Every student wants to be more than a number. Read on for how to make your admissions process more responsive, personalized, and transparent.
When you picture the typical college student, who do you see?
(Be honest — is it ?)
At most higher learning institutions, admissions departments were developed with a more traditional applicant in mind — 18 years old, straight out of high school, and registering for full-time enrollment (and on-campus housing). But the times, they are a-changin’!
Today’s student is often older, working full time, and looking for part-time or flexible learning options. The may surprise you:
- Only 15% of college undergraduates attend four-year colleges and live on campus.
- 37% are enrolled part time.
- 32% work full time.
- 38% are over age 25.
(These numbers are only expected to climb over the next few years.)
Some institutions are thriving amid this demographic shift, but others have been slow to adapt. They still use a one-size-fits-all approach that assumes every applicant has several months to wait for a decision, time to sift through piles of snail-mailed information packets, and ready access to high school transcripts.
Adult learners are looking for a faster, more personalized way to learn about their options and take action — one that acknowledges their busy lives and competing commitments. They not only want to see they can acquire credentials quickly, conveniently, and affordably — they also want the flexibility and support required to balance school, work, and family.
Hereare four strategies you can use to make your admissions process more friendly to attract more adult students:
1. Meet students on their own terms.
When choosing an institution, adult learners over any other factor. The school’s reputation comes in a close second, and academic program quality is third. Adults usually have rooted their lives, work, and families where they are, so they can’t shop around and take road trips to check out campuses like high school seniors do.
Adult students are already taking on a huge challenge by adding school into the mix, so colleges that offer courses that fit into their hectic lives will attract more adult students. Great ways to create more flexible options include developing alternative class options, including:
- Online classes
- Hybrid classes
- Competency-based learning
- Accelerated degree programs
- Evening and weekends class options
2. Respond to student interest quickly.
For schools that boast small class sizes and accessible faculty, the admissions experience doesn’t effectively reflect the highly personalized student experience. Adults who express interest can’t necessarily wait two weeks to receive informational packets in the mail, nor make time to call and speak with a human during normal business hours.
What they want and need are immediate responses from real people. Often, questions that could take weeks to figure out alone could be answered in a 10-minute conversation. The best adult and online programs respond to potential students within hours, not days, and employ multiple forms of communication — like text or video chat — to make admissions counselors more accessible.
3. Understand their unique goals.
Aside from scheduling issues, the biggest difference between adult learners and younger students is their focus on reaching the end goal. Working adults go back to school because they want to advance their careers or achieve specific personal goals, not because it seems like the natural next step or because it’s what’s expected of them.
This kind of drive makes older students highly motivated to complete their programs. They are looking for institutions that will help set them up for success from the beginning and support them throughout the journey.
4. Ease their transition.
Returning to school can be an intimidating step in life. Most adults who decide to finish or begin degree programs have been out of the swing of things for years, so a little encouragement can go a long way to relieve their concerns.
Providing students with the opportunity to speak with someone who can help them clarify plans and goals — and offer possible solutions to obstacles they may face along the way — will make your institution stand out as the best option for many adults.
, for example, is doing a fantastic job of supporting prospective students. Its emphasis on coaching applicants through their first experience with the school has resulted in increased enrollment (and students who are better prepared to finish what they start). George Washington University, Harvard University, and Northeastern University are similarly sophisticated in their approaches to enrolling working adults.
How to Attract Adult Students with Personalized Processes
These strategies are necessary for positive admissions experiences among adult learners, but even younger students will appreciate more responsive, personalized, and transparent processes. Every student wants to be more than a number, to interact in the ways they find most convenient, and to know they’ll get the support they need to thrive both inside and outside of the classroom.[avatar user=”pwheelan” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” /]
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