Everything You Need To Know About Higher Education Email Marketing

Everything You Need To Know About Higher Education Email Marketing
27 September, 2022 • ... • 1408 views
Eunice Laguesma
by Eunice Laguesma

Educational institutions have long benefited from marketing strategies to promote their courses and services. Some of the most popular methods of marketing for these institutions include branding, face-to-face school promotions, and even brochures.

However, with society’s shift to digital media, email marketing has seen a continuous rise in use and benefits. Now, just how can colleges and universities benefit from this? Read on to learn everything you need to know about email marketing for educational institutions.

What is email marketing for educational institutions?

Email marketing for educational institutions can come in multiple forms — course announcement emails, newsletters, event invitations, and the like. These emails are an effective way of connecting with current students and potential enrollees. Through emails, colleges and universities can send valuable information to their audience.

The importance of email marketing is further emphasized due to the current makeup of the student demographic – Gen Z or “zoomers.” This generation is well known for their dependence on technology, thus making email marketing an effective and cost-effective way to reach them.

With that in mind, emails can be a great stepping stone to building more meaningful relationships with the current and prospective student body.

The benefits of implementing higher education email marketing

Many benefits come with promoting your college or institution through email. Email continues to be one of the most popular forms of digital communication, with emails relating to education showing higher than average engagement rates.

According to Campaign Monitor, emails in the education industry have an open rate of 28.5% compared to an average of 21.5%. With emails, your institution can have a great deal of interaction and exposure.

In addition, higher education email marketing comes with the following benefits:

High ROI

In general, email marketing provides excellent ROI. According to 2022 statistics, for each $1 spent on email marketing, you are expected to receive $36 back.

However, in the education industry, ROIs aren’t just measured by financial returns. It can also be measured by high enrollment and retention rates, student satisfaction, involvement, and student academic and extra-curricular achievements.

With that, think of email marketing as a high-quality investment that will deliver all these things to you by means of improving the overall quality of service. Think of email marketing as a high-quality investment that will enable you to grow financially as well as improve the overall quality of service.

It promotes your institution

At the very least, email marketing can promote your institution to attract more enrollees. Nothing quite beats the reach of email marketing. It outperforms social media by up to 40 times in terms of customer acquisition which can spell terrific news for your admissions.

Check out this email from Texas Lutheran University promoting their Nursing course, for instance:

Nursing course promotional campaign from Texas Lutheran University

Campaigns can inform current and prospective students of your institution’s programs, benefits, and scholarships. When done right, email marketing can get your college or university’s name out there for more people to see. The greater the exposure, the higher your odds of getting more enrollees for the next school term.

You can also use emails to promote any vacancies in your institution. In turn, your institution will have a higher chance of finding competent educators and employees to add to your roster.

Higher student retention rate

Effective higher educational marketing not only aims to get new students to sign up for enrollment, but also impel current students to stay. This is achieved by providing relevant information to students regarding their classes and school clubs, activities, and events they may like.

Students are more likely to continue studying in the same institution when their interests, be it academic or extracurricular, are taken into consideration. They are also more likely to stay when they are supported and involved.

Communicating all of these through your campaigns can guarantee higher student retention rates as well as a higher enrollment rate.

Increased student involvement in extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities improve the student experience and performance. However, not everyone knows what they are and how to sign up for them. Not all students have time to stand by the school’s notice or bulletin board to browse through all the programs.

This is where your email campaigns come in. Using information you have previously collected from your students, you can utilize email tools to customize campaigns promoting extracurricular activities that suit their specific interests. 

These campaigns will not only allow them to browse the activities on their own time, but the personalizations that come from segmentation will also filter which activities are most relevant to them, thus increasing their chances of signing up and getting involved. 

You can also promote school-wide activities to keep your students up-to-date on the institution’s latest events, thus increasing awareness and potential involvement.

For example, check out this email from Deakin University that features information on courses, events, and other activities:

Informational email from Deakin University

Internal pipelines automation

One of the most incredible benefits you can get out of higher education email marketing is automation.

A great email marketing provider will not only make it easy to construct and design emails but also allows you to send your emails automatically. This saves you money, time, and effort instead of having a team painstakingly send individual emails to every email address on your mailing list.

Having an automated email system can also allow faculty members to reach students easier. An email system allows them a means to connect to their students and communicate any messages related to their schedule, their classes, coursework, and the like.

Automation can also come in handy when engaging with prospective enrollees to get them excited about attending your university. This can be done through strategies like lead nurturing emails.

How to develop an email marketing campaign for an education facility

The steps to building a potentially successful higher education email marketing campaign remain similar to the steps you would take for other promotional campaigns.

Here are the steps and best things to keep in mind for building your educational facility’s marketing campaign.

Build an email list

First, you need to build an email list of your potential audiences. This can be composed of current students, prospective enrollees, alums, and other members of your institution.

