Using the HubSpot CRM for the Higher Education Admissions Process:
A Practical Guide for Enrollment Managers

If you’re like most enrollment teams, you’re probably spending most of your day following up with prospective students with calls and emails, coordinating events, meeting with your institution’s Mar-Comm team, and mining through the plethora of data in your CRM, and then trying to manage it all.

While we're not here to tell you that the HubSpot Sales tool is going to solve all your problems, I am here to tell you that the HubSpot Sales tool could significantly streamline how you optimize and track your communications with prospective students.

Start Reading 

The Power of the HubSpot CRM


Here’s what your normal day could look like if you decided to use the HubSpot Sales tool to help manage your admissions processes:

  1. You go into the HubSpot deals pipeline of your choice that was lovingly setup by a team like ours.

  2. You scan through and review all your student leads broken down by their level of interest or what we call deal stages—for example, “inquiries”, “engaging”, “open apps”, “submitted apps”, “completed apps”, etc.)

  3. You follow up with promising leads all from within HubSpot - which then tells you if they opened the email, what they clicked, and what they responded with.  It even gives you tools to create meetings, write down notes, or call them, all from within the same deals ecosystem.

  4. Then, after sending a few emails back and forth with a lead (all of which is logged in HubSpot), you’ve finally got confirmation that they are working on their app. And since this person was in a prior stage, you immediately can move them directly into the Open App deal stage.

While this won’t necessarily be your day-to-day (everyone’s process is a little different), the HubSpot Sales tool brings extraordinary power to your admissions process because of its capacity to enable real-time lead segmentation, communication tracking, and bottom line reporting.

Note: In order to access the Sales Tools in HubSpot, a user needs to be added to the Sales Pro tool. Sales Hub Pro starts at $400/month and includes 5 users, but you can also try the Starter option with 1 seat for $50/month. A Pro account is needed if you want to make more than 1 deal pipeline (we’ll get to this next) or need a Salesforce integration.

The HubSpot Deals Pipeline

What is a Deals Pipeline?

To put it simply, a deal pipeline is a way to organize, visualize, and segment all the related leads you have in your system that you want nurture to application and enrollment. An effective deal pipeline lets you track where prospective students are getting stuck in the applicant journey and helps you visualize and estimate how much and where revenue will be generated.

Seeing the stages where prospects are getting stuck can help you intervene to keep a specific prospect from losing interest and can help you make broader changes to your own processes to keep prospects moving smoothly from one stage to the next.

You can have as many deal pipelines as makes sense contextually, and each deal pipeline can have its own unique set of deal stages and student leads. So, this could look like having a pipeline for:

  • undergraduate prospects vs. graduate prospects,
  • cybersecurity prospects vs. nursing prospects,
  • or prospects for Campus A vs. prospects for Campus B.

Here’s what an active pipeline in the HubSpot sales tool could look like for your admissions process:

Screen Shot 2019-04-02 at 9.19.52 PM
As you can see, we’ve created a pipeline with some essential deal stages and have populated it with real prospective students (identifying information has been redacted for privacy purposes). Each prospective student has a set revenue amount associated with their contact, in this case $37k, and is assigned to various deal stages with various close dates.

We can even leave notes within the deal name to make it clear whether some deals are worth pursuing or not (see deal where it says “doesn’t meet admission reqs.”). All of this information is readily available as soon as you create the pipeline. 

How Do I Make a Deals Pipeline?

Before we jump right into how to set up deal pipelines, here’s a basic list of what you’ll need to decide before we start:

  • The purpose of the pipeline—Is it for a specific graduate program, a campus, an entire school, a specific academic year, etc.?

  • How you want to segment each part of the application process (these will be deal stages)—Examples: Inquiry, Expected to Apply, Open App, Submitted App, Accepted, Enrolled, etc.

  • The expected revenue from an enrolled student—This can be a baseline number, no need to worry about scholarships and financial aid packages for the purpose of the pipeline.

