By Andrea Ferguson, President of HBCUgrow partner AndiSites Inc.
The good news is that enrollment is increasing at some HBCUs. The reasons, however, are far from ideal. More than ever, it’s important that HBCUs present themselves as spaces that aren’t just more comfortable for students who feel uncertain about other institutions, but as places they would choose regardless. Among other strengths and offerings, your HBCU’s website must communicate your unique story, academic and professional opportunities, and accomplishments and awards so that potential students know what sets you apart.
Your HBCU is special for many reasons–define those, and focus on that story throughout your website. Use dramatic, recent photos to show off your campus. Include images of actual students engaged in classes and campus activities to help prospective students picture themselves at your school. Feature real stories from faculty, students, and alumni on department pages to highlight personal experiences at your HBCU.
TIP: Pair large photos with bite-size chunks of text for maximum readability and mobile-friendliness.
Academic and Professional Opportunities
Every college website talks about high-quality teaching and academic focus, but what makes your HBCU different? List courses of study on your website, but be specific about the unique programs that will attract potential students to your school. Post articles that highlight unique teaching methods, and interview students who benefit from them. List internship opportunities that will link your students to the professional world before graduation.
TIP: Include a website section that identifies specific jobs at specific companies where your students have been hired, to show students and parents that their investment in your HBCU will pay off.
Accomplishments and Awards
Rankings and “Top 10” lists are great recruitment tools, but they aren’t the only accomplishments that matter to potential students. Promote stories about awards won by your HBCU community for teaching, research, volunteerism, community involvement, or athletic achievement. Recognize students and faculty who have made a difference with their work. Prominently display testimonials on your home page from people whose lives have been made better by your HBCU.
TIP: Embed video of high-profile presentations given by your HBCU leaders, such as this TedXAugusta talk by Dr. Elwood L. Robinson:
- Your website is a primary marketing tool and arguably the easiest way to attract and engage potential students, so take advantage of its flexibility and reach.
- Update your website often with current news, photos, videos, and other engaging, shareable content.
- Paint a visual picture for your students so that they can identify with you.
- Use stories and testimonials to show pride in who you are, where you’re going, and what you’ve accomplished.