Attracting the Right Students for Business Programs


By: Emma Rose Jul 02, 2019

Attracting the Right Students for Business Programs

Why the focus on business students? Business degrees make up a huge percentage of the total degrees awarded to students each year. According to the National Center for Education Statistics more students are earning undergraduate degrees in business than in any other subject area. In the 2014-2015 school year, 364,000 business degrees were awarded. Compared to health programs the second highest total of degrees confirmed, which awarded 216,000 degrees, and you understand why so many schools compete to attract and retain business students. No other field is close.

Although the overall number of business enrollments at four-year institutions has dropped slightly over the past few years, business schools are still enrolling 500,000 more students than the next most popular program (health). To tap into this enrollment potential, universities need to think about how they can attract business students.

What potential business students look for

Start by understanding what potential business students are looking for in a college or university. The three factors that most concern potential business students are:

  1. Cost. In the 2019 Online College Students Report, published by Aslanian Market Research, a Division of EducationDynamics, and LearningHouse, Affordability was listed as a top 3 consideration for 60% of undergraduates and 42% of graduate prospective students. This doesn’t mean only the least expensive schools will attract students, it just means that your institution needs to be transparent about pricing so students can make an informed decision.
  2. Ranking.  The CarringtonCrisp survey of undergraduate and post graduate business students found that 78% of students were concerned with rankings. Being transparent about where you land on state and national rankings can help you attract business students. Of course, if your ranking is low, focusing on another factor may be more beneficial.
  3. Flexible course schedules. A percentage of your of business students are returning to college to improve their career prospects. They may already have a bachelor’s degree and be looking for an MBA or they may have an Associate’s degree and be pursuing a Bachelor’s. These students already have careers and personal responsibilities. They need course schedules that fit into their lifestyle rather than requiring them to take years away from work. Offering flexible online and blended curricula can make your school seem friendlier to working learners.

At least one of these factors should appear front and center on your website and be included in most of your marketing messages if you want to attract business students.

Other qualities that can attract business students

In addition to these primary factors, students may look for secondary qualities that confirm they’re choosing the right school. If your school has any of these qualities, be sure to showcase them after first contact with the student. These can include:

  • Experienced professors or instructors. Business students may see your curriculum as more valuable if it’s taught by professors and instructors who have experience in the field. All the better if these teachers are currently working as CEO’s, CFO’s, VP’s of Marketing, Board Members or in other leadership roles in business.
  • Tools to do good. You might be surprised to hear that when today’s students think about getting a great job, they’re thinking about more than salary and benefits. Many students are looking for the opportunity to do good in the world while growing their career. Connecting students with programs, organizations, and even investment funds that have a social benefit, can help make your school more attractive to degree seekers.
  • Opportunity for real world experience. Students know that experience gives them a leg up in the job market.Whether in the form of internships, externships, client-based research projects or employment, opportunities for real world experience add value to student degrees. By highlighting these opportunities you help students see the true value of your program.
  • Networking opportunities. From job fairs to professional organizations, networking opportunities help students improve their career prospects. While big-name schools bring big-name prestige, even smaller schools can offer valuable networking opportunities by creating partnerships with local businesses or with local branches of national and international businesses.

How to get the word out

Messaging is only valuable if students actually see it. Get your marketing messages out to potential business students by meeting them where they spend the most time. In most cases, this means posting online. Build your online presence in the right places. Students look for  information about prospective business schools in three online areas: school websites, search engines, and social media.

Your school website is prime real estate. It’s the number one source for student information-gathering about institutions according to the Higher Education Digital Marketing Trends Report. Make sure that your website showcases at least one or two of the elements potential business students are looking for. For many schools, focusing on cost or rank can have the most impact.

Don’t make students dig for information about your school. Answer their questions clearly and concisely before they even have to ask. Once you’ve gotten their attention, you can add amplifying information about networking opportunities, professor experience or other qualities.

Keep in mind that optimizing your website for search ranking can make a big difference in the number of inquiries you get. According to the Digital Marketing Trends Report, only 56.4% of schools generating 100 or fewer inquiries per month use organic search. Compare that to schools generating 101-1000 inquiries per month, 83.1% of whom use organic search. Some basic keyword research and the intentional creation of quality content can help your institution attract business students.

You might think that a strong advertising strategy makes organic search irrelevant, but students disagree. According to a survey by Rapt Media, 61% of searchers say they would rather find content on their own than discover it through advertising.

Social media is a great place to educate students about your program. This is where those secondary qualities can have a big impact. According to GenerationWeb, Facebook is the most popular social media platform with 92% of students using it, followed by LinkedIn with 71%. According to our research, 74% of colleges generate web-based inquiries with Facebook ads while only 16% use LinkedIn ads. LinkedIn may be the next frontier for schools looking to attract business students. Look for ways to make your institution irresistible on social media whether that’s through advertising or through organic posting.

Help to get started

Universities can attract business students with the right marketing messages and placement. If you need help creating targeted marketing for the right platforms, contact us. We’ve been helping institutions of higher education find high-quality prospects, at scale for over a decade.