Teenagers spend an average of 8.5 hours of screen time per day, which has increased year over year. For example, since 2015, there has been a 29.75% increase in screen time. Out of a 24-hour day, with at least 7 hours of sleep, teenagers spend 50% of their 17 waking hours on screen devices. Entertainment screen use includes time spent watching TV, playing video games, using social media, browsing websites, creating content, and other digital activities.

As every marketer knows, the best way to reach teenagers is where they spend the most time, which is why it’s crucial for colleges and universities to run paid media campaigns through social media channels, ConnectedTV, audio channels, or on the web. With lower costs and high ROIs, running paid media campaigns can help you reach your goals.

Offsetting The College Board Search Changes

As the College Board lowers the number of names available through its Student Search Service, paid media campaigns are becoming more important than ever for the student recruitment process. With large reach and powerful targeting abilities, paid media campaigns can help you connect with prospective students who are likely to be a fit for your institution.

We analyzed our partner institutions’ paid media efforts for recruiting Fall 2023 undergraduate students and compared them to the College Board’s Senior Search name purchases for Fall 2023, and here is what we found:


Our partners spent, on average, $15,000 more for the College Board’s purchased names than what they spent on paid media.

7% ratio

On DM lead-generation focused platforms, our partners averaged 309 leads and a 7% leads-to-deposit ratio.

2% ratio

In comparison to the College Board’s purchased names, the same partners averaged 5,873 leads, but have a much lower leads-to-deposit ratio of 2%.

35% yield

Paid media had a 35% yield, while the College Board had only a 7% yield.

A Look at ROI

We took it a step further to determine the ROI. We calculated this based on the tuition cost for one year and by how much was spent on paid media and the College Board Senior Search, based on the number of deposits.

Paid media and the College Board Search both resulted in high, positive ROIs of 4,269% and 5,200%, respectively. The College Board had more deposits which resulted in a higher ROI, but they had a lower lead-to-deposit ratio and a lower yield. The costs of entry for DM is much lower than one would expect and can generate similar, or in some cases, more favorable results than with the College Board’s Senior Search. Overall, we found that paid media ads cost 38% less than the College Board Search, and had a significantly higher yield (at a difference of 28 percentage points), resulting in an excellent, positive ROI.

Even though the student recruitment landscape is evolving, your partners at Spark451 know there are still multiple solutions to fill your Fall 2024 class and beyond, and we’ll be happy to help you get there. For a deeper discussion of how you can modify your undergraduate search plans to support your goals, feel free to reach out. Our knowledgeable client strategists and digital media specialists are here to support you every step of the way!