Annual Eduventures® Student Sentiment Research Report Examines the Communication Preferences of College-Bound High School Students

Data Highlights the Most Effective Communication Channels to Engage Students at Each Stage of College Search

ACT® | NRCCUA®, an educational data science and research organization, announced today the publication of the Eduventures 2019 Student Sentiment Research Report. The annual report explores the key areas of college search behavior and communication preferences to help higher education enrollment officers create more effective outreach strategies. The report is designed as a complement to the Eduventures Prospective Student Survey™, the nation’s largest college market segmentation and institutional identity study, and the Eduventures Survey of Admitted Students™, which examines how students make enrollment decisions and helps institutions improve yield.

With an estimated 3.7 million high school seniors and nearly 4,000 institutions that offer degree-granting, post-secondary programs, the college search process resembles a maze rather than a straight-forward path. How do students and schools find each other through all the marketing noise? How do they stay engaged? And perhaps most importantly, where do students look for guidance to make their enrollment decisions?

The Eduventures 2019 Student Sentiment Research Report monitors the college search behaviors and communication preferences of these Gen Z students from initial discovery to the enrollment decision. It identifies the most effective communication channels based on student preferences for each stage of the process.

Key Research Findings Include:

1. Based on students’ ratings for generating awareness, the three highest impact information sources are: 

  • Emails from the school (62%)
  • Word of mouth from family and friends (57%)
  • School websites (46%)

2. After students have identified schools of interest and get closer to decisions about where to apply, high-touch engagement, such as campus visits and one-on-one communication with admissions counselors, becomes much more important. The top information sources at this phase include:

  • Campus tours, open houses (63%)
  • College websites (52%)
  • Emails from the college (41%)

3. With a focus on getting students on campus, the top three information sources in the enrollment decision are:

  • Campus tours, open houses (65%)
  • College websites (44%)
  • Emails from the college (38%)

4. Students have different approaches to the college search process. Eduventures has identified four distinct ways students gather information about colleges, called “Search Strategies.” The four Search Strategies are:

  • The Phone is My Friend (13%): Students who use this search strategy seek interactions with institutional stakeholders. These students put a great deal of trust in the information they can glean from faculty, current students and alumni, and administrators at schools they are considering.
  • Friends and Family (30%): Students who use this search strategy trust word-of-mouth perspectives from family and friends more than any other information source.
  • Stealth, All Channels (20%): Students who use this search strategy trust information sources that do not require reciprocation (i.e., emails from schools, postcards, brochures, or print guides to colleges.)
  • Websites and Emails (37%): Students who use this search strategy primarily trust the information they gather through institutional websites and from institutional emails. They also rely more often on search engines than their peers.

“As the Student Sentiment Research Report results show, it takes hard, long-term work and collaboration between the admissions and marketing teams to move a prospective student from initial awareness about a school to enrollment. Each stage in the college search process requires a different outreach strategy that fits within the students’ search behaviors at the particular stage,” said Johanna Trovato, Senior Analyst and primary author of this study.

As generations change and traditional undergraduate student recruiting becomes more complex, a “one-size-fits-all” marketing strategy is not sufficient. This report highlights an outreach strategy that will help institutions attract, engage, and convert their best-fit students.


Now part of ACT, The National Research Center for College and University Admissions™ is an educational data science and research organization serving over 1,900-member institutions comprised of public and private colleges and universities across the nation. Since 1972, NRCCUA has been a leading provider of data, technology, and programs serving students, high school educators, colleges and universities from its offices in Lee’s Summit, MO, Boston, MA, New York, NY, and Austin, TX. These solutions represent the link between students making important life decisions and those providing the resources and information they need to succeed in their post-secondary educations and careers. With the launch of Encoura™ Data Lab, the company now combines data science, advanced analytics, Eduventures research, predictive modeling and omnichannel enrollment services in one platform to enable institutions to make real-time strategic and operational decisions to meet their unique enrollment goals and create the highest probability of student success. For more information, visit

Members of the media who would like to speak to the author of this report or obtain a copy of the report can contact Ellen Slaby at [email protected].

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Each stage in the college search process requires a different outreach strategy that fits within the students’ search behaviors at the particular stage.