Top Ten University Student Recruiting Videos

Universities have to evolve their marketing videos beyond action clips and cliches.

When you watch enough university promotional videos you get the feeling that university marketing departments are all reading the same handbook. Somewhere in the ‘how to make a recruiting video’ section you’ll likely find the following:

  1. Start your video with a vision statement / tagline like “Your Future Starts Here!” or “We are {insert University Name Here},” or “More than {Something}, We are {Something else}.
  2. Include generic film clips of people walking into buildings, action shots of the football team, a big classroom, a robot, some people in lab coats, an orchestra and lots of people smiling and having fun.
  3. Make sure that if you include a voice-over whatever you say has to be non-specific, can’t possibly offend anybody and should apply to pretty much any university.
  4. Don’t leave anything or any department out.

Most university recruiting videos are variations on a theme.

You’re asking the person watching your video to invest tens (or hundreds…) of thousands of dollars in their education and their future at your institution. Shouldn’t you provide them with a really, really compelling reason to do so?

University Student Recruiting Videos
We’re considering longer form marketing videos (typically one to three minutes but sometimes much longer) used by public and private universities to recruit new students .

We live in interesting times. Automation in the automotive section is going to result in millions of job losses (and the need for hundreds of thousands of people to be retrained.) Technology is running roughshod over virtually every industry. Educational institutions are not immune.

The prestige of an Ivy League education will continue to hold sway for prospective students but virtually every other type of educational institution will continue to have to step up their marketing games.

Universities have to be engaging, or inspiring… or something. They need to speak directly and honestly to their audiences. Tell them a story… a really compelling story. Get them excited about something. Show them the coolest thing you’ve done. Be specific. Take a risk. Stand out. Being the same as everyone else is not an option.


Here are our Top Ten University Student Recruiting Videos:

Brand: Northwestern University, Engineering {Evanston, Illinois, US}
Production Company: Mode Project {Chicago, USA}

This is the direction of university recruiting videos.

  • We believe that discipline and faculty-first videos will continue to have more value to prospective students than generic school promotions.
  • This is a good video, period. It’s engaging, it moves quickly, it informs, it intrigues, it tells a story, it feels like something important is going on… this is what you need to capture and keep student’s attention.
  • The production values are great. The concept of having the different voices all talking about important ideas is very clever.
  • This video almost has a business or professional marketing feel to it. That’s not a bad thing – especially for a discipline like engineering.
  • This format will get copied many times, but likely not that well. It seems rather easy to purchase a bunch of clips and edit them to a voice track, but this style of video is actually quite hard to do really well.

Brand: Trinity College, {Dublin, Ireland}
Creative Agency: Unkown. Directed by Hugh Rogers.

Best example of a current style of video production.

  • Many university video promotions look dated – like they were created five, ten or more years ago. This video is the opposite. It has a very current feel to it. This is especially important if you want to reach and relate to a young audience.
  • This video tells a story… well, actually a bunch of stories. Stories are the best method of getting a message to stick – to be understood and remembered. Stories are the best communication device for video or any medium.
  • The content of the stories are based in life-changing or life-affecting activities that were inspired by the students time at the University.
  • “I got accepted into Harvard but chose Trinity Instead.” It’s nice to be able to articulate that story in a video. The great thing about personal stories is that they are believed.
  • There’s lots going on in this video. Almost 6 minutes is fine. You don’t have to stick to an arbitrary length when you are trying to get someone to make a life altering decision.

Brand: London Metropolitan University,  {London , UK}
Production Company: Spectrecom Films

“Do something you love.”

  • We’re not terribly keen on the positioning statements that most universities employ as they tend to sound either trite or generic. ‘Do something you love’, however is as good as it gets. As a student or a parent – what else do you really want other than that?
  • “A curious path I came upon…” Very intriguing beginning to this video – the combination of light piano music and a poem. This video draws you in very quickly – that’s what a video is supposed to do.
  • This is one of the most human and natural university recruiting videos we’ve seen. It tells the visual story of 3 people who are striving to improve their lives. Their stories come together around an education at London Met University.
  • This video is not elite. It’s not action oriented. It’s targeted to a very specific audience. It’s also not trying to appeal to everyone. That’s a good thing because all too often broad base approaches end up appealing to no one.
  • Excellent delivery and message.

Brand: University of Oregon,  {Eugene,Oregon, US}
Production Company: Unkonwn 

Properties this vast require aerial footage.

  • Centred around an intriguing but ‘questionable’ tagline of ‘If’, this video is fun to watch.
  • It starts out with a bit of intrigue to draw you in and then quickly accelerates into a montage of quick cuts that are supported by a hip narration challenging as many conventions as possible.
  • This video is definitely targeted to a young first year audience and positions the school as a non-standard and intriguing option.
  • Given that Phil Night just bequeathed the school a half a billion dollars (yes, that’s Billion with a ‘B’) this school should indeed get a lot more interesting.

