Nontraditional students make up the largest and fastest-growing segment of the post-secondary student population, bringing revenue and life experience to colleges and universities around the world. Marketing to nontraditional students opens up an institution to a whole new demographic, adding a layer to the traditional students a university or college is already targeting.
But a nontraditional student’s unique background and life experience necessitate a different marketing approach.
Jessica Shasserre is director of higher education marketing at MediaCross.
A Nontraditional Approach
Marketing to traditional students is a fairly straightforward endeavor. Almost all of them fit comfortably into one large bucket: They follow a predictable cycle and enter college immediately after high school.
Nontraditional students are a separate matter, however. There is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy for the group that comes to colleges and universities from different backgrounds and at varying stages of their lives. The average nontraditional student has a lot to consider before making a decision, including the benefits to their careers, potential costs, and time commitment.
Here are five ways to get their attention:
When you do your market research at the local, national, or online level, find out what separates you from competitors. You might be the seventh-cheapest option, but you could also be the only institution that offers a fully online cybersecurity degree. Seek students who are professionally interested in that program and focus your efforts on them. Nontraditional students are notoriously picky, so find out what you have that they want.
This is easier said than done, but the right approach can make it work. Dedicate a person in your office to connect with human resources departments and build partnerships at different businesses. The HR department will always be the team to sign off on tuition discounts and contact employees about continuous learning initiatives such as free webinars. The latter is a great way to show off what you have to offer and generate interest among potential students.
Institutions that clearly state their nontraditional student outcomes, required time, and financial investment and present some degree of flexibility will stand out with this student group.
The majority of students enrolled in higher education right now are, in some way, technically nontraditional (i.e., some may be older, have kids, be married, or be working full time or part time). Why each type of student is pursuing higher education might be vastly different, learning how to market to each will help you as you continue to develop your enrollment marketing efforts.
Jessica Shasserre is director of higher education marketing at MediaCross, a recruitment marketing agency dedicated to helping others achieve their goals. Jessica helps create fresh marketing solutions for higher education clients with a personalized, brand-forward approach.