Top Tips for Creating a College App for Mobile

For today’s always-connected students, college apps are the lifeline that keeps them plugged into campus life right from their smartphones. More than just a handy tool, the right college app becomes a school’s secret weapon for recruitment and community building. That’s because an innovative college app showcases the student experience in an interactive, eye-catching way no brochure can match.

With cinematic 3D tours, social buzz from campus influencers, and real-time alerts to student devices, college apps enable schools to reach students on their turf—mobile. Savvy admissions teams know a stellar app can provide the edge when vying for top talent. Meanwhile, enrolled students get the inside scoop on everything from campus speakers to intramural sign-ups, all in one engaging hub.

The bottom line is that mobile apps for colleges allow schools to connect with community members, new and returning, in the palm of their hands. In this definitive guide, we’ll share insider tips on crafting an app that wows users and becomes a beloved campus fixture. From identifying student needs to planning bold features, you’ll gain actionable steps for launching the next must-have college app. 

Let’s get started and unlock the secrets to mobile engagement!

top college app tips

The Importance of College Apps

A dedicated college app allows your school to have a presence right on students’ smartphones. This gives you the ability to share rich media like virtual tours and videos, create a social feed for campus life, send important notifications, and provide access to academic resources—all in one place.

For prospective students, a college app supports the recruitment process by bringing your campus to life right in the palm of their hands. For current students, the app can serve as a central hub for accessing campus services, connecting with peers, and staying up-to-date on school events. Overall, a thoughtfully designed college app enhances engagement and the student experience.

Why Do Colleges Need Mobile Apps?

In an increasingly digital world, colleges that don’t have a robust mobile app strategy are at risk of getting left behind. Here’s why mobile apps have become essential for attracting and engaging students  in the 21st century:

Meet Students Where They Are: Their Phones

Today’s students practically have their phones grafted to their palms. They use their devices for everything from socializing to researching to organizing their lives. It’s their primary tool for obtaining information and connecting. 

Colleges must embrace this mobile-first mentality and bring the campus experience directly to students’ pockets via an app. No student should have to dig through a dense website for what they need when they can access it instantly on their phones.

Deliver an Interactive, Immersive Experience

Unlike static brochure sites, mobile apps allow for interactive experiences that bring the campus to life digitally. We’re talking 360 virtual tours, augmented reality scavenger hunts, social media walls, and real-time alerts. Features like these engage and excite prospective students while providing enrolled students with the modern conveniences they now expect.

Hyper Personalize Content

An app allows colleges to customize content and features to match their specific offerings, student demographics, location, size, and brand. Generic websites simply can’t provide the tailored experience today’s students demand. Mobile apps also allow for personalization at the individual level through profiles, communication preferences, and more.

Expand Your Reach Exponentially

There are over 6 billion smartphones in the world today. An app makes your college visible and accessible to this massive mobile audience. It positions your school for discovery and enables seamless outreach, recruitment, and communication. Simply put, a college app expands your sphere of influence exponentially.

In summary, mobile apps provide the most relevant, interactive, and personalized way for colleges to connect with the students of today and tomorrow. They are now a baseline expectation rather than a nice add-on.

top college app tips

Benefits of Having Mobile Apps for Colleges

Mobile apps for colleges provide a wide range of advantages for students at every stage, as well as for the institutions seeking to serve them. Here are some of the top ways dedicated mobile apps for colleges support users across the campus community:

Hooking Prospective Students

For students checking out colleges, a stellar app provides an insider’s view of authentic campus life. Features like:

  • Interactive 3D campus maps and VR tours – Give an immersive preview of facilities and surroundings
  • Geofilters showcasing iconic spots – Add a fun way to imagine themselves on campus
  • Student spotlights and social media streams – Provide an unfiltered look at real student experiences
  • Chatbots answering common questions – Make getting information quick and easy for on-the-go research

Serving Enrolled Students

Once students are on campus, the college app becomes their go-to personal assistant. Must-have features include:

  • Digital student ID and scanning – Easy access to dining halls, dorms, events, etc.
  • Campus directory/emergency contacts – Critical access for safety and navigating campus
  • Course schedules, assignments, grades – Keep academics on track from their phones
  • Event calendars, registrations, and tickets – Never miss out on campus happenings
  • Access student organizations and groups – Build community and relationships

Empowering Colleges

For higher education institutions, college apps provide powerful advantages like:

  • Showcasing campus and student experience – Aid with recruitment and student satisfaction
  • Centralized platform for communications – Send timely alerts and updates to all students
  • Collecting feedback via polls and surveys – Gain insights to guide improvements
  • Building school spirit and engagement – Unite students through features like social walls
  • Streamlining campus services and resources – Improve academics, involvement, and more

Thoughtfully designed mobile apps for colleges are now essential to providing value to all student audiences while empowering higher education institutions to better achieve their goals.

top college app tips

What Are the Key Features of a Great College App?

