How to organize prospective student lifecycle stages for the enrollment and admissions process

Last updated: December 6, 2017

Available For:

Marketing: Basic, Pro, Enterprise
Sales: Professional

Lifecycle stage names in HubSpot do not always align with marketing when it comes to the education sector. Marketing Qualified Lead and Customer do not fit in with the way prospective students are conceptualized and segmented as they move through the admissions funnel. Setting this up effectively can improve the handoff between marketing and admissions and help you understand where prospective students are in their enrollment journey.

This article walks through creating custom lifecycle stage names to match your school's admissions and enrollment cycle and how to move them through your marketing funnel. The steps below are meant to be followed in order, but you can click on a particular step to jump straight to it, if needed. 

  1. Create custom contact properties for prospective students
  2. Set up a date stamp workflow 
  3. Use forms to set prospective student stages
  4. Segment prospective students across the enrollment journey
  5. Analyze the enrollment funnel


1. Create custom contact properties for prospective students

HubSpot gives you the ability to set up custom contact properties for segmenting your contact database. Follow these instructions to create custom contact properties for the enrollment cycle: 

Please note: these properties will be used in workflows (Marketing Professional and Enterprise users and Sales Professional users only), hidden form fields (Marketing Basic, Professional, and Enterprise users only) and lists (Marketing Basic, Professional, and Enterprise users only).

  • Navigate to Properties:
    • In your Marketing Basic, Professional or Enterprise account, navigate to Contacts > Contacts Settings
    • In your Sales account, navigate to Settings
  • Select Properties in the left sidebar menu and click the Contact properties tab.
  • Click Create a property.

  • Label the property as Prospective Student Status. 
  • Set the Field type as Radio select. Choose Edit options and add options that match your school’s enrollment cycle (examples: Prospective Student, Inquiry, Applicant, Admitted Student, Confirmed Student, Enrolled Student, Alumni).
  • Click Create.

For the next step, create a set of date-based properties to align with the stages set up for the prospective student status. These will be used to match a date field with each stage to understand when a prospective student moves through the funnel. 

For each of the prospective student status values that you set up above, follow these steps: 

  • Within the Contact properties screen, click Create a property.
  • Label the property Became an {INSERT LIFECYCLE STAGE NAME} Date and set the Field type as Date Picker. Click Create.
  • Repeat these steps to create properties for all the custom lifecycle stages you created.

2. Set up a date stamp workflow 

Now that you have the custom stage names and date properties in place, build a workflow to stamp the date properties when a contact moves through the funnel. This will allow for reporting around where prospective students are in their journey and when they changed stages. 

Please note: only Marketing Professional and Enterprise users and Sales Professional users have access to workflows.

Create a workflow for each prospective student stage that you set up as contact properties above. For each stage, follow the steps below: 

  • Navigate to Workflows
    • In your Marketing Professional or Enterprise account, navigate to Contacts > Workflows.
    • In your Sales Professional account, navigate to Sales Tools > Workflows
  • Click New workflow.
  • Name your workflow and select Standard as the type. Then click Create workflow.

  • Select Set enrollment triggers. Select the Automatically checkbox at the top of the sidebar menu. Then choose Contact property

  • From the dropdown menu, select the contact property Prospective Student Status and set this to the stage you are working on (such as Inquiry). Click Done and then Save to set your criteria.
  • Click the plus icon to add an action to your workflow. 
  • Select Set contact property value from the sidebar menu.  

  • Choose the Became an ______ date property you created to align with the applicant status. Then select Date of step for the value and click Save.
  • Switch the toggle button at the top of your workflow to ON to activate your workflow.

Repeat this process with each Prospective Student Status that you created.


3. Use forms to set prospective student stages (Marketing users only)

Prospective student forms each serve a different purpose. Some of these will be used to capture inquiries at the top of the funnel (TOFU) with eBooks, checklists, guides, etc. Others are going to be used at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) to apply for a program.

A visitor filling out a Program Information Request form is more likely to be considered an inquiry than someone who fills out an Application form, who is more likely to be an applicant. You can set up each form to assign the appropriate prospective student status for you. 

Please note: only Marketing Basic, Professional, and Enterprise users can add hidden fields to forms.

Here are some reasons why a hidden Prospective Student Status field in a form is useful:

  • Forms are the quickest way to automatically push prospective students further down the funnel. The hidden form field method takes less setup time than a workflow to do that work.
  • You can tie a particular form conversion to a prospective student stage update to get a truer reflection to where they lie within the marketing funnel. A true applicant should have already worked their way through the top-of-the-funnel offerings, whether or not they converted on a form previously. Prospective students filling out a form intended for a middle or bottom-of-the-funnel offering are closer to the enrollment stage than those filling out a simple form for an eBook offer on choosing the right educational option.