Brand: Imperial College  {London, UK}
Production Company: Contra

Really well shot – great production values.

  • If you’re going to go more traditional with your university recruiting video then you’d better make sure it’s at the top of its class. This one is.
  • The production values are as good as it gets for this, or any other type of promotional video. The shots are incredible, the supporting animations are really well done and the music and voice-over are powerful.
  • The singular focus on science and engineering is interesting. (Not humanities, not athletics, not the arts, not social interaction, not geography…) I’m sure the other faculties weren’t happy about this. Perhaps there’s another video focussing on other things. Or perhaps the school knows exactly where it wants to be positioned in the marketplace.
  • I like including a call to action at the end “We’re looking for the best minds to join us.” It’s never a bad idea to tell the viewer know why you made the video.

Brand: Cornell University {Ithaca, NY, USA}
Production Company: Unkown 

At 18 minutes and 150 years, this video has a lot to say.

  • As the youngest of the Ivy League schools Cornell celebrated its sesquicentennial with this Charter Day video. A landmark event is a vehicle for video promotion – it gives the marketing effort momentum and purpose and even more reason for the prospective viewer to watch it.
  • There is no correct length for a marketing video. At 18 minutes some would suggest this video is far too long. I don’t agree. There’s a whack of great material in this video including sound bites from notable alumni such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Carl Sagan.
  • I really enjoyed the scope of speakers used in the video: Current students, retired professors, recent graduates, famous alumni – everyone had a voice and that helped round out the overall presentation in this video.
  • The supporting b-roll shots were very well done and I think for anyone considering which University to attend this video is a rich and powerful marketing tool for the University.
  • Very impressive overall presentation.

Brand: Georgia Tech {Atlanta, Georgia, US}
Production Company: Mixed Bag Media 

Find one really important idea to communicate.

  • This video may not have the same luster or polish of some of the more dynamic video productions we’ve seen, but what it does have going for it is one really interesting story to tell.
  • You can claim through slogans that your school is “focussed on the future” or you can do what Georgia Tech has done and prove it. Georgia Tech is building its reputation around its interdisciplinary studies – specifically around the integration of engineering and life sciences. Wow.
  • If I was looking to work in the coolest most important sector of the economy this is where I’d want to start that journey… and that’s the story that you should be communicating to prospective students.
  • Slogans and positioning statements cannot compete with real life examples.

Brand: Arizona State University {Phoenix, Arizon, US}
Production Company: Unknown

This video is a full court press to get the viewer psyched about the university.

  • There’s a heck of a lot going on in this video. If you make it through you’ll have a good idea about different programs, opportunities, activities, tools to help students, facts and figures about the university…  pretty much everything you need to know about the program.
  • The production values are very good in this video.
  • The video captures perspectives from many different students and faculty and then show a wide variety of activities that they are involved with at the university. This video goes way beyond the cursory overview of programs and activities common to most recruiting videos.
  • A quick pace keeps the video moving very quickly.

Brand: University oF St. Gallen {St. Gallen, Switzerland}
Production Company: Unknown

Very professional video with a light touch.

  • There’s a confident professionalism present in this video that is absent from most recruiting videos. Considering this is a promo for the St Gallen MBA I’d suggest that the video hits the target audience perfectly.
  • Telling stories from students who have graduated from the program perspective is always a good idea. Those are the things that resonate with viewers and will be remembered.
  • Visually the video is quite rich. The images captured really help to illustrate the story that the narrators are telling.
  • Rah-Rah hype isn’t going to work for students looking for an MBA program. This video hits is target audience very well.

Brand: Oxford University {Oxford, UK}
Production Company: Angel Sharp Media

Basically, Oxford by the numbers.

  • Being ranked in the top 5 Universities in the world every year you would think that Oxford doesn’t have to try that hard to impress potential graduates. I guess the marketing folks at Oxford didn’t want to take any chances.
  • Great combination of different styles of shots to make the video interesting: Time-lapse, slo-mo, aerial, close-ups, animations… it’s all good.
  • Smart idea to inject a bit of humour into the video to keep it from feeling too ‘important’ or boastful. It’s hard not to boast when you have Oxfords track record.
  • A world-class degree indeed. The video represented the school well. That’s important because the higher up the ladder you climb the further the fall if you make a mistake. Guarding/supporting your reputation is a very different than working to stand out in a busy crowd.
Jimm Fox


Jimm has been working in video and marketing for the last 25 years agency side, client side and in video production.

  1. Hi! I am personally indebted to the production team of the videos & the explanations given

    A well-done job indeed!!!

    Thank you very much for sharing your expertise with me,

    Best Personal Regards.

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