media, streaming services – such as YouTube – or website banner ads.

Avoid pop-up ads because people hate being interrupted like that. You don’t want to annoy potential students.

Your website is going to be an important part of your messaging program.

For creative ways to get the word out, consider these:

  1. Maintain a good presence in your local community. Participate in every major event that you can, whether that’s having a float in a parade or hosting community events. Think of what you can do for your community. If your city and region think of you as a needed and valuable part of their community outside of being an educational institution, they will think of you first when applying to schools.
  2. Develop social media that goes beyond advertising or educational messaging. Do you have a YouTube channel? How about Instagram, Tik-tok? Are you putting any thought into what’s next? Are their up-and-coming social media platforms you could be on first? Maybe use your social media to put out some student films, or videos of professors doing some quick, fun, and fascinating dives into their fields. If people are coming to your channels for entertainment or interesting knowledge, you can advertise while they watch.

A General Guide of What to Do and What to Avoid

Your “true north” for how to calibrate your unique, interesting approaches to recruitment should be to envision a student’s reaction to your ad or enrollment campaign. If they will think of your school favorably, and like it is a place of creativity, original thought, and a place to grow, then you’re doing it right. If they just think you’re weird or trying too hard and needy, you’re pushing too hard. If they think you’re stuck in a rut or stodgy, you’re not trying hard enough or complacent.

Avoid cliches.

Any ads should be direct, informative, and honest.

Remember that you want to add value to the lives of your students. They are looking at different institutions and wondering which one they should pick. Don’t think of your school as place where lucky people get to go, where you are dolling out needed information to people who can't do without you. Rather, ask yourself what students want and show them how you will provide it.


It’s necessary for you to keep your enrollment numbers up and survive; trying a new subset of tactics and strategies is going to help you immensely. These ideas will also help with your best practices for student retention in higher education. You can simultaneously boost your students’ experiences by targeting the right kinds of students for your institution. If they’re right for your school, they’ll love it, tell their friends, and your reputation will further boost your numbers.

The bottom line is that stressing your own school’s quality is a big part of the job, to ensure that your school is well though-of and will be on the peak of the mind in any prospective student.


1. My school’s numbers are actually trending up right now/again, does this still apply to me?

Why not? Let’s say that your school is, counter to the general trend, gaining students instead of losing them. Do you want to keep growing, or become stagnant? Do you want to innovate, or sit back and ignore your practices? It should be obvious that you want to keep your gains, increase on them, and remain at the razor-edge of what you can achieve.

This does come with a minor caveat: if you have methods that are working, don’t throw them out just to experiment. But why not throw a few extra, unique ideas into the mix and see if you can achieve even more than you’re expecting?

2. My school’s numbers are going down, should I be worried?

It depends how precipitously they are falling and their relative fall. If your school is losing students while other schools in your region are gaining, or making far smaller losses than yours, you might have a problem.

Combat this by finding out what is different between the recruitment strategies and messaging between your school and other schools.

3. Is it always beneficial to try the creative approach?

Not always, but it’s worth experimenting with your formulae. If you change things up, you can find out how to improve. Don’t just ask, “Why is this broken?” but ask, “Can this be even better?” Just because your system is working doesn’t mean you can’t improve it. If you are going to improve, don’t you think creative is better than staid?

4. Should I look for students as a whole, or for specific programs?

If you’re an arts school, target arts students. If your school is known for its law program or sciences, go after those groups. You can diversify, and that’s great too, but if you have a high reputation for doing something very well, that’s your “target audience”, so to speak.

5. What if I try something and numbers don’t go up?

Why didn’t they go up? Find out the reasons for changes in numbers and you can find out your next move.

Most of the time, though, if you don’t get the result you want, try something else, or modify what you were doing at least slightly.

6. Should I spend a lot on a marketing campaign?

You can advertise with low cost by using something like a YouTube channel or social media accounts, which require staff to manage, but not direct costs. On the other hand, specific ads can help. If you are spending money on a campaign, spend enough to have a great marketing campaign. You don’t want subpar ads.

7. Is there anything I can do to the website to increase traffic?

SEO optimization is a good thing to learn or perfect.

Make your website clear and easy to navigate.

Give accessibility options. If you have a vision-impaired student, having a button they can push to receive audio navigation might make your institution more appealing just by them clicking on a computer.

People often value tradition, is there any reason for me to avoid changing those traditions just to be creative?

Yes. You don’t want to throw out what makes your institution unique just because you’re trying to increase enrollment. If there are things about your school that are beloved and widely-known – that you are known for – don't get rid of them. Instead, use creative methods to capitalize and highlight them. People like them for a reason – use that.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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Hellen Clarkson

Hi, do you have more blogs like this that have educational workers as the main audience? Keep up the good work.


BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Helen, please review blogs in this category for more interesting material.