  • How likely someone is to enroll based on what stage they’re in—So if someone submitted an application, maybe you’ve found that 80% of people who complete that action eventually end up enrolling. You will need a “win percentage” for each of the stages you determined earlier.

With all these items defined, or at least in the works, we can now jump into creating the actual pipeline.

Creating Your Deals Pipeline: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: in your HubSpot portal, click on the gear icon at the top right of the screen.


Step 2: look to the left side of the screen and then click on Sales > Deals


Step 3: Click on “+ Add another pipeline”

Screen Shot 2019-04-02 at 9.36.21 PM

Step 4: in the popup that appears, enter the name of the Pipeline

Screen Shot 2019-04-02 at 9.37.06 PM

Step 5: Enter all the deal stages you wrote down earlier with your best estimate for win percentages. Click on “+ Add a deal stage” whenever you need to do so.

Screen Shot 2019-04-02 at 9.37.56 PM

Step 6 (optional / only if you have Sales Pro): Setup a way to notify yourself for when a deal moves from one stage to another. Basically, if a prospect moves from the “inquiry” stage to the “submitted application,” you’ll want to make sure that they don’t get stuck there or that your team misses the move. This could look like setting up an automated task and email to whomever on your team is responsible for students who have applied, setting a reminder for yourself, or assigning it to some other team entirely.

A detailed resource on how to customize deals and pipelines can be viewed here.

What is a Deals Stage?

As we’ve described, a deal stage is simply a way for you to segment a prospective student’s journey and status in the admissions funnel.

Each deal stage corresponds to a level of interest and activity that is relevant to a prospective student and is assigned a win probability percentage. (Pro Tip: Don’t get too caught on the percentage you choose as it can always be changed later!)

Each prospective student (who are considered “deals” in the HubSpot Sales tool) will be assigned to one deal stage. Try not to get too nitty gritty with deal stages though, as deal stages should only be made for an action/set of actions that brings a prospective student significantly closer to becoming an enrolled student.

What Deal Stages do we Recommend for the Admissions Process?

While the process and definition will differ for each school, we think that you can boil it down to the following deal stages and win probabilities. If you decide to purchase the Sales Tools for your admissions process, we’d normally setup a few meetings with you to better customize these deal stages.

  1. Prospect - 20%
  2. Inquiry - 40%
  3. Event Attendee - 60%
  4. Applicant - 80%
  5. Accepted Student - 90%
  6. Deposited Student - Won
  7. Lost Student - Lost

If you’re anxious to get started, you can go ahead and use these deal stages to get your pipeline setup and then adjust it as needed.

What is a Deal?

Deals are just another way to talk about the prospective students within your pipelines.

Here’s a good way to think about deals - they are created when your marketing efforts end. So basically, you should have two ecosystems in place, one for all your prospect nurturing (with content, automated emails, form submissions, etc.)—i.e. Your marketing—and a second one for then converting those marketing qualified leads into enrolled students—your deals pipeline.

There are two ways you can create deals:

  1. Going to the deals pipeline tool in HubSpot and click on the big orange button in the top right that says “Create deal.”
  2. Set up workflows that grab contacts who meet specific criteria and then automatically create deals for those contacts set at a specified stage—while this solution is highly scalable, more work is involved in the setup process to account for leads who might be signaled as false positives or even create duplicates.

Each deal then acts like a contact within the HubSpot CRM, but don’t get confused, they aren't the same!

A deal and a contact will be tied to each other and will share a similar UI when viewing their profile within HubSpot, but they will also operate as entirely different entities. The contact part is for your marketing strategy while the deal is for your sales strategy.

Within each deal, you can manually add, remove, or update any of the deal’s properties, like the amount, deal stage, name, close date and then perform actual actions, like emailing, calling, scheduling meetings, setting notes, and downloading attachments.

Learn how to create individual deals here.