Collecting emails for these lists can be done in various ways, such as:

  • Asking for emails in exchange for program information brochures
  • Entrance exam enlistments
  • Collecting emails upon enrollment
  • Institution website pop-ups
  • Student portal sign-ups
  • Newsletter sign-ups
Newsletter sign-up page for the University of Newcastle

Side tip: Make sure that all the emails on your list have expressed consent to receiving emails from the institution to ensure deliverability and avoid your emails getting marked as spam. 

Segment your audience

Segmenting your audience means grouping your recipients into categories based on various characteristics. This ensures that everyone on your list only receives relevant emails, thus increasing your chances of potential interaction.

In this case, you can group your subscribers by:

  • Year level (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors)
  • Affiliations or clubs (varsity, speech club, debate club, etc.)
  • Status (currently enrolled, returnees, alumni)

Think about it: the seniors will probably not benefit from welcome brochures catered to first-year students. Similarly, first-year students wouldn’t be interested in the graduation fees and ceremonies of the seniors.

Here’s an email from the Arizona State University addressed specifically to senior year students:

Email from the Arizona State University

Craft suitable yet catchy subject lines

Gen Z, which makes up most of the current student population, tends to have shorter attention spans. While millennials and other generations may give you a 12-second window to grab their attention, zoomers typically give you around 8 seconds.

Subject lines along with email preview text are often likened to first impressions. It will be the first thing they see from your email, and for many, it will be the only thing they see.

This, plus the added fact that Gen Z tends to have shorter attention spans, makes it crucial that you construct an attention-grabbing subject line that communicates the primary purpose of your email.

You can go with something like:

  • Don’t miss out on this year’s most exciting fundraiser!” – for events
  • Tips to make the most out of your freshman year at University name.” – for school year guides
  • Don’t forget! Your ECON 305 class starts in 10 minutes!” – for alerts

Personalize your communications

In email marketing, people tend to engage more when their emails are personalized, this is why this trick is often used in some of the best email marketing campaigns. In fact, according to Campaign Monitor, just personalizing the subject line already increases the likelihood that your email will be opened by 26%.

Personalization can be as simple as using your recipient’s name in the subject line or content. It’s more than just good email etiquette, you can even take this strategy further and include content tailored to their interests, classes, and year level. For example, you could send them newsletters containing the latest updates on their clubs and organizations.

Email from deakin University

Create an email copy

An email copy is like a script. It is a pre-written message sent to a broad audience that promotes your institution’s events, services, and the like. 

A well-written email copy contains engaging content that keeps your readers informed and encourages them to interact with your campaign. While it may not have the same intimate impact as a personally typewritten email, it does save you a lot of time and effort while guaranteeing great results.

Take a look at this example of a good email copy:

Email from Charles Sturt University
The copy is slightly personalized, divided into easily digestible bits and has clear calls to action

Add a compelling CTA

If applicable, you can also place an enticing call to action (CTA) in your email to encourage recipients to interact with your campaign.

CTAs are prompts, usually in the form of hyperlinked text or buttons, that redirect readers to a particular website. It can also serve as an extremely helpful guide for readers to know how they can act on your email’s content.

Some examples of CTAs you can use in your email include:

  • “Click the link to enroll now!”
  • “Reserve your slot now!”
  • “Sign up now!”

Utilizing CTAs not only drives up email interaction rates but also allows you to drive traffic to specific web pages.

Check out this example of an email with a prominent and relevant CTA from Columbia University:

Email with CTA from Columbia University

The email above from Columbia University uses a “Join Us” CTA to  encourage readers to provide financial support to the institution. This CTA is simple, strategically placed, and simplifies the beginning of their commitment. 

Test and optimize your messages

Lastly, test your campaigns to gauge their performance before sending them out to everyone. This allows you to identify minor details and phrases that can be improved, thus allowing you to make any necessary changes.

To achieve this, you can make use of the A/B method of testing. You make two versions of the same email and send them to two sets of random people on your email list. Whichever version performs better will then be the final version you send out to everyone else.

By testing your email, you’ll be able to release the best possible version of your campaign to a broader audience. As a result, you also increase your chances of engagement.


To summarize everything we can take away from this article:

  • Higher education email marketing enables you to advertise to a broader audience of potential enrollees.
  • Effective campaigns can boost student retention, increase enrollment, and enrollees, and drive engagement in extracurricular activities.
  • Keep your target audience in mind when constructing your campaign and customize your content accordingly.
  • Keep your content short, relevant, and interesting to keep your recipients  interested and engaged.

Developing a reliable email marketing system will not only equip your institution with the necessary tools to survive in this digital age. It also allows your college or university to adapt and grow to continue to accommodate an ever-evolving student population.


All images are credited to Really Good Emails.

27 September, 2022
Article by
Eunice Laguesma
I am a Medical Scientist, by day. But before all that, I fell in love with writing. Like many others reading our blogs, I also managed my own small but successful online businesses. So, I married my passion for the written word and my experience in building online businesses and partnered with Selzy to help small businesses build the most out of their marketing campaigns.
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