5 Ways to Effectively Market to Nontraditional Students in 2021

COVID-19 threw everyone for a loop in 2020, and because of the effect the pandemic had on the individual and economic level, adults are focused more than ever on going back to school. Whether the goal is to train for a new career or get a leg up in their own field, adult learners, or nontraditional students, are returning to school. With the changing demographic of students, it is important to keep up with different marketing strategies to make sure your institution reaches your target audience. To give you a jump start, here are five ways to effectively market to the nontraditional student.

Defining Nontraditional Students

Before we get into how to market to the nontraditional student, we should identify who the nontraditional student is. According to the NCES, a nontraditional student falls into one or more of these categories:

  1. A student who delays enrollment in a postsecondary education by more than a year after graduating high school

  2. Any student who carries financial and familial responsibilities, such as being financially independent from their parents, filing a dependent (other than a spouse) on their taxes, or working full time while enrolled

  3. A student who did not graduate high school but received a certification of completion, such as a GED

More nontraditional students are looking to get an education now because of COVID-19’s effect on the world, the job market, and the hiring process. Whether a potential learner is using this opportunity to start a new career or gain more skills to excel at their current career, institutions should be prepared to market to a growing group of individuals.

State the Length of Courses and Programs 

Nontraditional students want to see the full picture before they commit to a program. Mapping out the specific length of a program is helpful for prospective students when they plan to return to school. Because adult learners are likely returning to school in order to start a career, having a timeline of how long they will be in school before potentially starting their career is important in the marketing strategy. When showcasing programs as part of a marketing strategy, you should include an overview of the program, the cost per credit or course, who the instructors are (and what their experience/degrees are in), an overview of the admissions and enrollment process, and the next start date. Most returning adult learners want to start their programs as soon as possible, so keeping up with enrollment dates is important in the marketing process.

Be Direct About the Cost of Programs 

The extracurriculars of an institution, such as campus life, are less important to nontraditional students. They are more interested in a direct approach to marketing, so be up-front with potential students about the cost of the program and potential ways to pay for it. Many nontraditional students have other people in their household to care for, as well as other finances, so the cost plays a huge role in their decision to enroll. 

What’s the Return on Investment? 

“Is this really worth it?” is a question most nontraditional students ask themselves when considering returning to school. While no career is guaranteed after graduation, it is helpful to show prospective students different opportunities that are available to them after the completion of the program of their interest. This can be done most effectively and earnestly through student and alumni testimonials. Because nontraditional students are focused on the outcome of their time at school, marketing to them by showing them their return on investment is effective.

Program Flexibility

It is important to show the flexibility you might offer within programs. If your college offers accelerated courses, online programs, or certification, make sure to highlight those programs when marketing to adult learners. Some nontraditional learners might want to finish school in a few years, while others want to finish school in a few months. By offering accelerated programs or online programs, you can attract students who are compatible with each specific program, and utilizing  these offerings in marketing strategies will help with student acquisition.

Go Where Your Students Are

In the age of social media, it is important to host content on sites that your students exist. If you’re posting on platforms where your audience doesn’t exist, you’re certainly not going to convert any marketing strategies to leads, or even to a lead funnel. Traditional students typically have a higher presence on Instagram and Tik Tok. However, adult learners tend to be more active on Facebook and LinkedIn. Knowing where to post and what time is optimal will help ensure that your target audience sees your posts.

Engine Budgeting Toolkit

Creating a marketing strategy is difficult and creating a budget that properly executes on that strategy can be stressful. That’s where Engine is here to help. Engine’s Budgeting Toolkit can help you create a personalized budget that will make executing your marketing strategy lucrative and easy to manage.

For more information on Engine’s Budgeting Toolkit, book a discovery call.

Read Engine’s full white paper on marketing to nontraditional students here.