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How to Market Higher Education to Non-Traditional Students

The “non-traditional” student shouldn’t be called non-traditional anymore. In fact, they are becoming a new norm. Almost three-fourths of today’s college students are considered non-traditional with large percentages that are working full-time and taking classes part-time.

Since these students make up the majority, why are most institutions marketed mainly towards high school seniors? Here is what institutions need to do to capture this evolved target audience:

Have an Updated Website- Make a section dedicated to these students. Present a tab or link that is easily found on the homepage to direct them away from the traditional program that is most likely dominating the website. Here, students can see the variety of programs and courses offered along with accelerated programs, credit transfer information and other aspects unique to the institution.

Time is a big issue for adult students. They can be juggling a job and a family so giving them freedom and flexibility is essential. On the website, self-service resources should be available for students to be able to feel in control. Interactive tools such as student testimonials, program previews and transfer credit calculators give adult students the research tools they need on their own time.

Optimize for Search – SEO will get the curious adult student to your site. Identify benefits, programs and other content that your institution offers for non-traditional students and optimize the placement, delivery and messages in your content. Institutions often miss this important piece due to the perceived high costs, but a quick keyword analysis and on-page optimization can be cost effective with high returns.

Speak Their Language – Train your admissions team to work with adult students and be empathic towards the many reasons non-traditional students seek higher education, from time and resources to work and life experiences. Admissions staff needs to be patient and promote exploration for these students. Once the students are admitted, stick with them and continually find ways to serve them better and foster retention. If students decide to leave the institution, check back sporadically; a lot can change in a year.  All of the information developed through relationships with the admissions team can help guide marketing and recruitment strategies.

Just like developing programs targeted to non-traditional students, optimizing the information and building recognition for top-notch non-traditional programs takes careful consideration. Take these steps and your institution is on its way to capturing the experience non-traditional students are looking for.

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