How Student Motivations Should Alter Your College Marketing Strategies

4 min read

Julia Sachs

Going to college has always represented opening your horizons regarding future opportunities and career fields usually reserved for college graduates.

Today, when many businesses are 
getting rid of that requirement in their hiring process, many students question whether the degree they were once told they needed still holds the same value. With student motivations changing according to changes in various professional industries, universities need to reevaluate why students are still pursuing higher education and leverage that in their marketing to appeal to prospective students in the future. 

Education required for specific career paths: Some career paths, like those in the medical, educational or scientific fields, require a degree because they require specialized instruction to work in the area. Students looking to enter such fields are likely to look for schools that have programs with high respectability in their industry or have the resources students need to enter the area directly after graduating. 

Expand potential earnings: While many businesses are open to the idea of hiring employees that have not completed a degree, many still require a degree from their applicants. Many students enter college with the expectation that they will expand their potential earnings after graduation by entering their desired field with the necessary credentials. 

Networking: Schools with robust and widespread alumni networks will likely attract students looking to break into similar fields. Many students, especially those in graduate and Ph.D. programs, are looking to network during their time at school. For these students, networking opportunities are likely the primary reason for choosing one program over another. 

Independence & social opportunity: Many young students attend college for the autonomy and social freedom they experience in an on-campus environment. For students looking for a robust social experience, on-campus clubs and activities might be critical in choosing which schools they want to apply to. 

Expand career options: Students that are unsure of what they want to pursue in life often go to college to test different fields. These students are often drawn to schools with many programs or the opportunity to test the waters with other classes until they decide on a schedule. These students may feel that college is an excellent way to learn about several fields quickly but might seek additional resources like career information or advice from guidance counselors. 

Learn new skills: Some students enter college because they want to learn new skills or a wide variety of skills. They may have a niche interest or hobby that they can further pursue by attending a specific university. Schools that are located in a mountain or wilderness area, for example, might attract students interested in exploring the wilderness or participating in mountain sports. Similarly, schools located in tropical places or regions near the ocean may attract students interested in the local landscape or hobbies associated with it, like surfing or diving. 

Adjusting Your Marketing

With different reasons that students might go to college in mind, you can adjust your marketing based on which students you’re targeting at any given moment. More prominent universities targeting several of these demographics can A/B test their advertising to reach more than one demographic at once. 

Schools located in unique places, like near ski resorts or on the beach, can use student hobbies to their advantage in their advertising and marketing. Take advantage of local hobbies and integrate them into your marketing, or offer unique classes to let students get more in touch with their natural surroundings. These things can make your school stand out, and when used in advertising, can help attract students that may not have thought about your school before. 

Schools in remote areas can offer camping classes, such as other outdoor courses that will give them valuable life skills and might attract them to your school over another. In places like New York City, schools can embrace local activities like museum-going or visiting remarkable landmarks in their advertising to attract students that share those interests. Look for ways your school can stand out to students interested in expanding their skills and hobbies, and embrace that in your marketing. 

Social media advertising allows schools to target niche, interest-based demographics in their marketing efforts. You can specify interests or liked businesses and age and geographic location data to deliver high-quality advertisements to specific groups of students. 

Students interested in pursuing specialized careers that require a degree to get into the field would benefit from learning more about your programs specifically. Take advantage of collected data from informational events, online searches, or short web surveys to understand better why students want to attend your college and integrate your findings into your marketing strategy. 


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