University of Virginia

Improves Incoming Class with Personalized Student Search Campaign


University of Virginia at a glance

  • Flagship state university of Virginia, founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson
  • #3 Best Public National University, 2019 U.S. News & World Report
  • Meets the full amount of demonstrated financial need
  • Completed branding initiative in 2017

Campaign Highlights

  • Double the conversion rate from search for fall ’18 and ’19 compared to fall ’17 among in-state Virginians and out-of-state students of color
  • 84% of all deposits engaged with the yield email campaign
  • Approximately 100:1 return on investment
Whiteboard’s team really cares about what they’re doing and created something to fit our personality and our goals. It wasn’t a one-size-fits-all campaign.” 
Doug Hartog, Senior Associate Dean of Admission
Hitting the Ground Running
Looking to improve its outreach to new, qualified student applicants, the University of Virginia (UVA) admission team wanted to better communicate the institution’s high value, particularly to students of color and their parents. They needed a high-quality, effective search campaign created within a very short time frame. “So many of the folks that came in weren’t listening to what we really needed,” says Doug Hartog, Senior Associate Dean of Admission. “Whiteboard listened and helped us meet objectives through a campaign personalized to UVA and our prospective students. It paints a very accurate and compelling picture of the experience here.”
Work with What You Have
Having recently completed an institution-wide branding exercise to streamline central themes, marketing messages, and design, UVA didn’t need new research. The team was looking for a partner who would help them leverage what they already had in order to create an effective and engaging search campaign. Whiteboard knew UVA needed a deeply customized campaign that personalized the university’s unique and powerful story for prospective students. Whiteboard identified UVA’s key themes and their audiences and segmented the language and communication flow accordingly.
“Whiteboard told us, ‘We’re going to listen to what you feel you need, match it with your brand identity, provide our best strategic recommendations, and tell a great story.’ And that’s exactly what they did,” says Hartog. “They didn’t plug us into some template that works for someone else.”
University of Virginia campaign
The search solution: Comprehensive series of email messages sharing the UVA story, including content outlining its world-class faculty, small class sizes, and Quest Scholars program; Customized landing pages for each student recipient for each individual email message; Whiteboard’s own Engagement Framework for monitoring activity, interpreting results, and enabling the most efficient and effective follow-up with interested prospective students and parents
Feeling like the Only Client
The UVA admission team has taken great pride in how multiple stakeholders embrace the campaign. “The search campaign was one of the first places we implemented the new branding,” says Hartog. “It’s the gateway that starts the life cycle of a student here, from prospective students to graduates. We met both the high expectations of our central communications team and ours in the admission office. Everyone was really happy with what we launched — and we’re extremely happy with how it’s evolved and, particularly, with how it’s performed.” “That speaks to the wonderfully talented people at Whiteboard, from design and copyediting, to communication, leadership, and management,” Hartog continues. “Their team takes ownership and is thoughtful and thorough in everything they do. And they quickly turned around anything that arose throughout the year.”
Results by the Numbers
4x more applications generated in 2018 compared to 2017 among in-state Virginians and out-of-state students of color
Double the conversion for fall ’18 among in-state Virginians and out-of-state students of color
84% of all deposits engaged with the yield email campaign
70% of all deposits engaged with the campaign at the highest levels
100:1 return on investment
The Most Diverse Class in History
“Whiteboard’s search campaign improved the quality of the incoming class,” says Hartog. “We have the largest and most diverse class in the history of the institution. We have 424 first-generation college students enrolling, the second largest number of African-Americans enrolling, and the Virginia yield is strong.” Whiteboard’s Senior Vice President, Enrollment Strategies, Jonathan Epstein reflects, “With UVA going through a rebrand, the timing was perfect to build on that foundation and help them create a campaign they would love and one that would perform brilliantly. Our job is to learn all of the unique selling points and cast them in the most compelling way possible in order to reach the type of students that will thrive at the university.”
“Whiteboard cares a great deal about the University of Virginia and that makes for a really nice working relationship — which tends to breed success,” adds Hartog. “And the results are there to show the investment is worth it.”

Are you ready to talk about your enrollment strategies?