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Tips for Crafting Calls to Action for Admissions
Tim McDonough

Very rarely do people like to be told what to do. We like to have choices about everything. It's why Google Maps offers us three different routes to drive just a few miles, why Starbucks offers more than just a regular old cup of Joe, why you'll almost always find a CVS right next to a Walgreens, and of course, why Google serves you and your competition right next to one another in search.

It's human nature to want to have options. But I'm going to let you in on a little secret: your website visitors don't want to have to make a choice. They want to be told what to do every step of the way.

Apply Now. Inquire Now. Request More Information. Download our Viewbook. It doesn't matter how many times they click, as long as each click is a subconscious decision that ultimately leads them right down your admissions funnel and into that front row seat of Algebra.

Crafting Calls to Action for Admissions

But how do you achieve that perfect level of "bossy" to get your prospective students right where you want them? You craft the perfect call to action button. Here's the lowdown.

A call to action is an image or text that's sole purpose is to prompt your site visitor to take an action like click the button, download an application, or fill out a form. Chances are, your users see these dozens of times during their search. So how do you make yours stand out?

We've defined five factors that go into crafting the perfect call to action button experience.

1. It needs to have a great design.

You only have about seven seconds (or less!) to get the attention of a website visitor. So, when a prospective student lands on your website, where is the first place you want their eyes divert to? A good call to action needs to be eye-catching and obvious that it's clickable.

Great calls to action are:

  • Interactive
  • Colorful
  • Easy-to-read

Baylor CTA


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2. It's all about location.

What's the use of a call to action if you've hidden it from the glancing eye? Today's users are scanners and scrollers. Place calls to action in plain sight to guide the user to their "next step" at any point during their journey — and that goes for all pages on your site.

The bottom of a vertical scrolling homepage is a key opportunity to engage and capture their attention. It encourages them spend more time on your site, and doesn't force them to scroll up, search, or go back to find what they're looking for.

Trinity Preparatory School, Baylor School, The Episcopal Academy, and dozens of other independent schools use calls to action as the punctuation at the end of their homepage story — and it's an effective strategy to increase inquiries and applicants!

TrinityCTA Buttons

Calls to actions can be placed anywhere on your site and are extremely useful on top-hit lower-level pages, too — like employment and admissions. Using Google Analytics, identify your top 25 pages for new site visitors and be sure you have at least one good call to action on each page.

For example, Princeton Day School uses these easy to spot calls to action throughout the admission section on their new site.

Princeton Day School Calls to Action

3. It has well-written and actionable words.

Calls to action aren't your place to be vague, or frankly, all that creative. Well-written and actionable buttons that keep it simple with short and to-the-point phrases get the most clicks. 'Apply now,' 'Sign up for our open house,' and 'Learn more' are active phrases that let users know exactly where they are going next.

The most clickable calls to action are also accompanied by a short phrase or photo as to why they should be clicked — like these on the homepage of The Masters School in New York. If I'm a user ready to "start my journey," I'm also ready to click.

Masters NY CTA

4. It's not surrounded by noise.

There is a saying that if you give people more than two choices online they always choose to do nothing. Crazy, right? Given two choices in real life, you're always forced to choose one. (Or hey, maybe both. That's why the chocolate-vanilla twist was invented.)

Give calls to action their own section so they're easy to see, and don't surround them with unrelated content. Remember: your calls to action should always be related to the content that's being displayed and the audience you're targeting. Putting "Apply Now" on your employment page doesn't really make any sense. These call to action buttons for example, are located on Greenwich Academy's admissions page, and they're the perfect fit!

Greenwich Academy CTA

5. It offers a reward.

When a user takes the next step to fill out an inquiry or application form, remember that you also need to communicate what the user will get out of completing the call to action. If they filled out a form when will they hear from you next? Will it be via email or phone? Will you email any materials immediately? What can they do next?


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