Digital marketing and recruitment campaigns are one of the single most important ways to track campaign effectiveness and ROI on advertising buys. Because of this, colleges and universities have less face time with prospects because prospective students have begun to shift their preference for college information gathering to a computer screen or mobile device. Although this shift can seem challenging when looking at a colleges’ existing recruitment efforts, creating an online user experience that allows prospects to engage and ask questions will shift how colleges convert prospects and measure campaign effectiveness.

Whether recruitment campaigns drive prospects to a landing page or website, all roads should lead to a simple request for information form (RIF) that allows them to express their interest and provide you with the information needed to take them along the enrollment process at your institution.

Today’s college student works multiple jobs and possibly cares for their family, and they are often overwhelmed by the thought of college before they even start the application process. The research and discovery phase of choosing a college can be daunting, especially if the student starts on the college’s home page. For those unfamiliar with higher education and the enrollment process, they don’t even know where to look to find the answers they need to make a decision on college. Filling out a RIF allows them to quickly express interest and connect with someone who can help answer questions or ease concerns.

The best RIF forms are displayed prominently on the college’s website, making it easy for prospects to know what to do next and remind them that your institution is the place for them. In this same vein of thought, the form should only require the prospect to input the most important information. A lengthy questionnaire will likely frustrate them and discourage them from submitting the form.

For example, the program of interest, desired level of degree and anticipated start date can help recruiters and admissions teams send information that is specific to the prospect’s goals. There may also be fields that will help the student data systems create the prospect’s profile, such as birth date.

Many professionals in the Admissions or Advising departments push to make all fields required so a robust prospect profile can be built, but that could deter students from starting the process. As long as the RIF collects the basic information needed to keep the student on the path to enrollment – which can vary depending on the system – the “nice to haves” should be collected during the points of contact when recruiting students. It is important that this process is as simple as possible for the prospect to complete, as it is one of the many small milestones they will encounter on their educational journey.

Once the RIF is completed, there should be a plan in place to respond in a personal and timely matter, ensuring that the content is relevant at the time the prospect receives it. Before the form is live for prospects to see, there should be a process review discussion in which departments agree on the submission process and follow-up responsibilities for interacting with prospects. This process can be automated through the use of a CRM or manually monitored by a designated department, but it’s paramount that it happens.

Many community college prospects may already be nervous and have doubt about applying to college. A RIF may be a prospect’s first interaction with your college and also the first step in making the decision to choose your institution.