Colleges and universities are amazing places of growth and learning, but they’re also businesses. To keep helping students, schools need to hit their bottom line — and that comes from student tuition.

Today, students have more options than ever for post-secondary education, so competition is fierce. To bring in a healthy flow of students and dollars, you need a super-effective recruitment strategy!

Choosing your college is a huge decision. That’s why students want to feel connected with the campus where they’ll be spending four years of their lives, and confident they made the right choice. As a marketer, you want to build up a strong, positive image of your school, so new grads can envision themselves there.

Video can be intimidating if you’ve never worked with it before — even if you’re a veteran marketer. But it doesn’t need to be that way! Video is an amazing tool for college and university recruitment, and today, creating it is more accessible than ever.

Keep reading — we’ll explain why video is so great for college recruitment, and how to execute it well. Then, we’ll break down the best types of college recruitment videos.

Why use videos for student recruitment?

Put yourself in a student’s shoes. Imagine you’ve got ten information packets from a variety of colleges, all full of information about the amazing profs, beautiful campuses, and delicious meal programs they offer. All that paper has been sitting around your room for a while, but you’re so busy with work and school that you haven’t had time to sit down and read through it all.

Now, picture this: you’re scrolling through Instagram and see a targeted video shared by your dream school. It features someone your age sharing their experience, and you watch them walking across that beautiful campus, hanging out in the cafeteria, and connecting with their profs.

Which of these scenarios do you think is more likely to make an impression?

Video has the power to immediately grab the viewer’s attention, and engage their emotions to tell a story. Instead of just telling potential students how great your school is, video gives you a chance to show them.

In fact, videos are even more important to college recruitment than other marketing campaigns. That’s because of who you’re trying to reach. People entering college are mostly younger Millennials and Gen Z — true digital natives who spend most of their time online. This is a demographic that already spends hours every day consuming video via YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and many other platforms.

And the events of 2020 influenced these trends even further. Right now, many students aren’t even able to visit the campuses where they might be moving into residence. So what could be more useful — and effective — than a dynamic storytelling video?

The challenges of creating great recruitment videos

We know how powerful video is, but sometimes it’s hard for college marketing teams to embrace it. Marketers may see video as time-consuming, expensive, or challenging, and worry that their idea isn’t good enough to make investing those resources worth it.

Summing up the culture of an entire education institution in one short video does sound like a big task — and what if the college’s many departments all have different recruitment needs?

The good news is that there are solutions for all these problems. If you’re feeling this way, you aren’t alone. For many marketers, video feels like one more thing to add to a budget and workload that’s already stretched thin.

That’s why new tools have been created to make video marketing easy, accessible, and even fun (we promise)! With easy-to-use online video makers like PlayPlay, your marketing and PR teams can get involved and create videos themselves that look great that live up to your college’s high standards.

There’s no need to hire expensive professional editors and video crews unless it’s in your budget. Even creating multiple videos for different departments is within reach. After all, you likely want to market your International Relations program quite differently than Early Childhood Education.

But what makes a college recruitment video great? Let’s find out!

Best practices for college recruitment videos

Great video comes down to a clear and compelling story. No matter how well-produced your video is, if you don’t know what you’re trying to say, you won’t get the results you want. So before you start, hone in on your message and make sure you understand the purpose of your video.

Of course, your message should start with what sets your school apart and makes it special , but it doesn’t stop there. Is this a general brand-building video, a campus tour, or something else? Find examples in the list of recruitment videos at the end of this section.

Once you know your message, it’s all about inspiring, engaging, and relatable content. Younger audiences value authenticity, and they’ll stop paying attention if a video is slow, boring, or overly promotional. If you feature real students and faculty, create a general, flexible script but allow them to speak in their own words — awkward, scripted-sounding dialogue will have viewers tuning out.

Use the highest-quality footage you can. Students will be spending a lot of money to attend your institution, so you need to put your best foot forward. But great video is accessible whatever your budget — with a few affordable accessories, you can even get professional-looking footage from an iPhone!

Complement your footage with upbeat music, and good overall audio quality. Add subtitles where appropriate — not only does it make your video accessible to the hearing-impaired, but it means it can be enjoyed even if the viewer’s phone is on mute.

Always finish your video with a call to action. Even if it’s as general as an invitation to visit the college website, you want to inspire viewers, then leave them with a logical next step.

Now, let’s check out some of the best types of college recruitment videos and get inspired!

‘Day in the life’ student videos

COVID day(s)-in-the-life of a Harvard College First-Year

NYU Snapchat Tour

These vlog-like videos help students envision daily life at their new college. Millennial and Gen Z viewers are used to this casual style of video, and they’re perfect for social media.

In the example above, NYU even let students take over their Snapchat to share their campus lives!

AMAs/livestreams with faculty

Racial justice livestream from Harvard

This is a great, engaging way to show off your staff and faculty’s expertise. Imagine giving potential students the chance to ask your professors direct questions about the topics they’re most excited about — maybe even subjects they could major in one day!

Campus Tours

NYU Campus Tour

U Chicago Virtual visit

Quality of education comes first, but the reality is that students care about the campus where they’ll be spending so much time. These videos show students around in a real-time, authentic way, and they’ll only become more important in a post-pandemic reality.

Student and alumni testimonials

Step Up Your Career with Penn Foster

NYU: Alumni at work

What a powerful way to prove the value of your education! In this type of video, students and alumni share their experiences at your school, and talk about the difference it made in their lives. You can feature current students talking about their educational journey, or grads who can show the impact their education had on their career.

You can feature a single, in-depth interview, as NYU did above, or cut together several testimonials into a single compelling video. Because social proof is a key element of marketing psychology, this is a very powerful type of video for driving enrollment.

History, facts, and ‘did you know’ videos

Cornell: Glorious to View

Becoming Stanford: The Making of an American University (1999)

If your school has a storied history, why not build credibility by emphasizing it? These videos can feature historically significant alumni, the history of your institution, or even the history of your campus!

However you go about it, the goal is to show potential students you have a world-class reputation.

Event recaps and teasers

Columbia Welcomes JAY-Z on Campus to Launch a New Lecture Series

Convocation 2019 Recap: Washington University

Event teasers and recaps give viewers a little taste of the fun, lively energy of campus life.

Whether it’s the pride of a graduation ceremony, a weekly campus roundup, or even welcoming a celebrity guest (as Columbia did above), event videos get potential students excited about your culture.

Creative commercials

University of Oregon — Explore the power of "if"

Boston College | Special Delivery | Class of 2022

These brand-building videos push the limits of what a recruitment video can be. With original concepts, great production value, and creative art direction, these commercials sum up what a college or university is all about. While these videos tend to be very well-produced, creating them yourself is still within reach.

Think about the special feeling or on-campus atmosphere that sets your school apart from any other. How can you capture that in a beautiful, interesting video?

College recruitment and video: a perfect match

As these videos have made clear, there’s no one right way to make a college recruitment video. How you approach video depends on your goals, your budget, and your school’s priorities — but no matter what, there’s a type of video that’s perfect for your college recruitment campaign.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked in video marketing before. With the tools available today, any marketer can create exciting, authentic recruitment videos that tell their story and get students excited.

With a little creativity and willingness to try new things, you’ll have an amazing college recruitment video ready in no time.