Understanding Lead Scoring — And the Role it Plays in Deals

What is a Lead Score?

HubSpot lead scoring is a built-in tool that allows you to better qualify the quality of all your leads. While it’s not necessarily a Sales related tool, it can be used in a way that optimizes your deal creation process.

For this to work, you simply need to create a list of actions that users take and then assign a point value to those actions. You’re limited to 100 scoring properties, but that shouldn’t be an issue for most accounts.

Also, it’s important to note that even if someone continually meets the scoring property, they won’t continue to receive points for it. So if you have a scoring property that says “email opens is greater than 1,” the contact will only receive points the first time they meet that qualification.

To best utilize lead scoring, you need to create a list of major actions that contacts take (or don’t take) on your website or in your emails.

For example, someone who has filled out 4 forms might be a more qualified lead than someone whose only submitted one. In this case, you could assign 30 points to the four-form person, but only 10 points to the one-form person.

Or, if someone hasn’t opened an email from you in the past 90 days, you might want to deduct 30 points from them. And yes, someone can have a negative value for their lead score.

How and Why is Lead Scoring Useful? 

By now, you should have a few ideas floating around, but let’s just state some of the big ones. Right off the bat, HubSpot has a pretty useful contact property called Lifecycle stage.

While it comes preset at certain values, you can also customize it to your situation. Assuming you keep it as is though, lead scoring can be a great way to help segment your contacts based on where they are in the marketing funnel.

For example, the early default stages of this property are subscriber, lead, and marketing qualified lead (commonly referred to as a MQL). Sometimes it’s easy to assign these stages, like making all contacts who subscribe to your blog a subscriber. But other times it can get more complex.

That’s where lead scoring comes in. If you set up some robust lead scoring criteria, you can simply define MQLs as all contacts with a certain point threshold based on the actions they are taking across your website and email communications. This way, you can assign all the important marketing actions someone takes using lead scoring and then simply segment all those contacts into lists based on current point value.

This will ensure that contacts are always in a relevant lifecycle stage.

Why Does Lead Scoring Affect the Sales Tool?

At a very basic level, you can use a contact’s point value to enroll them in a HubSpot workflow to create a deal within a specific pipeline.

For those who haven’t heard of HubSpot workflows, they’re a basic tool that allows you to set some sort of starting criteria that grabs relevant contacts and then allows you to execute a variety of actions, like sending emails, setting contact property values, perform calculations, or create deals (among many other things).

So while lead scoring doesn’t necessarily impact your sales process, it is a great way to segment your contacts, and then use those segmented contacts to create deals in relevant deal stages.

Where Can I See an Individual's Lead Score?

To see any contact’s personal lead score, you just need to open up their profile in HubSpot and view all their contact properties. Then, search for HubSpot Score (yes, HubSpot score and lead score are the same).

Unfortunately, HubSpot does not allow you to manually edit a contact’s lead score. The only way this value can change is through the criteria set in the Lead Score tool.  

HubSpot Sales Tools Available for Enrollment Teams

Calling Through HubSpot

Your HubSpot calling tool lets you reach your best prospects in just a few clicks. You can connect right from your browser or phone and record the call if you choose. At the end of your call, everything is automatically logged to your HubSpot CRM or Salesforce (if you have these two platforms synced).

Additionally, you have the ability to:

  • Register your phone number for calling
  • Make a call
  • Manage phone numbers registered for calling
  • Use provider-agnostic calling (Sales Hub Enterprise and Service Hub Enterprise only)

How to set up the Calls feature can be seen here.

Live Chat / Chatbots

Arguably my favorite HubSpot tool, live chat and chatbots are a great way to do some quick and easy sales interactions with users in real-time, even when you’re not available.

You’ve probably been to a few websites at this point that have this exact same functionality in the bottom right corner of the screen. And while I believe it has amazing potential, I also believe it’s been wonderfully abused. Chatbots can be one of those things that can frustrate you after one bad interaction, and maybe even leave a bad taste in a potential student’s mouth.

