Which Factors are College Students Considering When Searching Online Programs? – Part 1
By: Christopher Tashjian May 17, 2018
Download the free 2017 Online College Students report from Aslanian Market Research.
They’re Looking at Costs First
When a student is choosing a traditional classroom-based school they’re typically looking at two main factors when applying: academic reputation and alumni success. Online college students are still concerned with reputation and outcomes, but the majority (61 percent) are weighing costs ahead of other factors. Students are also more concerned with whether a particular school has the program they’re interested in versus the location of the school–something that’s still a major deciding factor for traditional students. In fact, only 12 percent of students said the school’s location was their top reason for choosing an online program. Bottom line: Students want to know whether the school has the program they’re interested in and whether they can afford it. A solid majority of students (58 percent) knew the exact program they wanted, while about a third of students (37 percent) reported they didn’t know the exact program but knew the area they wanted to study (i.e. healthcare, business, etc.).
Whether they’re set on a program or still shopping around in a general area, students are going to check if they can afford a school and whether the program they want is available. If not, they’ll be applying elsewhere. Clear communication with students about programs and costs are critical when it comes to converting prospects into enrolled online students.
They Make Their Decisions Fast
When it’s time to apply online college students move quick. In 2017, most students (60 percent) reported it took them four weeks or less to apply to a school, and about half of those students said it took them less than two weeks. In surveying these students, we found most had prior experience in higher education and knew the program they were interested in. This lead them to making quick decisions, since they more than likely knew what they were after. When students were ready to apply, they didn’t waste time. That means online schools have to be quick in responding to inquiries otherwise many of those leads will go cold as students choose programs elsewhere. Make sure your response times are as fast as possible and information students are looking for can be easily found on your program websites.
They’re Not Attending College Fairs
Online college students are less likely to attend college fairs and more likely to search the web. In fact, search engines and college websites were the top ways students gathered information. Only 17 percent of students reported they received information from a college fair or other in-person event. Keeping a recruitment-centered website current with up-to-date information is now a necessity in recruiting online students.
Community is Key
More than ever, students are reporting that having a sense of community is essential to feeling satisfied with an online program. Students want chances to interact with classmates and teachers online and in person and to attend campus events throughout the academic year. A large percentage (60 percent) of students reported they wished they had changed something about their search, whether that means applying to more schools or searching for better financial aid packages. With more students second-guessing their decisions, creating a supportive and welcoming community in your online programs will go a long way toward making them feel they made the right decision. Today’s online students are focused on career success and make decisions quickly–if you don’t have what they want, they’re moving on to the next school. Once they apply and enroll, they want to feel welcomed and part of a team. They want to jump in and get going! Learn more about these and other important issues in our free report 2017 Online College Students.
Download the full Online College Students Report here.