Over the past five years, the prospective student pool has waned. Innovations in higher education have prompted the media – and forced institutions – to reassess the value of a traditional college experience. And as we know all too well, a financial recession has put cash-strapped prospective student families with outsize expectations of financial aid in challenging situations.
Amid market disruption and cultural shifts, new opportunities are emerging before our eyes, and the institutions equipped with the right information and insights will reap the benefits. So, how can an institution define its value proposition in terms that resonate with this generation of college applicants?
How will you understand their language, and how will you speak it?
Fluent messaging will be the linchpin of any enrollment management strategy. High school seniors today – and equally, their parents – are keenly focused on value, more so than those in your generation, or any prior. As such, to attract a full, successful student body, every institution must convey the opportunities that its degree will provide.
Career preparation is key. In the realm of college admissions, 2013 is a historic year. For the first time ever, career preparation has outranked academic quality as the number one driver for prospective undergraduate students. The Eduventures “College Bound Market Update” has identified this key marker of student preferences and the trends that are driving an invigorated focus on whether, and how, various degrees will impact career opportunities.
Parents are partners. Parents of today’s high school seniors wield an unprecedented degree of influence in the college search and selection process. Many are conducting their own research on colleges, sharing their insights, and working as collaborative partners with their children. That said, there remains a wide spectrum of parent involvement, so institutions are faced with the task of speaking to parents ranging from “in the zone” to “zoned out.” Institutions that tailor messaging specifically for parents with varying degrees of involvement will succeed in winning over these key influencers of prospective students. The Eduventures “Parent Market Update” details the three distinct groups of parents that emerged in this year’s study, discussing how to develop a holistic communications strategy that will speak fluidly to a complex collection of influencers.
Demographics are only part of the picture. Some insight can be gained by considering the tendencies of race, gender, resident status, and major. However, by focusing mainly on these categories, institutions are not accounting for the core motivations a student may have for pursuing a college degree. And without this insight, it can be tough to develop a compelling message.
In this year’s “College Bound Market Update,” three predominant motivations for attending college have emerged. By considering your messaging in terms of these student groups and highlighting your institution’s strengths in these areas, you can truly engage this generation of students and make a clear case that a college application could be the first step towards the future they seek.
- Pragmatists are most common among today’s college applicants; they attend college to prepare for a career. Pragmatists tend to have a strong interest in STEM majors and others that lead to high-paying, in-demand occupations.
- Intellectuals seek knowledge and, you guessed it, intellectual development. While they also tend to choose STEM majors, a greater proportion of them are also interested in the humanities.
- Self-Actualizers attend college to mature as individuals and contribute to society. They are the smallest group of prospective students, and they are more likely to pursue degrees in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
As prospective students and parents consider what they are looking for out of college, institutions have an opportunity to speak to those specific interests and goals. If you can make a clear case as to how your institution provides a unique and effective path to success, the rest will come naturally. No translator necessary.