But when done’s a thing of beauty.

With HubSpot, you can easily setup live chat on any or all of your pages and connect it directly with people on your team. All of the conversations through the live chat tool are recorded in a global inbox that your admissions counselors can respond to and review in real time.

But it’s not reasonable to have someone monitoring that inbox 24/7. Instead, you can create a chatbot to help manage or filter the chats that are actually coming in. While I won’t go into the marketing strategy behind chatbots, just know that chatbots are conversational by nature, so don’t write content the way you would in a blog post or email.

Your chatbot should be able to answer some of the most common questions you get from students or direct them to resources that most apply to their question at hand. If for some reason the bot just can’t help them, include an option to speak with a real person. The last thing you want to do is hide the fact that they are speaking with a bot. Be transparent, be conversational, and at all times, be helpful.

A technical note about installing HubSpot live chat or a chatbot on your site - any page you want this functionality on must have the HubSpot tracking code installed on it.

Before we setup live chat and chatbots, make sure you’ve already created an inbox in the Conversations tool in HubSpot and created a user profile. You can do this by going to Conversations in the top HubSpot portal navigation > Inbox and then Inbox Settings in the bottom left.

How to Set Up Live Chat 

To put your live chat module on a page or pages, you need to create a chatflow. This is how you’ll create both live chat modules and chatbots. Chatflows are located under the Conversations tab in the main HubSpot portal navigation.

Step 1: Create a Chatflow by clicking on the big orange button at the top right.

Step 2: Select the Welcome Visitors option under the Start a Live Chat section and click Next.

Step 3: Name your chatflow at the top, choose who should appear in the header for this live chat (either an individual, a group, a specific team, or the contact owner), the welcome message, who should be assigned to this chat (you can only direct this chat to a specific user or team if they are paid HubSpot Sales users), when to ask for the chatter’s email address, what to say before you ask for the email, whether the message should open by default on desktop or mobile, and whether it should even appear on mobile.

Step 4: Make sure you save your settings at the bottom

Step 5: Click on the Who tab on the left side and choose who should see this specific live chat module.

Step 6: Click on the When tab on the left side and choose what page or pages this live chat module will show up on.

Step 7: Choose a language (this does not translate your content into that language, it just provides context to the bot for various formatting and linguistic purposes) and enable any GDPR options if those apply to your audience.

Step 8: Preview the live chat by actually interacting with it as a potential visitor would and adjust content as needed.

Step 9: Go live with your bot by clicking on the toggle button at the top right.

Then, when people begin to interact with your bot, you’ll be notified by email (or slack if you have set up the integration) and you can head right on over to the Inbox and talk with them in real-time.

Learn more about what you can with HubSpot live chat.

How to Set Up a Chatbot

To set up a chatbot, go to Chatflows again, click on Create chatflow, and then choose one of the 3 bot templates. Support bot will be locked for you unless you have purchased Service Hub as well. In this example, I’ll make a Lead Qualifying bot (which is built for Sales teams who only have time to speak with more qualified contacts).

As I said earlier, I’m not going to go into conversational strategy in this post. But before you create a chatbot, come up with a list of questions that all your admissions counselors ask at a most basic level. These generic, repeated questions are great for chatbots that can collect all that data en-masse and then forward to a team member only the contacts who are relevant or worth pursuing.

Step 1: Conversations > Chatflows > Create chatflow

Step 2: Choose Qualifying Leads bot

Step 3: Create or edit Message blocks based on necessary information—this is where the chatbot will look different for everyone and can grow in complexity and size. Some accounts will keep it linear like the default template, others will have if branches within if branches and use conditional logic to interact with visitors.

Step 4: Connect the conversation to an admissions counselor as denoted by the Send to a team member block at the end. You can only assign a chatbot conversation to a specific user if they are paid HubSpot Sales users. Otherwise, it will be routed to the most available user.

