Taking the Secrecy Out of Stealth Applications

By Kristy Laue
  • Education
  • 05.26.17
  • 3 Min Read

We’ve all heard of the social media bystander – someone who’s active on various channels but rarely posts, opting instead to creep on newsfeeds and observe from the sidelines.

What do these “Facebook phantoms” have to do with higher education?


The phenomenon of “stealth students” is on the rise – students who learn about and eventually apply to universities without ever contacting them. With the amount of information now available from a single click, swipe or share, students are completing college searches without traditional inquiries. No requests for info, no campus visits, no admissions phone calls.

So, why are stealth students changing the game for universities?

First, stealth applications can make enrollment projections much more difficult. Where application numbers for a semester might be up, you may find that actual enrollment is down due to the fact that students are applying to dozens of colleges at once.

And with application efforts spread thin among so many schools, students may be less likely to conduct thorough research to make their final decision – like buying a car based on online reviews without ever taking a test drive.

Stealth students also change our idea of the traditional education enrollment funnel. Gone are the days of simple, step-by-step milestones on the road to an application. Instead, we’re learning that this consumer journey isn’t linear – it’s fluid. People move in and out of different decision-making mindsets without adherence to a strict “funnel.”

But there is hope in higher education. Smart marketing and engagement strategies can help institutions connect with and convert these stealth students into qualified leads.



  1. Improve communication between marketing and admissions. We know – you’ve heard this one before. But making sure these two departments are in lock step (both in processes and in technology) can help identify and engage leads throughout the decision-making map.
  2. Take a user-first approach. Employ user experience (UX) strategies to develop personas for your target students, along with user flows throughout your website and marketing communications to determine touchpoints and opportunities for lead capturing.
  3. Strengthen your tracking and analytics game. The more data you can access and analyze about your audience, the more you’ll know about connecting with them. Business intelligence platforms can help sync all of this data up, from marketing metrics and website analytics to enrollment and ROI.
  4. Consider implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) platform and marketing automation tools to reach users with ongoing, dynamic, personalized content. These platforms can even create profiles for users who haven’t submitted their contact info yet.
  5. Refine your creative. Messaging should feel personal and inviting rather than pushy. Create content that makes students want to connect with you.
  6. Start retargeting. In addition to other marketing efforts like SEM or social media, a strong retargeting plan can bring stealth students back to your site and help them convert.

For more info on education marketing strategies that drive enrollment and yield, contact us today.

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