A Higher Ed enrollment or an admission funnel is a simple yet impactful tool for marketers to attract more applicants.

The funnel helps you visualize the student journey from the exploring stage to conversion and beyond. The higher education enrollment funnel allows the marketer to collectively work on the admission activities and marketing funnel, to capture the attention of the student at every point.

Student recruitment funnel allows you to get the attention, capture interest and encourage them to complete the admission process. The basic idea is to move students from intention to action.

Having a solid marketing funnel can help you meet your goals. Let’s look at how you can create an effective enrollment marketing funnel to make the student decision journey easier.

What is the Admission Funnel in Higher Education?

The admission funnel in higher education refers to the process of attracting, engaging, and converting prospective students into enrolled students. There are different stages in the admission funnel, and each level plays a significant role in overall performance.

Most importantly, the admission funnel enables a marketer to learn more about their weaknesses and opportunities for improvement to achieve their goals. 

So let’s take a closer at the components of the admission funnel.


Prospects are the students who aren’t engaged yet with your educational institution, but you have included them in your funnel. These students are your prospective buyers who are likely to be captured through enrolment funnel marketing.


Applicants are students who have applied for admissions, prospective buyers who are in between the inquiry, and final applicants.


Students who have completed the admission process are now admitted to your school. Admits are evaluated based on their application and transcripts submitted. Also referred to as the admit rate in the enrollment funnel.


Students who’ve completed the Higher Ed enrollment process and have committed to an institution reserve their space in a program through a financial deposit. Also referred to as yield rate in the enrollment funnel.


These students have completed their admission application and enrollment process with the educational institution, have also attended orientation, and registered for relevant classes/courses.

Mapping the Enrollment Funnel Stages

The enrollment funnel is the customer journey that a student/prospect goes through when deciding whether or not to enroll in a Higher Ed institute.

The enrollment funnel is a visual representation of prospective students’ process before enrolling at an institution. It provides a complete understanding of the thought process that a prospect experiences during decision-making. 

It is divided into the following four stages:


In the initial stage, the prospect becomes aware of the program or institute. But first, you need to grab their attention, craft your message to address prospects, and garner attention through the marketing campaign.


When the prospect wants to learn more about your program/institute. Once you’ve captured a prospect’s attention, you need them to continue through the funnel. They can be achieved through compelling marketing messages that encourage a prospect to start to research further and request more information. 


A stage where prospects’ interest becomes want or need. It is a crucial stage where marketers need to develop an emotional connection with the prospect to move forward in the funnel through brand personality and identity elements.


A stage where the prospect tries to make the purchase and enroll in the program with a school/college. This stage can include downloading a brochure or program outline, subscribing to newsletters, or engaging with chat support online.

1. Top of the Funnel (TOFU)

It refers to the first stage of the customer’s journey and consists of marketing activities focusing on attracting potential prospects. At this point, the marketer focuses on creating a buzz about the program/college and conducts marketing activities.

TOFU helps marketers reach a wide range of prospects through various activities such as:

  • Blogs and landing pages
  • Promotional ads
  • Social media marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • Video Marketing
  • Influencer marketing

TOFU’s key objective is to bring new leads to nurture, provide information and create awareness. It is important to remember that TOFU is not about what you are offering but about prospects’ interests and needs.

2. Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)

It refers to the stage of consideration, where prospects are already thinking about the purchase, and as a marketer, you are directly communicating with them. 

The Middle of the funnel bridges the gap between the top and bottom funnel, a critical stage that takes prospects to the decision point. 

Content that you provide for prospects can significantly impact their decision, and you need to help them strengthen their bond and develop a strong connection.

To make the most out of MOFU, marketers can engage prospects through the following:

  • Email marketing
  • Informative blog posts
  • Webinars and events
  • Customer reviews
  • Customer story
  • Expert guide
  • Solution comparison
  • Podcasts

MOFU’s key objective is establishing engagement and developing a relationship with your captured lead. As the prospects are aware of the offering and showing interest, marketers need to understand their readiness to buy and push them down in the funnel.

3. Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)

This is the last stage in the funnel where quality leads need to convert, which contains the middle of the funnel students completing the admission process. 

Here, the student makes the final decision, and marketers must convince the prospect that this is the best choice.

To highlight the offering, marketers can apply the following tactics:

  • Case studies
  • Infographics
  • Paid advertising
  • Promo codes

BOFU’s key objective is to convert leads into customers. The prospect makes the decision, while you must be strategic in delivering the right message to buy a prospect from your competitor. 

Get persuasive with marketing, make your best offer, make every touch point person, and capitalize on the trust you have developed throughout the funnel.

How to Create Enrollment Funnel for Higher Education

As a higher education enrollment marketer, you must understand that the admission landscape has transformed and become more competitive. 

As a result, the enrollment funnel shrinks as prospects decide to either continue or leave the funnel, eventually providing educational institutions with the right-fit students to enroll.

Let’s explore the steps involved in the enrollment funnel for higher education.

Top of Funnel (TOFU)

Step 1 – Understand your Student Journey for a Successful Lead-Generation Sales Funnel

As a first step, you need to create a roadmap for the prospective student journey to go through the applicant funnel. 

Lead generation strategy for higher Ed must be streamlined and personalized to create awareness and interest among the best prospects.

Step 2 – Recruiter Travel

In the highly competitive market, it has become essential to focus on visitors to lead and narrow them to the admissions recruitment funnel to reach the target. 

Students can be engaged through exhibitions, school fairs, and conferences to strike the right prospect and drive quality leads to nurture.

Step 3 – Traditional Marketing

To realize the full potential of a marketing campaign, higher Ed institutions must combine online and offline channels to drive enrollment. 

Traditional marketing channels include billboards, mail advertisements, newspapers, other print ads, and radio advertisements.

Step 4 – Acquire leads using Digital Marketing Channels

Digital marketing channels can drive tremendous results for higher Ed, enabling them to reach wider prospects in minimum time with maximum efficiency. 

Digital marketing helps you to attract, convert, close, and delight educational institutions to the overall concept of lead generation.

  1. Pay Per Clicks (PPC)

It is an excellent method to generate leads for higher Ed institutions to make the prospects click on their website. PPC allows you to measure and track marketing performance. It boosts online visibility and makes your ad appear on the search engine.

For example, if you search for business schools in Seattle, paid ads can be seen at the top of the search results, used by the school to increase visibility and reach.

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO can help you reach your target prospects by improving the site ranking and providing the information they’re looking for. 

If your website appears on the first page of the search engine, you are likely to generate visitors, but if you’re on the second page, prospects won’t visit your website. 

Google Analytics 4 for higher education can help you track your visitor’s journey to drive the enrolment process. For example, the University of Manchester has a strong SEO strategy that ensures relevant search results appear with recommended search terms for the university.

  1. Social Media Marketing (SMM)

Beyond its larger reach, social media enables two-way communication for schools/colleges to interact and engage prospects on different platforms. 

The most commonly used social media platforms for higher Ed include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube

Also, social media enables educational institutes to promote user-generated content to increase credibility and maintain connections with graduates.

SOURCE: University of London

  1. Content Marketing

Content marketing is another technique that can lead to converting more prospective students into admissions. It helps universities attract, engage and retain prospects to boost enrolment. 

A well-executed content marketing strategy is the best way to share relevant information and educational content to ensure it reaches the prospective student.

Middle of Funnel (MOFU)

Step 5 – Email Marketing Campaigns

Email marketing campaigns act as a rail track for the middle of the funnel enrollment process. It allows you to educate, and engage the prospect with relevant information.

Email marketing at MOFU can include success stories, whitepapers, guides, blogs, and other informative content that can persuade prospective students and optimize their experience.

Step 6 – Nurture Acquired Leads: Answering Queries, Hosting Live AMA Sessions, and Webinars

Organizing live Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions and webinars is a great way to get your audience engaged. These are important components to nurture and acquire leads through engagement, and answering queries and questions. 

As more people are interested in webinars and AMA sessions, it can help you strengthen your relationship with leads, and convert them into sales.

Step 7 – Offering Virtual Tours

Virtual tours have become an increasingly important part of your higher Ed marketing campaign that enables prospective students to offer a clear sense of what the campus looks like. 

Virtual tours make the information interesting, easy to process, aid storytelling, improve visibility, encourage action, and drive conversion.

Step 8 – Push Success Stories

You need to understand that prospects will trust the words of your alumni, and graduates more than any industry expert about your college/university. The information shared with the prospect about the success stories can have a greater influence on converting them into students.

Success stories can be shared in visual, video, or written format, or you can consider a blend of the two. Another effective technique is to promote user-generated content on social media to create high engagement and add a layer of validation.

Step 9 – Send Viewbooks via Direct Mail

Use creativity to set your college/university apart from the others by sending a viewbook via direct mail.

Today viewbooks have become interactive and engaging, as they are shared online, with a clear call-to-action and persuasive content. Turn your prospects’ attention to your website and admission process via viewbooks.

Viewbooks are part of your communication and engagement strategy for outreach to prospective students. Also, you must have print and digital viewbooks, with close attention to content that speaks volumes to prospective students.

Bottom of Funnel (BOFU)

Step 10 – Email Marketing Campaigns

Email marketing is a great way to engage prospective students at the bottom of the funnel. At this point, your prospects have already gained awareness and interest in your college/university program, now you need to create persuasive emails that motivate them to take the action.

The content shared with the students at the BOFU through email can include program details, free trial for online courses, testimonials, and success stories of the alumni. This will aid them in decision making, and convert prospects into enrollments.

For example, Course Hero, a leading Edtech Company, shared an email to upgrade to premium to access better content and work. The focus of this campaign is to make the prospective student click.

Step 11 – Offer Personalized Campus Visits or Night Stays

A personalized campus visit can help your prospect understand the student experience. Once you provide the opportunity to have campus visits and night stays, prospects are better able to connect and explore the campus’s surrounding areas.

For example, the University of Arizona allows prospective students to book a tour, and events by date to attend.

SOURCE: University of Arizona

Step 12 – Offer Career Path Guidance or Consultations

Add depth to the relationship with prospects, and offer them career path guidance and consultation. It can help you add value to their admission process, and assist in making the decision. 

Admission counselors can help students make the right move and set their academic pathways to achieve career goals.

Step 13 – Offer Financial and Counseling

One of the best bottom-of-the-funnel techniques, financial assistance and counseling, can help students make an informed decision. As for more students, it is important to make education affordable and receive financial aid.

Step 14 – Offer Dedicated Academic Support

Students often struggle with academic support, and it is the one thing that they are looking for when searching for college/university admission. 

While many educational institutes may offer a range of services and offerings, dedicated academic support delivers intrinsic value in itself. Academic support counselors can help students make the right decision at this point of the student recruitment funnel.

Step 15 – Offer Ways to Communicate with Existing Students

Solicit student feedback, communication, and first-hand feedback has a greater impact on students at the BOF. It enables prospects to connect with existing students and understand the educational journey they will experience.

Summing Up

As the digital landscape is rapidly evolving and the enrollment process is transforming, Higher Ed needs to create an effective enrollment funnel campaign to acquire quality students. The admission funnel enables you to create a strong recruitment strategy and consistently generate better leads.

A professional Ed tech agency can help you create the perfect enrollment marketing funnel to attract prospects for colleges/universities. It is important to showcase what higher Ed is offering, and that must be effectively planned to reach the right audience, increase retention, and escalate enrollment.