4 ways to automate student outreach with email


State funding for higher education is $9 billion lower than it was before the 2008 recession. Translation: resources are limited. Finding ways to automate tasks is essential in order to maximize productivity while still giving educators and administrators the time to focus on what's most important: the student experience. 

One way to get started with automating repetitive but important workflows? Email. 95% of high school students report a willingness to open emails from colleges on their lists, and email can be used to engage students before, during, and after their tenure at your school. By automating the process, you and your team can focus on the *human* side of higher ed.

Whether you use email for admissions recruitment, the application process, post-admission onboarding, or alumni relations, we have some simple and effective ways to automate your email workflow using app automation tool, Zapier.

When you pair Emma with Zapier, you can do things like automatically following up with personalized messages to students who meet certain criteria. And you don't need to be tech savvy to get it done. Codeless automations called "Zaps" are simple for anyone to build. We've included quickstart templates throughout this post so you can get started with one click.


1. Collect recruitment info and automatically segment your list

If you're representing your school at a university fair, you want to be sure you're following up on students who show demonstrated interest. Have a tablet or smartphone at your booth, ready to go with a Formstack form that asks students for specific information about their interests.

After a student submits the form, Zapier can add them to a group in Emma so that you can easily follow up with a targeted email.



By gathering information from prospective students—anything from academic interests to extracurricular involvement to other schools they're applying to—you can cater your follow-up emails to their personal interests. That way, you're more likely to provide information on specific programs that might sway a student's decision, without having to spend hours writing individualized emails to each student. You could even use the data you collect to invite recruits to campus for a special visit or event related to their interests.

Pro tip: With Zapier's education deal, students and educators get six months of free access to Zapier's premium features.


2. Help your admissions team direct and nurture applications

By collecting applications, you end up with mountains of data on each student. The trick to putting all that information to good use and making sure each application gets the attention it deserves is segmentation. However, you segment your applications—by GPA, in-state vs. out-of-state, or anything else—Zapier can automatically filter the applications and distribute them to the right place.

You can choose to have applications meeting certain criteria saved in a specific cloud storage folder, logged in a spreadsheet, or emailed to particular recruiters so they can prioritize outreach. Or create an automation that subscribes stand-out applicants to a designated list in Emma to build a list of high-quality prospects.



3. Engage first-year students as they subscribe to new lists

First-year students often start by subscribing to all of the mailing lists…only to slowly unsubscribe because of inbox overload.

A boost of automation can help you cut through the noise and make sure students stay engaged with your organization. Create a Zap so that whenever a student subscribes to your list, their information is logged in a spreadsheet that you can share with your team. Then, depending on their availability, any team member can initiate automated contact with that student by simply adding their name to the spreadsheet row. That way, an individualized message will automatically be sent to the student from the team member’s email account, giving the interaction a personal touch.



If you can foster a personal relationship with a new subscriber, you’re more likely to reduce churn and boost student engagement. Plus, once you get to know each student, you'll be able to better segment your lists for future campaigns.


4. Keep alumni engaged with special events and activities 

Engaging young alumni is the first step toward fostering a lifelong commitment to giving. By catering your email campaigns to graduates' specific interests and demographics, you'll be more likely to have high attendance rates at alumni events—and hopefully an increase in alumni donations.

Plus, when event attendees register in your event management app, Zapier can create an event in Emma that will trigger a series of emails to ask for their feedback or inform them of related events in the future.


Wrapping it up 

These are just a few of the ways you can quickly and effectively use automation to maximize your impact and reduce the amount of time spent processing student and alumni data.

By automating your email outreach, you ensure your email campaigns are relevant and personalized, making students more likely to open them. That means they get the information you're sending their way and you get the data you need to be more impactful moving forward. And of course, you save precious time and resources.

Learn more about these and other ways to automate higher education by registering for the upcoming webinar with Emma and Formstack on Thursday, June 14th: "Building Seamless Engagement from Admissions to Alumni Relations."

About the Author

Cate Blouke earned her PhD from UT Austin and has spent most of her career in higher education and journalism. She's is a jack-of-all-trades sort of writer: from arts criticism to email marketing to food blogging.

More Content by Cate Blouke

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