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Marketing to Nontraditional Students: What You Need to Know

nontraditional studentsWhen you hear the term "college student," what comes to mind? If you're imagining someone in their late teens or early 20s who lives on campus, depends financially on their parents and attends classes full time, you're only partially correct. Over the past decade, the number of nontraditional students has grown exponentially and continues to change the face of universities across the country.

But what exactly classifies a student as nontraditional? The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) categorizes a nontraditional student as someone who has at least one of the following characteristics:

  • Attends college part time

  • Works full time (35 hours or more per week)

  • Does not attend college immediately after high school

  • Has a GED instead of a high school diploma

  • Is financially independent

  • Has children or other dependents (not including a spouse)

  • Identifies as a single parent

The NCES also reports that a whopping 74 percent of undergraduates have at least one nontraditional quality, according to a report published by the Department of Education.

As a marketer, it can be challenging to target such a diverse group of adults. To help, we're sharing a few commonalities.

Strong Desire for Flexibility

Because they're likely balancing at least one (if not many) outside responsibilities, such as full-time work or raising children, the availability of online classes, night courses, on-site child care and other options that provide flexibility can strongly influence which college someone chooses to attend.

Cost Conscious

The rising cost of higher education has made both nontraditional and traditional students more aware of the price of learning. Because nontraditional college students are often older and may also be financially independent, they tend to be even more sensitive to cost.

Less Interest in Extracurriculars

Many traditional higher education students consider options like sports teams, Greek organizations and local nightlife when selecting a college. These things are generally less important to nontraditional students who are often more interested in convenience, financial aid opportunities and any product or service that can help simplify their busy lives.

Strategies to Target Nontraditional Students

To make sure your marketing efforts engage your intended audience, consider implementing the following strategies:

  • Don't cast the net too wide. With so many varying characteristics, it's difficult to effectively target all students with the same message. Instead, segment students by age, income and other demographics.

  • Adjust your efforts to their buying cycle. Nontraditional college students are on a different timeline and may require additional nurturing before they make a decision.

  • Personalize your messaging. These students bring a unique set of challenges to the table, so make sure you adequately and directly address their pain points.

If you're not yet marketing to nontraditional college students, you could be missing a major opportunity. By using these tips, you can define a plan and ensure your strategies hit their mark.

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How to Reach the Unreachables Through Advertising

Higher Education Marketing: 3 Tips to Reach Prospective Students

Understanding Brand Loyalty's Relationship With Human Psychology

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