Six Differentiators Institutions Use to Attract StudentsCindy Miller | Director of Columbia College Global Civilian Region 2 and Director of Columbia College Kansas City, Columbia College
But how does your institution accomplish that? While there are many marketing options, the one that perhaps has the most impact and farthest reach is the college website. Here is where you can “brand” your institution, talk about different degrees and services offered and answer common questions asked by your potential customers.
Using that venue, many colleges are highlighting very different institutional characteristics to set them apart from others, in some of the following areas.
The media has been rife with stories of excessive student debt. For that reason, potential students are now paying attention to the financial bottom line. Some institutions are distinguishing themselves as non-profit versus for-profit, or public versus private, in order to encourage customers to be more financially savvy. Competitive tuition pricing, application fee waivers and generous financial aid packages including scholarships and grants are often highlighted to attract students.
2. Course Delivery Options
Classes are offered on campus, online, on the weekends, in an accelerated format and in many other timeframes and venues. Flexible transfer policies and credit for prior work experience are touted as unique to their own institution.
3. Campus Characteristics and Amenities
Emphasizing the campus environment is nothing new — this kind of recruiting has been done since the middle of the 20th century. Large institutions promote their wide choice of majors, enhanced research opportunities and greater student diversity. Small campuses hawk their particular academic focus, intimate class sizes, increased opportunities for interaction with faculty and personal attention. Ivy League and other prestigious institutions stress their rigorous admissions standards and selectivity or their historical reputation. Still others underscore the community or neighborhood in which the institution is located. Pictures of shiny new facilities, luxurious dormitories and students engaged in every conceivable extracurricular activity abound on college websites.
4. Targeted Students
Many institutions indicate that they serve very distinctive populations — military service personnel, people who work in public service or non-profit occupations, working adults or first-generation college attenders, to name a few. Women’s and Historical Black Colleges and universities are also still robust here in the United States.
5. Career Opportunities
Some postsecondary institutions highlight career opportunities upon graduation and advertise impressive employer partnerships. Internships, international study abroad and the ability to gain real-world employability skills are endorsed.
6. Trademark Programs
Nearly every college or university has one or more specialized, unique, “signature” majors and works to attract students to those degrees.
With the intense competition out there, colleges have discovered they must have some strong academic niche or other type of distinctive identity that makes them stand out in the crowd, for the purpose of attracting prospective scholars.
Institutions are now strategically choosing what to present, emphasize and exclude. They are becoming more direct in terms of what they offer and who they want as students. In fact, the best branding efforts are not intended to appeal to 100 percent of the masses. Rather, they are targeted at the students who are interested in their specific product/degree and therefore more likely to excel and persist to degree completion.
Author Perspective: Administrator