#INTERIORDESIGNSTUDENTS #BESTSCHOOLEVER: Using the Internet to Recruit Students

Presented by: Dana Moody, Jill Weitz, Jessica Etheredge, Catherine Kendall, Tonya Miller

The Internet has emerged as the single most important tool in college recruiting (Pegoraro & Stick, 2006). Prospective undergraduates find traditional college marketing tools, including college viewbooks, letters, postcards, phone calls, and videos, old and outdated (Pegoraro & Stick, 2006). As concerns for enrollment and retention heighten, universities cannot afford to alienate prospective students by not taking this trend seriously (Erickson, Trerise, Lee, VanLooy, Knowlton, & Bruyere, 2013). Websites and social media are tools that institutions must now use to effectively recruit students. Prospective students are exploring social media to learn the culture of specific universities (Greenwood, 2012). In addition, today’s students often decide which university to attend based on their interaction with university websites (Pratt, Alfonso, & Rogers, 2014). Interior design programs and other highly visual, creative majors must be particularly sensitive to this new paradigm. A study by Crumpton & Moody (2013) confirmed that many interior design students are choosing where to go to school based on their interaction with the interior design program’s web pages. The purpose of this study was to explore ways to effectively recruit potential interior design students through website design and social media. This study received 148 responses from incoming 1st-year interior design students at 14 universities across the United States regarding website design. Each student reviewed 4 randomly generated interior design websites from a list of 10 participating programs that volunteered to be part of the study. Each website was rated on ease of navigation, web page layouts, images, student culture, and diversity, as well as an overall rating for the website. Students were also asked if each website would make a potential interior design student want to attend the reviewed program. Of those students surveyed, 68% felt that a university’s website design is either very or extremely important when deciding which school to attend. They believe websites should be a priority for universities when marketing their Interior Design programs to prospective students. Responses also revealed that the design of each website reflected the professionalism of the program and abilities of the programs’ faculty members. Survey participants cited their desire for more photos, more examples of student work, less generic imagery, more color and fewer lists. Students indicated that the websites would make a potential interior design student want to attend the participating universities 68% of the time. In an effort to take this study a step further, the researchers also interviewed advertising professionals for insight on how to reach potential college students through social networking sites. It was determined that Instagram was the most popular social media site for potential college students, therefore an Instagram account was created to test the possibilities of outreach. Images with strategically chosen hashtags were posted to reach a larger population of potential students. This effort led to a quick international following from, not only potential students, but designers and design manufacturers. An official hashtag was created to direct current students in posting images to the site, giving the follower insight into the real life of an interior design student. Far reaching implications directly linked to recruiting are still to be determined, but a survey of 37 entering freshman revealed that those who followed the Instagram account as a potential student were influenced by its content when deciding where to study Interior Design. In conclusion, this study revealed perceptions of 10 interior design program websites and explored social media’s outreach. The findings of this study form a guide for all interior design programs as they create recruiting strategies.

References:

  • Crumpton, A. & Moody, D. (2014). Students come and students go: Results of a multi-year study of attracting and retaining ID students. New Orleans, LA: Interior Design Educators Council International Conference
  • Erickson, W., Trerise, S., Lee, C., VanLooy, S., Knowlton, S., Bruyere, S. (2013). The accessibility and usability of college websites: Is your website presenting barriers to potential students? Community College Journal of Research and Practice, v37 n11 p864-876.
  • Greenwood, G. (2012, Summer). Examining the presence of social media on university web sites. Journal of College Admissions. (216) 24-28.
  • Pegoraro, A., and Stick, S. (2006). Using university websites for student recruitment: A study of Canadian university home pages examining relationship marketing tactics and website usability (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from ABI/INFORM Complete. (5196710083)
  • Pratt, A., Alfonso, J.D., and Rogers, G. (2014). Digital, social, mobile: The 2014 social admissions report. Retrieved from http://www.uversity.com/downloads/presentations/2014-Social-Admissions-Report-Webinar.pdf