Students Value Higher Ed Websites but Find Navigation Frustrating According to New Research from Modern Campus and Ruffalo Noel Levitz

New Research Shows that the College Website Is the Top Resource Students Use to Make Enrollment Choices, A Potential Key to the Enrollment Crisis


More than nine out of ten high school students say they use a higher education institution’s website to guide their college research process, still many find the navigation of these websites frustrating. This is according to the 2023 E-expectations Trends Report: Attracting, Engaging, and Enrolling High School Students, a study developed by Modern Campus and based on research conducted in partnership with Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL). This report provides insight into what high school students expect from colleges, and sheds light on how colleges and universities can attract, engage and enroll prospective students.

The bi-annual study explores the online expectations, experiences, behaviors and priorities of high school students across the United States in the process of searching for college. With the college search process now beginning early in high school for many students, this 2023 report presents many findings by high school year, showing how student behavior changes as they approach graduation.

Despite higher ed websites being the top used resource for finding information, navigating them and finding the right information is still something that high-school students find frustrating. They expect and want these websites to be easily navigable and show personalized content. And as a result, despite their wide use, students indicate concerns around how helpful the websites truly are. About one in five 10th-grade and first-generation students said they do not find higher ed websites helpful.

The report also explores how high school students plan and research for higher education, what tools they use to gather information and what influences their journey and decisions. The study found that campus maps and virtual tours have been gaining influence in students’ decisions to enroll for a college/university.

“Today’s students expect personalized digital experiences from every business they interact with—including higher education institutions,” said Peter DeVries, Chief Executive Officer of Modern Campus. “Understanding the factors that drive their decision-making throughout the college-planning journey—from accessing information to communicating with the institution and experiencing the campus life virtually before joining—can help colleges and universities to optimize their marketing and communication channels to meet their prospective students’ expectations.”

Additional Key Findings

  • The top three things about college websites students find frustrating: Hard to find information, confusing directions and hard to navigate
  • 93% students use a college or university’s website to get information
  •      58% use a search engine to find a college or university website
  •      56% like or expect websites to show personalized content
  • 50% take a virtual tour via college websites
  •      73% feel likely to enroll after taking a virtual tour of a college or university

         - The number of students who feel likely to enroll after taking a virtual tour has
             been consistently increasing for the past three years

  • 73% students’ parents/families help them with college planning

To explore the 2023 E-expectations Trends Report: Attracting, Engaging, and Enrolling High School Students in greater detail, visit

Report Methodology/Respondent Profile
Between January 16 and February 20, 2023, nearly 2,000 high school students from all over the U.S. were invited to participate in the online survey. No personally identifiable information was collected.

More than half of the respondents were in 12th grade, around three fourth were continuing generation and one third were from far west. More than half of the respondents were female.

About Modern Campus 

Modern Campus is obsessed with empowering its 2,000+ higher education customers to thrive when radical transformation is required to respond to lower student enrollments and revenue, rising costs, crushing student debt, and administrative complexity. 

The Modern Campus engagement platform powers solutions for non-traditional student management, web content management, catalog and curriculum management, student engagement and development, conversational text messaging, career pathways, and campus maps and virtual tours. The result: innovative institutions can create a learner-to-earner lifecycle that engages modern learners for life, while providing modern administrators with the tools needed to streamline workflows and drive high efficiency. 

Modern Campus Presence empowers institutions to map and understand the entire student journey from Day 1, enabling learners to create learning pathways and gamify the earning of essential skills—all while streamlining organizational processes, collecting massive participation data, and assessing the impact you have on retention. 

Learn how Modern Campus is leading the modern learner engagement movement at and follow us on LinkedIn. 

About RNL

RNL is the leading provider of higher education enrollment, student success, and fundraising solutions. The firm serves more than 1,900 colleges and universities through data-driven solutions focused on the entire lifecycle of enrollment and fundraising, assuring students find the right program, graduate on time, secure their first job in their chosen field, and give back to support the next generation. With a deep knowledge of the industry, RNL provides institutions the ability to scale their efforts by tapping into a community of support and resources. Visit

Last updated: July 12, 2023

We use cookies on this website to enhance your experience and improve our services and our website’s functionality. By continuing to use our website, which includes remaining on this landing page, you consent to the use of cookies and agree to our Privacy Policy.