The Secret Closer: Campus Tours

Research Insight on Nontraditional Student Recruitment

Campus tours are an important part of the enrollment experience. There is nothing that can replace the sights, sounds…the vibe of a college campus. But what if your institution recruits a large non-traditional student population? The traditional tour may not work; in fact, it may be a barrier for enrollment. So, what does work? That is OSU-OKC wanted to know.

OSU-OKC is a two-year college in Oklahoma City with more than half of their population being nontraditional students. The college was looking to boost enrollment, so they hired Enroll-U to research what was or wasn’t working with their marketing plan, and to recommend new marketing strategies. We evaluated the college on several factors including competitors, enrollment process, outreach and marketing efforts. Some of our findings for OSU-OKC and other institutions with a large nontraditional student population show that traditional marketing isn’t always the best recruitment strategy.

Digital Presence: Nontraditional students first collect information online to narrow college choices. Due to work and life demands they are also less likely to take a college tour or set foot on campus if at all. That means that a strong digital presence is critical since the website is the first impression and primary source of information. Is the website easy to navigate? Is the program information easy to find?

This population is especially looking for a blend of traditional classroom and online instruction. Having online options for enrollment and scheduling is key. Can they fill out the required information online instead of coming to campus? Is it easy to talk to an enrollment specialist, or a real human online or on the phone, before or after work hours?

Lifestyle: Nontraditional students reported programs of study, location and cost being their highest criteria in their selection process. They are more definitive in what degrees or certifications they want to achieve, and time to completion and schedule of coursework and classes are more important factors than cost. Use messages to speak to their points of pain and solutions. For example, show how your institution can help them fit school in with work and family and share stories of successful nontraditional students and how their coursework helped with a new job, career advancement or higher income potential.

Timing: Nontraditional students are not likely to enroll during traditional enrollment dates so invest digital marketing dollars outside of these dates. Schedule advertising before and after work day, 9 a.m. -5p.m., times for both traditional and social media.

Consider offering times for a professor or instructor to visit with a student and answer questions, even it’s through instant messaging, outside of traditional hours. Create social pages for different fields of study where a potential student could post a question to the group.

And have a strategic “drop-in” campus tour plan. One respondent said they used their lunch time to stop by the college, “check it out and pick up materials.” Their experience was rushed and chaotic and didn’t leave a favorable opinion. The student wasn’t expecting the “Ivy League” stroll but did want to feel welcome.

If you want to learn more about how to market better to prospective nontraditional students, contact Enroll-U. We can help you reach your goals.

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