Step 5: On the left side, make all the edits you need for the Who and When (i.e., where) settings just like live chat.

Step 6: Set some personal information for this bot, like a custom avatar, a name, and error response when it gets confused, the time a conversation will stay active, how long the bot should wait between sending each message, the contextual language, and any GDPR settings.

Step 7: Test the bot by clicking on Preview and making sure all the data is being recorded accurately and in a conversational tone. Make adjustments as needed.

A note about bot data collection: there is a setting to skip a question if HubSpot already has data for that specific contact property, just make sure that whatever comes after it makes sense with or without the prior question’s context.

Step 8: Go Live!

Learn more about what HubSpot bots are capable of.

SMS Text

While not an official tool of the HubSpot Sales tool, we have an integration available that works to incorporate texting into the Sales process you create in HubSpot. Just like calling or emailing, this integration will let you text and receive texts from prospective students. And it’s all tracked within HubSpot.

This is another great channel that needs to be respected and handled carefully. It’s best to only use this if they’ve consented to texting communication and remain opted-in to this channel. You should always give them an option to opt-out of these kinds of communication.

HubSpot Notes

Notes are a great way to write down some important and quick information about a specific deal when the need arises. These notes should be general information that don’t necessarily pertain to a specific call, meeting, or email you had with the prospective student.

Why? Because there’s another part of the deal record that is for specifically logging information from those actions. You can find that option under the Log Activity tab.

To log a note, simply go to the deal record in question, click on the Notes tab, and start typing (or Log Activity if it’s for a specific meeting, call, or email).

A word of warning: Notes that you create in the deal record are NOT automatically transferred to a contact property record. Remember, deal records and contact records are different entities and don’t share properties automatically. So if you write a note in a contact record for Student Sam and then look at the Student Sam deal, you won’t see a note. This applies both ways.


The meetings tool is a great way to automatically set up meetings with potential students without needing to go back and forth through email. You can learn more about connecting your calendar to HubSpot here. Then, you can even built out a meetings bot to help get meetings setup for you.


With the sequences tool, you can send a series of targeted, timed emails to nurture a prospect (in this case, potential students) over time.

Additionally, you have the ability to:

  • Send contacts a series of templated emails at specified intervals.
  • Automatically end the sequence when the contact replies to an email.
  • Customize any of the templates in the sequence when you enroll individual contacts.
  • Allow contacts to unsubscribe from your sequence emails.
  • Add contacts to sequence queues to enroll multiple contacts (Sales Hub Professional and Enterprise only).
  • Review a detailed interaction of sequences in an individual contact’s information.

How to set up sequences can be seen here, including: creating and editing sequences, enrolling contacts, assigning tasks, setting delays, creating templates, and more.

The Sales Pro Tool Empowers Your Marketing and Enrollment Activities

Think of the Sales Tool as the jelly to HubSpot’s Marketing tools peanut butter. These tools are made to work in unison with each other, complementing the efforts and services provided by each individually.

Converting prospective students into enrolled students isn’t something that a Mar-Comms team or an Enrollment team can do on their own. Both types of skills or specialties are required in the long nurturing process, and the strategy to take a prospective student from first point of contact to enrolled student needs to be unified and cohesive.

When you’ve nurtured contacts with relevant and useful content and they continue further down the funnel, they will eventually hit a point where they become “sales-ready.” This is the point at which the power of the Sales Pro Tool, complete with deal pipelines, chatbots, and more, can transform how your institution takes qualified student leads and turns them into enrolled students.

With the HubSpot Sales tool lead scoring and deals pipeline, and a strong marketing and admissions strategy, enrollment teams can have a better idea of where a prospect is in the admissions funnel, what their level of interest is, what communications are taking place between the team and the prospective student, and ultimately, how qualified student leads will impact the bottom line.

You can also check out these helpful HubSpot resources:

HubSpot Resources