How You Can Enroll More Non-Traditional Students
Oct 01, 2016
How can you enroll more non-traditional students - the Tip #1 is to do a better job of understanding of who they are, what they want, need, expect and perceive.
I say that because that is going to impact your messaging, offers, media selection and even your contact strategy.
And that's where most colleges are dropping the ball. And that's Tip #2 - develop messaging, offers, media selection and contact strategies. Tip #3 is "...and make sure you test them because somethings will work better than others and you need to constantly search for ways to better leverage your strengths and resources in order to improve performance!"
17% of the colleges audited failed to respond to prospective student inquiries. Of those that responded, 33% made only 1 attempt in the first 2-weeks following the request for information and 58% failed to provide the requested program information!
(Source: 2016 DWS Associates Recruitment Audit)
How Do Non-Traditional Student Recruitment Efforts Come To This?
The reasons we hear include "...we don't have the resources to do that..." And we understand that. Most colleges have 5 or 6 people trying to do the work of many more.
Which is why outsourcing should be a viable option. But dig a little deeper and we hear "...we don't have that expertise on staff or the budget to hire that expertise with either a new employee or external freelancer...."
Which brings us to Tip #4 - sometimes you have to redirect resources that are invested in activities that are not generating acceptable returns towards those things you know need to be addressed.
Let me explain that one. We recently performed an assessment for a small, private college and reported back that their emails didn't address the prospective student's stated program of interest. We're not talking about the first email...we're talking about every email the college sent out during the first 2-weeks following the prospective student reaching out to the college and saying "Hey, I am interested in your PROGRAM NAME and I would be enrolling in the fall 2017 - can you send me some information?"
The first email thanked the prospect for their interest in the college and went on about a long history of educating young minds and preparing them for success. Nothing about the stated program of interest.
The second email mentioned an upcoming open house and included a link to start the online application. Again, nothing about the stated program of interest.
The third and fourth emails focused on the "...more than 50 degree programs ..." and "...more than 100 clubs and organizations..."
No mention about the program of interest whatsoever!
And again, these were being sent to a 40-year old male that expressed interest in the MBA program. This wasn't going to a 17-year old high school junior. Yet the messaging was more appropriate for the traditional student. And the offers were completely inappropriate since the initial request from the prospect hadn't been addressed yet.
So, you can see, that this is an example of the wrong messages being sent out.
Also, let's focus on the offers for moment. They included 'attend an open house', 'call us if you have questions' and 'start your application now'. And they were all before answering the prospective student's original questions about the program of interest.
What about starting with "watch this video of the faculty and students in your program of interest" and "download a checklist that will help you compare our program with the others you are considering so you can make an informed decision" or "schedule a time to talk with me about financial aid, balancing family, work and school etc."?
After all, few of us walk into a car dealer and say "Ring me up for that one over there"...why should we expect prospective students to start the application process before we provide them with information on their program of interest?
The media mix - all email - is easy and inexpensive for the college but what about the prospective student? Maybe direct mail might be more effective? Or a phone call? Or a mix of the 3?
Finally, the contact strategy was nothing more than "email the next in series until the series of emails ends after #5, then switch them to the monthly university news emails until they unsubscribe." If the prospective student called or attended the open house, the emails would continue. An enrollment specialist/admissions counselor might call or send their own personal email if they spoke to the prospective student on the phone or at the event - but it wasn't required.
So What's The Answer For Your Non-Traditional Student Recruitment?
Well, first is gaining a better insight into your audience. Talk to prospective, new and current students about their experiences - what were there wants, needs, expectations and perceptions? Who did they consider and why did they select you? (Or, in the case of prospects, how do you compare - strengths and weaknesses - from their perspective?)
Second, identify your segments and walk through their process. What messages and offers and media channels should you use to [a] generate inquiries, [b] respond to inquiries, [c] motivate them to start the application, [d] get them to submit the completed application, [e] motivate them to enroll/register in courses and [f] get them to attend and succeed? How often do you contact them in each stage? How do you respond to their actions or in-actions? When do you decide that you need to spend more time with Person A vs. Person B because Person A is meeting your criteria for someone that will enroll and succeed whereas Person B is not?
If you are searching for ways to increase non-traditional student enrollments, check out our complimentary assessment. We can help you identify gaps and weaknesses and opportunities for leveraging your strengths and resources in order to generate more enrollments.
We can also develop your message, offer, media and contact strategies so that you can deliver the right message and offer to the right person via the right channel at the right time so that they are more motivated to move forward with you.
And we can provide you with the content creation services so you have the emails, direct mail, landing pages, and other content that brings the strategies to life.
Or you can continue to have it on your 'To Do' list...and who knows, maybe next year?!
Patrick McGraw is VP of Higher Educaton Marketing Services and has more than 25 years experience in market research, competitive intelligence, business intelligence including database marketing and CRM, strategic planning, brand development and management as well as operations/campaign management. His work has consistently helped his clients and employers develop and implement more efficient ways to attract and retain profitable customers, enter new markets and launch new products. His areas of focus include the education, hospitality, travel and tourism, hi-tech, telecommunications, financial services, and retail industries on both the agency and customer sides.