Marketing Strategies to Attract College Students

College students do work on lawn

In the competitive landscape of higher education, universities and colleges are intensifying their marketing strategies to draw in prospective students. Leveraging school spirit, coupled with the distribution of promotional items and giveaways, can significantly improve and expedite the recruitment journey. Achieving success often involves initiating marketing efforts to students well before they start the application process, sometimes as early as their high school years, and maintaining engagement through the acceptance phase.

Stages of College Student Recruitment

Engaging prospective students for your university or college starts during their high school years. Utilizing branding through wearable items and tech gadgets grabs students’ attention and plays a pivotal role in influencing their decision to apply.

Interest and Attraction

At the very beginning, it’s essential for students to feel a sense of belonging to your institution. Local colleges and universities find themselves in competition with larger, out-of-state alternatives. Through social media and captivating websites, students can get a glimpse of campus life and feel a part of it. Additionally, blogs, newsletters, and guides provide valuable insights on topics such as “what to expect during the application process” or “determining if college is the right choice for me.”

By this stage, potential students have engaged with your institution and regard it as a credible source of information. They may have already initiated contact in exchange for resources provided during the attraction phase, such as subscribing to your newsletter or providing their email for a guide on evaluating colleges. With direct communication established, the focus shifts to further engaging them with detailed information about how your school caters to students like them. Your content should now focus on your institutional offerings, continuing to add value by addressing specific questions they might have about your institution.

Direct mail campaigns employ variable printing, personalize each message with the student’s name, and effectively engage by discussing programs and sharing experiences of current or past students. This approach serves as an ideal content asset for this phase of engagement. Promotional assets like lanyards, pens, hats, phone cases, or letter openers are great to send out to the potential students you are attracted to showcase that your institution is interested in giving or providing to them rather than talking at them or taking from them. Inviting students to tour campus is another excellent way to engage them and showcase what your institution offers without pressuring them to commit.


College students exploring a campus

Congratulations! You’ve successfully encouraged a prospective student to visit your campus. If your college or university is participating in a recruitment event, college fair, or orientation, it’s crucial to have college promotional items on hand. These items serve a triple purpose: they attract attention, fulfill a need, and enhance visibility through their use. A prime example is providing a tote bag for carrying the promotional items you distribute.

Once you’ve equipped a prospective student with a tote for their swag, this item becomes a walking billboard at the event and in various social settings, such as shopping, traveling, and outdoor activities. The broad exposure makes college promotional items an exceptionally effective advertising strategy.

For your next recruitment event, whether at a high school or on your campus, here are additional items we suggest you bring along.

  • Charging cables/pads: Young people now have more devices than ever and always need a cable to charge them.
  • T-shirts: An oldie but a goodie. Wearing a brand gives you a sense of pride. You see this at the NFL draft, where players are handed their first jersey when they’re selected. The same can be translated to the academic industry.
  • Lanyards: Take a look at your current student body. Do they all carry their keys and IDs in their lanyards? If that is part of your campus culture, invite prospective students to join it by offering free lanyards.
  • Hot and Cold Tumbler: Students will be burning the midnight oil during the late hours of studying, early hours of attending classes, and all other times out and about enjoying independence. A tumbler that keeps their drinks hot or cold for the hours they need will become a must-have you’ll see in their hand daily.


Applying to colleges and universities can be stressful for students and their families. To keep the engagement and connection strong, acknowledge the receipt of the application and send a thank you letter and a gift in the mail, such as a pen or lanyard.


Girl reading her college acceptance letter and celebrating

School spirit starts with this gesture, transforming students into brand ambassadors who advocate for your institution. College promotional items do more than welcome students; they immediately foster a sense of pride and equip them with the resources they need to feel fully embraced and enthusiastic about their upcoming adventure. The most effective welcome for new students combines guidance on navigating their new environment—alleviating their eager apprehension—with thoughtful gifts that make them feel valued and included.

Branded materials that provide them with information on offices, support services, campus maps, and how to use online tools are excellent materials to share with incoming first-year students. Beyond printed resources, students should be showered in college swag from their new school to lock in their loyalty and pride and offer them a way to assimilate into their new community by repping their school’s colors, mascot, and name!

Highlighting the Role of Marketing Materials in Higher Education

Prospective students face a wealth of options in their search for the right college or university, from online institutions to international study programs abroad. Effective marketing and branding strategies are crucial for attracting students in this competitive landscape. Consistent messaging, branded materials, and promotional items ensure your institution remains prominent within the community. Moreover, enthusiastic and satisfied incoming first-year students serve as brand ambassadors, championing your institution through their visible excitement, often without saying a word.

Recruitment Strategy Can Never Start Too Early!

Velocity Print’s custom promotional products for colleges will help you get the right look and message to prospective students. Contact us to speak with a print or promotional products specialist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *