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Best Practices in Graduate Student Recruiting and Marketing

This report presents best practices in graduate student recruitment and marketing and provides case studies to illustrate best practices in action. The report is organized according to the following two sections:

  • Section I: Best Practices in Graduate Student Recruitment provides an overview of outreach and marketing strategies for graduate student recruitment based on qualitative and quantitative studies, as well as expert insight and commentary. In addition to a broad review of graduate recruitment practices, the section examines specific emerging strategies, including strategic enrollment management, social media marketing, and e‐marketing.
  • Section II: Institutional Profiles includes profiles  of graduate student recruiting strategies at four large graduate institutions:
    • University of Texas at Austin
    • University of Georgia
    • University of Alabama
    • University of Oklahoma


  • Findings from studies across the last decade indicate that the majority of institutions regard recruitment, admissions and enrollment management as a pressing issue and technology is a frequently acknowledged solution. A 2012 survey revealed that assistantships, phone contacts, and search engine optimization are thought to be highly effective strategies among graduate student recruiters at public institutions. Many of these studies capture impressions from university deans, admissions professionals, or faculty, and a small number capture opinions from prospective students.
  • Experts recommend reforming current recruitment structures and approaches at graduate schools to reflect operations found within undergraduate admissions departments and the business world. A 2012 article stated that, unlike undergraduate admissions, graduate recruitment is often not handled with an optimal level of direction, efficiency, and precision, resulting in a much more irregular and unpredictable process. Brian Niles, the CEO of TargetX stated that the best tools to increase engagement of “best‐fit prospects” are technology and student data. Niles promotes “a change in culture where Higher Ed realizes that ‘sales’ is not a dirty word and admissions offices need to be run like a business.”
  • The use of social media is an increasingly popular strategy of graduate student marketing. Many sources including news reports and university recruiting toolkits indicate the engaging and influential potential of a deliberate and thoughtful social media campaign for increasing graduate student enrollment. Although social media use is high, one recent survey indicated that graduate schools remain skeptical of its effectiveness: social media was ranked as the third‐least effective marketing practice among public graduate institutions.
  • Institutions profiled in this report generally follow best practice recommendations for graduate student recruitment. For example, each profiled institution appears to take advantage of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, though the impact of these strategies on student recruitment is unclear. Furthermore, in response to declining enrollments, the University of Alabama has restructured its graduate recruitment efforts to include a renewed focus on the effective use of technology in recruitment processes.

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