Basics of Higher Ed Copywriting

image by Baranq via Adobe Stock

Content marketing is proven to get more inbound inquiries from prospective students. But how do you turn those prospects into enrolled students? Learn how copywriting can help you achieve your enrollment goals.

As you know, I’m a real fan of content marketing.

Crafting engaging content that answers the pressing questions of your target audiences is one of the best ways to move from an outbound marketing model to an inbound marketing model.

The outbound model relies on your efforts to find and run down prospective students.

Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing

With the outbound model, you’ve got to find where they are, reach out to them one-by-one, and persuade them to enroll.

There’s a place for these kinds of marketing tactics, but if outbound strategies are all that you do, you’ll end up burning out.

Eventually, you’ll outrun your team’s ability to identify, approach, and persuade enough prospective students to reach your enrollment goals.

That’s why using engaging content to attract inbound inquiries from interested prospective students will save your energy, money, and… your sanity.

So once you’ve got your content marketing campaigns running, and they’re producing subscribers and a qualified list of prospective students, how do you get them to apply and make their deposits?

This is where good copywriting comes in.

Copywriting is the science and art of writing text that persuades the reader to perform a desired action.

That text can be as short as one word or as long as a 2,000 word brochure.

The difference between content and copy is that copy is written entirely for the purpose of persuading your reader to take the desired action.

Writing Copy that Converts

Engaging content like white papers, infographics, video testimonials, and blog posts attract your target audience to your marketing channels.

Copywriting is how you persuade your subscribers to become deposited students.

So how do you write solid copy that converts readers into deposited students, subscribers, donors, or advocates?

Know your audience.

The most important job of the copywriter is not writing.

It’s research.

Researching your target audience will arm your imagination with all you need to know about them to write compelling copy.

There are three categories of marketing persona information you should keep in mind during the audience research stage.

  1. Demographics
  2. Occupational data
  3. Psychographics

Demographic Data

Demographics are the quick info that gives you the environment in which your target audience lives.

This kind of information includes their age, ethnicity, where they live, nationality, etc.

The key idea here is to think through how these environmental factors affect your target audience’s needs and desires.

Occupational Data

Normally, this kind of information has to do with how and where your target audience works.

But since our target audience is a student, we need to calibrate this part of our research to their families.

  • In what industry do they work? White collar or blue collar?
  • Are they first-generation college students?
  • What is their family’s annual income?

Understanding the work situation of your students’ families will help immensely to write copy that addresses their fears and their desires for the future.

Psychographic Data

Psychographics is information on the psychology of your target audience.

How do they think? How do they feel?

This might be the most important kind of information you need in order to write effective higher ed copy.

We’ll cover this more in the next section about writing emotively.

Write emotively.

This is where I see a lot of higher ed marketing copy go wrong — it’s not written with emotion. Most professionals working at a college or university tend to write like you would in college. This writing is great at communicating information, but it’s short on emotion and storytelling.

This is a problem. Why?

Because people choose their school for emotional reasons.

It’s true that prospective students and their families are vetting school options through a grid of logical reasons.

  1. Academic reputation
  2. Graduate employment rate
  3. Financial aid availability
  4. Affordability
  5. Class size
  6. Program availability

But students are looking at each of these factors through an emotional lens.

For example, getting into a prestigious college means the enrolling student will feel confident about his or her job prospects post-graduation.

Going to an affordable college means the student feels secure financially.

Smaller class sizes means the student feels important rather than being just a number in the crowd.

These decisions are based on feelings of desire and worry.

The student and their families want to feel secure, important, and confident about the future.

They fear wasting years of their life and thousands of dollars they may or may not have.

Of course, every feeling they have — negative and positive — has to be rationalized through calculations of cost and return.

Successful higher ed copywriting speaks to the desires and the fears of the prospect in emotive language.

Higher ed copywriting should use emotive language such as “secure,” “confident,” “intimate,” “belong,” and “fulfilled.”

These are just suggestions, but the point is to use words that spark emotions in the reader.

To get yourself in the right mindset to write emotively, here is a list of questions I recommend you ask yourself before you sit down to write.

  • What is keeping my prospective student up at night with worry?
  • What do they dream of accomplishing with their life?
  • Who are the most important people to them as they make their education decisions?
  • How do they see the process of choosing a school, major, or career? Exciting? Weighty? Or worse… Terrifying?
  • What are they afraid of messing up along the way?
  • What could they lose by getting this decision wrong?
  • What do they have to gain by making the right education decision?
  • What makes them feel like they can’t achieve their educational goals? Finances? Poor academic performance? Confusion around the college process?

Going Back to the Basics

Pretty much every year on the blog, I write something about higher education copy.

Why? Because it’s hard to keep things simple.

It takes more time to think through these questions and write draft after draft until you get to the copy that will compel the reader to take action.

Copywriting is one of the basic skills in your marketing arsenal.

While there are a thousand techniques and “rules” that we could lay out here, the main idea is to write emotively, simply, and persuasively with a clear call to action.

Every course description, every department or program page needs these elements in the copy.

This way, you’ll keep moving the reader to do something that brings you closer to your education marketing goals.

For more help to boost your education marketing results, contact us today!

Looking for Enrollment Marketing Content that Works?

You’re in luck! We’ve curated 25 awesome ideas inspired by top higher ed institutions across the country and put them in one handy guide: 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content.

In this popular resource from Caylor Solutions, you’ll get…

  • 25 enrollment marketing content ideas you might never have considered before
  • Guidance on how to use each one for best results
  • Brief discussion on why they work to help you sell these ideas to your team

Get inspired.
Get enrollment results.
Get 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content.
Download your copy today!

Featured image by Baranq via Adobe Stock

This post was originally published at:




President & Founder Caylor Solutions Husband. Dad. Learner. Thinker. Branding, Marketing, Problem Solver for Education. Apostle's Creed. #highered #marketing

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Brand Yourself…

GoPro — UGC Conqueror

How to Do On-Page SEO for Blog Post: A Complete Guide

How to Do On-Page SEO for Blog Post: A Complete Guide

Ask an Expert: How to Invest in your nonprofit marketing message and see results

Covid continues to disrupt basically every aspect of our lives, and Cowart can see the rethinking of charitable giving occurring in real-time. Charitable giving has moved from “I’ve been giving to this nonprofit for 50 years so I’ll give for another 50 years,” towards, “My family has been giving to this charity for 50 years, but why? I think we’ll support a different nonprofit that aligns more with our family values and what we like to do now.”

User Onboarding Practices

12 Apps & Websites to Manage Your Social Media Efficiently

How to Maximize Your Organic Reach on Facebook

Developing Social Media Tactics | How to Rise Above the Noise

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Bart Caylor

Bart Caylor

President & Founder Caylor Solutions Husband. Dad. Learner. Thinker. Branding, Marketing, Problem Solver for Education. Apostle's Creed. #highered #marketing

More from Medium

Your marketing world will be more powerful with the basic concept of marketing.

Traditional marketing and Digital marketing fundamentals

What an About Us Page Says About You

How to Tell if You’ve Hired a Good Business Coach

13 Copywriting Tips to Write a Strong Call to Action