5 Incentives You Should Highlight to Attract Students

incentives for higher ed marketing

You have a prestigious university with a renowned reputation. Even without incentives, students should want to apply and enroll. But the higher education landscape is very competitive. You need a marketing strategy to attract students that highlights how your school is different and better. And in your marketing collateral, you need to use incentives that will get prospects’ attention.

Here are five incentives you can push in your paid media efforts that will help attract students to your university:

Application Fee Waivers Are a First Step with Students

Start small.

Don’t ever let an application fee be the reason a potential student doesn’t apply. Waive the application fee outright or waive it if they apply by a certain deadline. This is an easy way to lower the gates and get someone to fill out a Request for Information form or a full application at no cost.

Your school doesn’t have any application fee? Great! Say that it’s been waived to all applicants.

GRE/GMAT Waivers for Graduate Programs

If you’re trying to attract students to your graduate programs and you’re willing to waive tests like the GRE and GMAT, highlight this in your advertising campaigns and on your website. The GRE and GMAT are often barriers to people considering going back to school after a long period of time away. If your school’s admissions team has determined that it is not always necessary or has waivers for certain quality candidates, make sure to get this message upfront to prospective students. In fact, including lines like “No GRE/GMAT Required” in ads on Google and Facebook has been shown to increase conversion rates dramatically.

Offer Scholarship Opportunities to Qualified Students

Scholarships are one of the most powerful tools to get students to apply. These days, the average student is researching multiple schools at the same time and each school needs to stand out as it gets vetted through a side-by-side cost-benefit analysis by every student. Scholarships are a surefire way to set yourself apart. Here are a few to consider:

  • Guaranteed scholarship
    • Upon acceptance, students are guaranteed this scholarship
  • Meritocratic scholarship
    • Students receive financial assistance based on the quality of their application
  • Military benefits
    • VA programs like the Yellow Ribbon Program and others offer benefits exclusive to current and former military and their families

These and other scholarships can be presented on marketing channels in standalone fashion or in conjunction with others. More than that, scholarships can also be distributed across various deadlines—incentivizing students to apply to early or priority submit deadlines.

Highlight Trips, Immersions, and Other Special Perks of the Program

Do you have an immersion learning experience as part of your program? If your school has, say, a trip to study in Spain to work with a partner Fortune 500 company—this is something you definitely want to highlight.

Trips, travel, and more, are all incentives that can help push your school over the top in the eyes of potential applicants. Keep things on-brand as you raise the excitement of your program and push to get students to apply.

Consider Tuition Reimbursement for Students with Jobs

If your school is closely connected to businesses, inform and remind applicants about the potential for employer tuition reimbursement. This can either be specially tailored to applicants from these companies or more generally as a reminder to ‘ask your employer’ if you potentially qualify for this type of financial incentive.


Sometimes students need a little reminder or incentive to help them make the final leap to choose your school and program. More than that, these incentives can be crucial differentiating messages that can improve all areas of your marketing, from paid media to email. Interested in learning how you can incorporate your unique incentives into a cohesive marketing plan? Contact the higher education marketing experts at ESM Digital today.


-Sam Silverman