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Encouraging prospective students to choose UCL: How is it done?

By Guest Blogger, on 26 March 2019

In this guest blog, UCL Student Recruitment Marketing’s Maral Dadourian provides an insight into how the team works to convince prospective students from around the world to make UCL their first choice institution 

Spring has well and truly sprung; the days are lengthening, and it also marks the season in the recruitment cycle when most offers are being made. This puts students back in the driving seat of the process, weighing up our offer against our competitors’. This is when we move into ‘conversion’ mode. Our job now is to convince prospective students that UCL should be their first choice.

In-person recruitment activity continues through May, which means that there are opportunities to meet offer-holders in person at dedicated information sessions, through individual counselling and at fairs in the UK and abroad.

Virtual events 

UCL’s adoption of new platforms means that we have been able to extend our reach to many more offer-holders through virtual events. In the past, we have held webinars using Adobe Connect, but we have recently moved to a platform called Ivent.

Ivent gives us the scope to give live and mock-live presentations, show videos and hold question and answer sessions with live input from staff and students. Registration for and attendance of virtual events will be recorded in our CRM. An added benefit is that it allows you to link directly from a webinar to your faculty’s virtual ‘stand’.  A stand in Ivent can include live and offline chat, general information, links to noteworthy web pages and documents, YouTube videos, 360-degree tours, social media accounts, meetings and more. Ultimately, the aim is to hold UCL-wide virtual open days, where the stands in Ivent resemble the stands in the Cloisters and the webinars resemble the programme of talks at a real-life open day.

Crucially, virtual events are an excellent opportunity to give a voice to our current students, which is something offer-holders really value. They get to hear first-hand about the experience of studying at UCL and living in London. For some offer-holders this extra information will be the clincher – enabling them to see themselves at UCL and feel confident that it is the best place for them.

Student involvement 

Student Recruitment Marketing is currently running a series of in-country offer holder events and when we are not able to be there in person, we run virtual events.  At this stage in the process offer-holders are looking for insights into the practical experiences of current students, and questions often address topics such as accommodation, cost of living, settling in and living in London. Some will already be thinking about careers and will demonstrate a keen interest in timetables and internships.

Student involvement is essential and wherever possible, events are student-led with minimal staff involvement. The involvement of current students from specific countries often leads to participants sharing contact details and creating their own UCL offer-holder communities, which means that these students arrive with a ready-made network that cuts across year groups and Faculties.

Timing it right 

Offer-holder events for specific programmes, departments and faculties are equally important and it is often down to the information provided in these events where students select UCL over our competitors.  They touch on the broader experience, but generally focus on the programmes themselves, providing detailed information about programme content, research opportunities and academic support. Much of this information is available online, but the opportunity to speak to UCL staff and students directly helps to bring this information into sharper focus.

Faculties can use Ivent to run their own events, and most have already used the platform.  If you are interested in holding a virtual event you should start here.

When looking at conversion activity, timing is important.  For undergraduates there is a clear timetable by which university decisions are made and applicants must make their final choices. At graduate level the process lasts much longer. We need to ensure that we aim for the ‘sweet spot’ – the point at which enough offers have been made, but not so late that the offer-holder has made a final decision. Timely decisions are important in making sure we hit the sweet spot as often as possible.

If you would like more information about our conversion activity, please contact: Maral Dadourian, Liaison and Recruitment Manager.

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