College Website – What Every Effective Site Should Look Like
The demand for students between colleges and universities has never been more competitive. With a generation of potential students that have been brought up in the computer age, the importance of an effective website has never been more important. A large majority of the initial school searches by graduating high school students are online. So, colleges and universities need to know how to compete in the digital age. Students want to get a feel for an institution online before they schedule a trip to visit a school in person. Making sure that your college website increases conversion rate is vital in keeping enrollment numbers building.
Universities and colleges need to think of their website design the same way that any other business owner does to drive customers to invest in their product. To really connect with potential students, schools need to know their audience and give them what they are looking for. University website design can be a complex process. A quality user experience becomes as important as being able to digitally convey all that a school has to offer. To help make the recruitment process easier and save time as well as money, every college website should have an element of each of the following factors.
Effective College Website – Images
It’s much easier to make a lasting impact on your website users by using images rather than long-winded text content. Younger users are more likely to become interested and engaged based on photos that they see. The images can show your campus, classrooms, and activities than in any other way. By using thoughtful photos on your webpage you are taking advantage of an opportunity to give the user a visual representation of everything that your school has to offer.
Web designers should be conscious of what photos get posted on the college website. Too many sports photos could put emphasis on team activities rather than academics. Each photo that you post should be conveying a simple message. Try to incorporate photos of life on your campus along with what you have to offer new students.
About Us Page
Your About Page is your chance to really give students an in-depth look at what your school is about. It’s not enough to just list a dry history of the school and a physical address. This space is a chance to really sell what you have to offer. The About Us page content should give students an overall look at what they can expect from your school, from daily life and itineraries to alumni successes and innovative projects. You can even add a video for greater effect.
Effective College Website – Easy To Navigate
Students that will be graduating from high school have spent their entire academic career using computers. There is no one more tech-savvy than this generation of teenagers as they spend hours each day using apps and websites. That being said, your site needs to be easy to navigate from one section to another. Students can spot a poorly put together site better than anyone and will quickly lose interest if the navigation and presentation are sloppy.
A clear list of programs, housing facilities, funding opportunities, and campus life should all be clearly listed in your menu options. Prospective students want to be able to tour your site the same way that they would tour your campus.
Job Placement Information
One of the main factors that students consider when choosing a school is the success they have had with post-graduation job placement. It’s fine to offer a first-class education, but if there are no future or career assistance programs to offer, students may look somewhere else. Having a section that focuses on the success of your alumni is a great idea. Let new students see what kind of projects and careers some of your recent graduates are enjoying as an example of why your school is a good choice.
Effective College Website – Application Links
If a student has enjoyed your site and had an easy time finding the information that they want about your school, your page is not complete without a link to your application. A simple link to the application itself should have a clear mark for students to follow. A Help Page can be useful for students who aren’t sure how to start their application and can be added easily by your web designers. Helpful tips and a list of requirements should also be listed as companion files to the main application.
Net Price Calculator
The number one consideration when deciding where to attend college is the price tag. Students that don’t have the benefit of relying on scholarship dollars will need to carefully budget to be able to fulfill their higher educational dreams. A Net Price Calculator will help students to calculate how much they will need to pay out of pocket for expenses including tuition, books, and housing.
A comprehensive Net Price Calculator will give students an idea of what the overall costs for college will be and whether they will need to apply for financial aid. Keep in mind that the calculator is just a base cost and does not include all the expenses that will be faced. A reminder to consider other things like transportation, a new laptop for your studies, food, and entertainment is a helpful sidebar to this section on your page.
Virtual & Onsite Tour Information
Students are highly unlikely to commit to a school that they haven’t visited in person. Touring a campus can help to give a true idea of the lifestyle and feel of a campus. It is often the results of an onsite tour that will be the decision-maker for students. Your site should have links to information about how to schedule a tour, how long a tour lasts, what will be featured on the tour and accommodations for overnight guests.
For students that are interested in attending your school from another state, a virtual tour can be a helpful recruitment tool. It’s not exactly the same as an onsite visit, but it can help to inform candidates about what to expect in a real-time experience. A professional video can be posted on your site that gives students a detailed look at your school. Teaching facilities, dorm life, exciting projects, library tours, and even sporting events should be featured in your virtual tour.
Social Media Links
Every school should have formal accounts set up on all of the most popular and most used social networks. Easy to find links to your Facebook page, your Instagram account, and your Twitter feed should be on your webpage. A list of hashtags can also be useful to include in this section on your college website. Students that are interested in your school can use this information to browse your posts and get involved in what is happening on your campus before they even fill out their application.
Effective College Website – Q&A
There are so many things to consider when choosing a college, students usually have a lot of questions. It’s a good idea to have a section on your webpage that is dedicated to answering the most asked questions from students. Some examples of issues to deal with might be:
- What is the cost of on-campus housing?
- How many majors does your school offer?
- When was your school founded?
- Who are your most famous alumni?
- Is public transportation to the campus readily available?
- Do you have a career center?
- How important are sporting activities?
- What kind of student support do you have?
You can also include some Fast Facts in this section for reference. Things like quick school history, number of registered students, a list of majors offered and student demographics are all important facts to include. This will help give students a quick reference guide to the basic statistics of your school.
Student / Faculty Ratio
Posting the number of staff to student ratio is an important piece of information to provide for students. What is even more important is that you qualify how you have calculated the ratio. For example, are you including only full-time staff or are graduate student teachers and part-time staff also in your numbers? Your student/faculty ratio will be greatly dependent on whether you are a more instructive or research-centered school.
Research and publication-focused schools will often have high numbers of staff which would suggest a low ratio. The reality may be that many staff members spend the majority of their time doing research. It is important that students know what to expect from their instructional experience. Will they be taking class theatres with hundreds of students or will there be more intimate lectures with one on one opportunities?
Financial Aid Information
With over 85% of all students needing to apply for financial aid, it’s important that the information about your school’s student aid programs be clearly listed on your college website. Include a list of the grants available for students and clear links for students to follow if they would like to apply. A clear list of financial aid qualifications is a helpful tool for students. Once a prospect knows how much aid they may receive, they will have a clearer picture of whether they can manage the rest of the costs.
Study Abroad Opportunities
As the world comes closer together than ever before thanks to the online world and ease of travel, students are more interested in getting in some travel experience during their college careers. If your school has programs that allow students to travel and study at foreign institutions it should be included in your webpage. Outline what courses are there, what schools are featured abroad and the length of each study section.
Students face all kinds of challenges, especially during their first year of study. It’s important to feature your student health program on your college website. It will let candidates know that they will be in good hands once they leave home. Medical clinics, doctors, workout centers, and student counseling should all be outlined in this section. It’s not only the “Freshman 15” that students will deal with once they hit the campus. Mental health issues like stress, anxiety, and depression often plague students. Knowing that there is on-campus support may make the difference when it’s time to narrow down their school choices.
Your college website should have a focus on drawing in the interest of the next generation of students for your campus. The more clear and concise information that you can provide, the better students are able to make tough decisions about where they will end up attending college. Take advantage of your website platform. Use it as a digital tour guide for guests that are considering making your school their alma mater.