While each school will have unique priorities and audiences, several core components comprise an effective all-in-one college app:

1. Up-to-Date Schedule & Event Calendar

Having a constantly updated calendar of academic deadlines, social events, campus speaker series, and more helps students stay on top of school happenings. In-app calendars with push notifications enable real-time information right on students’ devices.

2. Virtual Campus Tour

Allow prospective students to explore the campus and facilities through an interactive 360-degree virtual tour. This brings your school to life digitally, whether students are across the country or right in town. The tour can also help new students learn the layout and locate buildings.

3. Push Notifications

Send timely alerts and reminders directly to students’ mobile devices regarding registration deadlines, exam schedules, special events, and other important updates. This ensures students don’t miss critical info.

4. Live Activity Feed

An in-app feed featuring social media streams and school publicity helps foster community by keeping students connected and in the know. This allows students to interact with peers and share in campus happenings.

5. Surveys & Feedback

Collect student feedback and insights through polls and surveys right in the app. This allows you to identify areas for improvement based on direct student input.

top college app tips

Top Tips for Building a College App

Creating a stellar college app takes strategic planning, understanding your audiences, and design considerations. Follow these top tips to build an app that meets your institution’s specific needs:

1. Plan Your College App

Align your app’s objectives with your college’s priorities and goals. Determine the primary reasons and uses for your app based on benefiting students as well as meeting institutional goals. Outline the core features and functionality that will bring value to users.

2. Identify Users’ Needs

Profile your target users—prospective students, current students, faculty, etc.—and understand their motivations and pain points. Conduct user research through surveys and interviews to determine what resources and information they want from the app. Align features with their needs.

3. Design a User-Friendly Interface

Create an intuitive navigation menu optimized for mobile. Use clear architecture and labeling. Incorporate school branding for a cohesive experience. Follow responsive design best practices for a flawless experience across devices.

4. Incorporate College Branding

Use branded imagery, school colors, logos, fonts, and more to integrate your institution’s visual identity. This makes for a seamless app experience in line with other campus touchpoints. Allow different campus groups to showcase their own sub-brands.

5. Offer Offline Accessibility

Ensure students can still access certain content and features without an internet connection. This provides uninterrupted utility even in areas with poor cell service across campus.

6. Support Prospective and Current Students

Meet the distinct needs of prospects and enrolled students in one app via tailored content, resources, and features for each audience. Personalize the experience for different user segments.

7. Provide Campus Directions

Incorporate interactive maps and wayfinding tools to help students navigate campus and locate buildings/points of interest. Augmented reality adds a cutting-edge element.

8. Integrate Social Media & Photo Feeds

Embed live streams from campus social media accounts and student publications to foster community. Allow students to contribute user-generated photos chronicling campus life.

9. Facilitate Peer-to-Peer Communication

Add social functionality like class/roommate/mentor matching profiles, messaging, peer reviews of professors, and more to enable student-to-student connections.

10. Offer Academic Resources

Provide access to course schedules and materials, tuition payment portals, digital ID cards, library search tools, and other academic services to aid student success.

By following these tips and best practices, you can create a college app tailored to your institution’s community. The key is keeping users’ needs front and center when making decisions about features and functionality. With a thoughtful approach, your app can become an invaluable asset.

top college app tips

Improve Interactivity at Your Events with Guidebook Live Polls

College mobile apps provide a powerful means of engaging and informing students via interactive, on-demand resources right on their smartphones. A well-planned app designed specifically for your students’ needs can strengthen recruitment, improve satisfaction, and unite the campus community. With core features ranging from virtual tours to academic tools to social media integration, colleges can drive connection in the digital era.

To bring your college app from concept to launch, follow these top tips like understanding your audience, planning intentional features, and applying best practices for interface design and college branding.

With Guidebook, you can easily build a branded, mobile-optimized app tailored to your school’s priorities. Start creating your own college app to take campus engagement to the next level. Request a demo today!