A smiling, polite High School scholar brandishing a diploma and flanked by Mom and Dad may be the ideal target audience for undergrad admissions marketing, but creating a clear picture of the prospective grad student is more challenging. While plenty of graduate applicants are still fresh-faced twenty-somethings, many are seeking a second career, juggling children at home, or pursuing a passion that they’d previously shelved. Here are key points universities would be wise to consider when creating marketing content to attract the amorphous grad student audience:
1) Know thyself:
With an understanding of a university’s strengths and weaknesses, you can better allocate money in the budget to bolster certain programs. A Harvard MBA sells itself, but often schools continue to mail out literature about their most famous programs at the neglect of their unsung academic heroes.
Cross-promoting less illustrious programs at the same university could attract a greater number of applicants. For example, if the Iowa MFA webpage provided links to information about the school’s PhD in English Lit, applicants would be enticed to apply to both.
2) Clearly shape the conversation about finances:
Prospective grad students have been consumers longer than undergrads, and further, they are much more likely to be spending their own money rather than their parents’.
Give premier real estate in web content and advertising to the most promising scholarships and fellowships the program has to offer. Offer to assign prospective students individual financial counselors for further questions. If the program in question isn’t well-funded, have confident answers at the ready and the data to back them up. “Yes, while the program costs $30,000 a year, the average graduate of our program lands a job making $60,000 their first year out, so any loans could reasonably be paid off in a couple of years.” Avoiding financial conversations makes savvy consumers wary.
3) Consider target audiences:
Whether it’s a specific field that is particularly prone to having turnover—like publishing, for example—or a specific demographic ripe for considering higher ed—like recent veterans—do your homework on not just who may be a good fit for your programs, but how they might finance it. While the new GI Bill is often used for undergraduate education, it is also applicable to grad school doing the research for specific prospective student groups makes them all the more likely to apply.
4) Promote your University’s lifestyle:
Certainly, adding flavor and color to the landscape of the university does great work to woo undergrads and grad students alike. For example, some undergrads are drawn to Tulane University for their emphasis on New Orleans itself: the restaurants, the music scene, the surrounding regional charm.
Grad students are more likely to ask questions like: Is the university in an area with good public schools for children? Is grad student housing available for couples and families? Is this a program that can largely be completed at night, or remotely? Could I feasibly finish the coursework while working full time?
Consider the myriad lifestyle concerns that will impact the choice of prospective students when drafting marketing content. The program may be ranked impressively by the Princeton Review or have a celebrity visiting professor, but certain applicants will be better swayed by the campus fitness facility and the flexible hours.