3 Tips for Understanding Online Students and Increasing Enrollments


By: Christopher Tashjian Sep 06, 2018

3 Tips for Understanding Online Students and Increasing Enrollments

Marketing specifically to online students and post traditional learners is different than marketing to traditional students. After all, these potential students aren’t restricted by location and usually have families, full-time jobs, or both. However, the 2018 Online College Students Report by Aslanian Market Research and The Learning House shows that in some regards, these online students aren’t as different as originally thought. Check out the three unique aspects of online students that make them more similar to traditional students than originally thought and how to apply these lessons to improving online student enrollments.

Want to learn how to align marketing and recruitment resources to find and enroll more students for your online programs? Register below for the live webinar: “Building a Marketing & Recruitment Ecosystem” with Nicole Horn, President of JMH Consulting.

1) Online Students Move Fast

Not surprising, post traditional learners move fast once they decide to pursue a degree. According to the report, 62% of online students apply to school within four weeks of starting their research. Yes, this is fast, but it is also down about 9% from the 2017 report.
What this data shows is that once a potential student decides to pursue a degree, they are contacting and applying to schools quickly. In order to meet this demand, schools need to have the resources to respond to applicants and answer any questions.
How Many Schools Do Students Contact?
When it comes to contacting schools, there are some differences between undergraduate and graduate students.
For instance, graduate students contacted slightly more schools before applying than undergraduate students (2.7 schools for graduate students compared to 2.44 for undergraduate students). This could be because of a better understanding of what they are looking for in a program and trying to find specific matches.

However, when it comes to the number of schools that students applied to, the numbers were almost identical, with graduate students applying to an average of 2.31 schools and undergraduates applying to an average of 2.24 schools.

2. Online Students Are More Likely to Remember Digital Ads

Ads on search engines, email, and Facebook, as well as posts on Facebook and other social media sites, were very memorable to online students. In fact, the only two traditional media sources in the same range were College Fairs and television commercials.

As schools struggle to find how to stick out in a competitive market, understanding the right blend of digital and traditional marketing, as well as specific locations and ad placements to spend your marketing dollars, is an ongoing challenge.
Either way, focusing on a multichannel approach, with more emphasis on digital ads and social media sites, are the most memorable.

3. Online Students Prefer to Stay Local

Even though they are not restricted by location, many online students are choosing to attend a school close to home. In fact, 78% of online students choose a school within 100 miles of home.

Why? Because even though these are online students, 76% are visiting campus at least once a year and 45% visit three or more times a year.
Why Do Online Students Visit Campus?
There are four main reasons why online students visit campus, which are:

  1. Meeting with instructor – 40%
  2. Making a payment – 31%
  3. Meeting a study group – 29%
  4. Using the library or lab – 29%

How This Impacts an Online School’s Marketing Plan
While post traditional learners have the option to attend school across the country, or even across the world, they are still choosing to stay local. Therefore, unlike previously thought, a university’s competition may not be recognizable national brands with online programs that spend marketing dollars on brand recognition.
Instead, the biggest competition for your online programs may come from schools that you’ve always competed with for local students.
Understanding this information and translating it into successful marketing plans that target students, as well as offering programs that meet the needs of current and future applicants, is how your university can get a better return on investment for your marketing dollars.

Strategic Enrollment Management

Strategic enrollment management encompasses the entire lifecycle of a student and focuses on increasing enrollments, but also retention rates and graduation rates.
And, as these findings show, online students aren’t that different from traditional students in some regards. Successful marketing plans have evolved to meet the needs of a more digitally-aware and digitally-literate student to meet them on the platforms and channels where they spend their time.
However, even online students still have strong ties to community and a central location. In addition, the speed of the decision-making process means that colleges and universities need the resources to respond to inquiries so they don’t lose potential students.

Enrollment Management Services and Your School

As competition continues to increase, in order to increase enrollments, many schools need to understand how to reach potential students. However, challenges include not understanding this data, how to effectively apply the data to different settings, and not having the resources to properly implement and maintain a strategy.
Many schools now rely on outside agencies, such as EducationDynamics to use resources, such as a contact center, retargeting ads, and email campaigns, as well as custom landing pages and other lead generation tools, to take the stress off of the individual school.
Schedule a consultation today to learn how we can help you. Or, download the 2018 Online College Students Report from Aslanian Market Research and The Learning House today.
Continue reading to learn the good, the bad, and the ugly about email marketing in higher education to develop effective strategies for your school.