All market research is helpful in any sort of business. Schools and universities are businesses as well. For this reason, good market research may help. Let me suggest a few ways in which market research may help universities to attract new students.
First, if schools know what students are looking for, it can be very successful in attracting new students. So, for example, if a school knows that students want more evening classes, then by offering evening classes, more students will attend.
Second, good marketing will also show what the needs, fears, and aspirations of students are. This can be valuable information. The school can use this information to reinvent their school to meet these needs and desires. Finally, through marketing, the school also get more exposure, which is always an important thing.
market researchs can be used for many purposes. to beter understand the customer( student) , to find out the potential or demand, to clasify the motives for selection etc...
Universities should focus on two types of customers one existing customers two prospects.
in your case making a research on prospects gives false or guided data. the students which tend to chose a university will answer with their wishes not actual demands.
I recomend to demonstrate surveys or MR on freshman students as early as possible. ( just before semester is recomended).
a questioneere focusing on their demographic and social status as well as their motieves on choosing the university and department would give very important data for recruiting new students.
several out comes could be such: Majority of new students may hear out the university from a local educational web site. which urges you to focus on such sites.
or most of your students may be coming from a group of colleges. which directs you to direct marketing activities at those destinations.