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How graduate students are finding you, the Power of Personalization, and how Merit America builds a learner-centered web experience

How graduate students are finding you, the Power of Personalization, and how Merit America builds a learner-centered web experience
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At Halda, we interact with students from over 150 schools. Now we’re turning our connections into research. Our in-house data insights are in bold.

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How students are finding you entering 2024


90% of graduate student prospects report first hearing about grad programs through either organic channels or word-of-mouth. Here’s the breakdown:


-41% Internet Search

-24% Friends & Family

-16% Social Media

-9% Alumni/Students

-4% Other

-3% Online Forums

-3% Paid ads

What this means:


When it comes to a prospect’s grad school search, their own active research plays the biggest role, slotting in above social networks and personal connections.


Harper College Personalized Lead Capture

The good news: Organic traffic is of much higher value. Organic visitors engage with twice as many pages, are 2x-5x more likely to convert into a lead, and are over twice as likely to enroll. However, if a grad prospect leaves your website, there’s a 74% chance they never come back. So it's best to deploy personalization tools, like Harper College did (to the right), to capture that organic traffic.

What does this mean when it comes to digital marketing spend? Look, we’re not trying to indict paid ads. They’re an important awareness piece. But investing in traffic that doesn’t convert is like taking protein powder and not working out: You’re burning fuel without getting any stronger. 


Recommitting some of those resources to maximize the website experience for organic traffic will likely lead to a much more efficient, natural conversion process.

The disproportionate power of personalization


61% of prospective graduate students report that they either rarely (39%) or never (22%) received personalized interactions from a potential school..


52% of prospective graduate students strongly agree that a personalized admissions experience strongly affected where they decided to enroll.


What This Means:


For schools that have embraced a more personalized admissions approach, congratulations, you’re taking advantage of a real inefficiency in the enrollment management market. 


Student Feedback Snapshot

It doesn’t take a data analyst to see that if 52% of prospects place a high value on personal interaction and only 39% feel like they're getting it,  the schools providing a personal touch are gaining more than their fair share of prospects. We even recently started compiling student feedback to see what prospects think of in-the-moment personalized answers. To the right you'll see a snapshot of our feedback over the last 2 weeks.

Our user data suggests that what students want most is to get their serious concerns addressed fast. They have a lot of anxiety over moving forward with a relationship they don't know will come to fruition. Answering questions about scholarships, financial aid, and eligibility helps them feel better about giving their time and effort.

Hear from a peer: How Merit America meets learners in their moment

Merit America, a non-profit that specializes in intensive career training, strives to create a personal experience for their future learners.


Cody Ortiz, marketing coordinator at Merit America, has worked with Halda for months with some of the best results in our history. Here are a couple fundamentals he lives by:


Start communication with empathy: Quickly answer those top-of-mind questions about time commitment, technology requirements, and financial considerations so learners can find out fast if your school is worth their time.


Target and vary your communication: Use a combination of slideouts, modals, and different methods to target specific URLs with optimized personalization. He also times those interactions to pop when his prospects are most likely to convert.


Test, test, test!: Cody worked with us on a trial basis, then explored other engagement options before ultimately deciding Halda was the best path. Then, since using Halda, he’s tweaked and tailored his tools based on his intimate knowledge of his educational product and the moment his potential learners are in.

To learn more about Cody's strategies and results, see the full Merit America Case Study.

Nearly half of all college students use generative AI

Another newsletter, another revelation about young people using AI...


The latest survey on student AI usage, conducted by Tyton Partners, reveals that, as of Fall 2023, 49% of college students are using generative AI tools. That's a significant bump from this past spring, when the same survey found that only 27% of college students claimed they used AI writing tools.


Academia will opine on what this means for intellectual integrity and career preparedness, but that’s not really our thing. We’re more concerned about its practical applications for student recruitment. And the prospects are exciting.


What this means is that nearly half of students are building real trust in generative AI. They’re learning how to interact meaningfully with AI, how AI can support their own learning, and the limits of what they can expect.


As enrollment teams turn to AI to help scale their personalized interactions with prospects, students’ previous experience with AI tools makes those interactions more credible and comfortable. Their experience also helps build reasonable expectations so that prospects can get a better sense of when to pivot to a human-led interaction.

ChatGPT keeps making your job easier

For those of us who haven’t already shelled out the $20/month for GPT-4, OpenAI is doing their best to convince us with data insight and content wizardry. This week they rolled out a full, multi-modal ChatGPT experience that incorporates data analysis, integrated tools, image generation, and–of course–generative AI.


It can also now read and extract data from more file formats, including PDFs. What does that mean for enrollment professionals? Incredible data visualization. If you’ve ever worked in a CRM, or even a program like Tableau, you know that data visualizations are hard to build. Now, with GPT-4, it’s as easy as:


1. Upload your data in as a pdf, screenshot, or other file format

2. Have ChatGPT analyze it and provide insights

3. Tell ChatGPT to create compelling visualizations.

4. Download those data graphics.


It might need some prompting here and there, but this first attempt to truly integrate all ChatGPT’s tools into one platform is pretty special, and can accelerate some previously painstaking processes.

Thanks for checking in and stay tuned for more data and AI Insights! If you want to sign up for our newsletter to land in your inbox, sign up here! If you want keep reading, check out our last issue here.

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