You can use one method or a combination of methods to automatically set the prospective student status for your contacts. Or at the least you can use your forms until you've concluded that it's time to set up more advanced automation using workflows and even lead scoring.

Here is how you can pass hidden prospective student status fields through forms:

  • In your Marketing Basic, Professional, or Enterprise account, navigate to Contacts > Forms and select an existing form or click Create form.
  • Add your Prospective Student Status property to the form by clicking on the Fields tab. Search for Prospective Student Status and click or drag the field to add it to your form on the right.

  • Hover your mouse over your new property and click edit in the top-right corner to edit your field options on the left-hand side.
  • Check the box next to the Prospective Student Stage value that should be applied from this form submission.
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the form options and check the box next to Make this field hidden
  • Once you're happy with how you've set up your hidden fields to pass values, click Save and Publish.


4. Segmenting prospective students across the enrollment journey

The more personalized and targeted you can be with your school’s prospective students, the better you’ll succeed in engaging them.

There are many ways we can segment prospective students in the contact database: by persona, by programmatic area of interest, by grade, by location, etc. Now that you have set up custom stage names to identify where these individuals are in their enrollment journey, you can also segment them by their status in the enrollment journey.

To do this, you’ll want to create a smart list for each custom student stage you created in HubSpot. Smart lists are dynamic and constantly update contacts that fit the criteria. Here is how to set up each of these lists: 

Please note: only Marketing Basic, Professional, and Enterprise users can create lists. All subscription levels, however, can create saved filters.

  • In your Marketing Basic, Professional, or Enterprise account, navigate to your list tool under Contacts > Lists.
  • Select New folder from the sidebar menu. Name your folder Enrollment Journey and then click Create. This will make it easy to organize and find these lists in the same place.

  • Within the Enrollment Journey folder, click New list to create a list that will live in that folder.

  • Click Name list and provide a name for the stage that you are going to segment for:
    • Prospective Student Status: Inquiry
    • Prospective Student Status: Applicant
    • Prospective Student Status: Admitted Student
  • Using the filter logic below your list name, select Contact property. Choose Prospective Student Status and then select the status for the segment that you are building.
  • Click Save and allow time for your list to pull in all relevant contacts.

  • Repeat the steps above for creating a new list with each of the status types that you set up contact property stages for.

You can now use these smart lists to analyze a specific segment of the database, send targeted email communications, use smart content, and enroll specific contacts into a lead nurturing workflow. 


5. Analyzing the enrollment funnel

Please note: the ability to analyze a specific list of contacts via a contacts report is currently available for Marketing Enterprise users only.

To analyze your full funnel of prospective students as a whole or to dig in to a specific segment of the enrollment journey, a contacts report enables you to analyze the results of your marketing efforts. 

With a contacts report, you can build reports based on the information in your contacts database inside of HubSpot. You can:

  • Report on all contacts in your HubSpot database or on any list in HubSpot.
  • Graph your contacts over time based on any date property in your contacts database (create date, became a lead date, etc).
  • Break your report down by any contact property from your database (lifecycle stage, source, industry, persona, etc).
  • Sum any numeric contact property from your contacts database for those contacts in the report (revenue generated, lead score, email opens, etc).

To get started in building your contacts report, follow the steps below:

  • Navigate to Reports > Reports Home in your Marketing Enterprise account.
  • Select Create a new report in the top right corner. Select Contacts Report in the dialog box and then select Start from Scratch. Click Create report.

From here, there is a lot of flexibility for how you can segment your prospective student database.

Follow these steps to build out your report:

  • Choose a list to report on: You can choose to report on all prospective students that are being stored in HubSpot, or segment these by any smart list. For example, you can use a list to create a report to see data on your Adult Learner persona or only for all prospective students that marked Accounting as their major of choice. 
  • Choose a conversion type and time period: In the above steps, we outlined how to set up conversions for inquiries, applicants, and admitted students. Using the conversion type, we can choose any one of these points and see data over time for when these prospective students converted. We can set this up for all time or choose a time period to measure conversions, such as during the past enrollment year.
  • Group contacts by: Choose to view the data by week or month.
  • Break down by a contact property: You can use any contact property in HubSpot and break down the data for each conversion by this property. For example, you can view the breakdown of conversions by Original Source to understand the channels that are bringing in the most prospective students.
  • Calculate total value of numeric contact properties (optional): This menu will look at a HubSpot contact property that is a numeric property and allow you to sum this property within your report.

From here, create your report and allow time for HubSpot to crunch the numbers for your new view.

On your report screen, you'll also have access to email, export, and refresh this report on a regular basis. Learn more about contacts reports here.

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