When students apply for graduate programs, they typically do so with a different mindset and strategy than those applying to undergraduate programs. Prospective graduate students often have rigorous criteria for choosing a program and apply only to a small selection of schools that match their career goals. Your graduate program applicants have different expectations, behaviors, and motivations throughout their search and application process, and they want clear answers when it comes to the amount of money and time they will need to invest in your program – and what outcomes they can expect as a result.
As graduate program options increase, higher ed marketers need to increase exposure for their programs’ differentiators, improve engagement, and make the enrollment process as easy as possible.
What To Promote
When promoting your graduate programs, keep this in mind: Prospective graduate students need to see the value of your program. What does your program offer that others do not, how will it get them closer to their career goals, and is it flexible enough to fit their lives?
Clearly describe your graduate program offerings in all communications with prospects – from your website and social media to emails and advertisements. Highlight unique research opportunities, partnerships with well-known companies and organizations, and specialized areas of focus that might match your potential applicants’ career interests.
It’s also important to define the different personas that your graduate programs are designed for. To do that, consider what kinds of students may be seeking you out. These should include young undergraduates preparing for their next steps, experienced working adults seeking a career change or a degree that will help them rise through the ranks, and international applicants looking for strong opportunities abroad. Then promote the unique aspects of your program and campus that will appeal to each persona. It’s especially important to define how you make enrolling and attending easier for each of those audiences and support them toward success while allowing them to maintain a balance with their existing responsibilities. For out-of-state or international students who may be nervous about leaving a familiar environment, it’s important to emphasize the warm and welcoming campus experience you offer. Alternatively, promote your online learning opportunities that would allow them to experience the benefits of your program without being far from home.
Consider describing all the unique benefits associated with your program from the student’s point of view. Highlight successful students who are diverse in age, background, and experience and tell their stories about being able to fit in and balance the curriculum with their careers. Regularly share the stories of your graduate students who completed the program and achieved career success – including their advice for making the most of your program opportunities to get there – to help prospective grad students see a clear path to success in your program.
Convenience and flexibility are also huge selling points for most prospective graduate students. Share ways your program makes life easier for new and prospective graduate students, like one-step applications, waived application fees, fast acceptance decisions, tuition assistance, multiple start dates or deferment dates, and online and in-person instruction opportunities.
How To Engage
When creating an engagement strategy, consider where your prospects are coming from. Connecting with soon-to-be graduates or recent alumni is a smart move, since they already have a relationship with your school and – ideally – had a positive experience in their undergraduate years. Because you already have their contact information, it should be easy to share information about your graduate offerings. These communications can be especially effective if you tailor them based on the recipient’s undergraduate degree, what programs or research they were involved in on campus, and what you know about their career goals.
Retargeting students who previously applied or inquired about your program can also be an effective strategy because many prospective students take some time to make a decision and may have faced temporary disruptions due to their personal lives or careers. Again, because you already have their contact information, you can reach out directly to these prospects with emails highlighting program differentiators including convenience and flexibility features that may reignite their interest.
For all prospective applicants, it is a good idea to examine your email communication strategy and your website to be sure you are clearly communicating all of the most important aspects of your program and giving prospects a clear pathway to apply and enroll.
Your social media presence is also more important than ever, especially as more students have moved online. Consider creating video testimonials and feature stories that highlight your graduates’ success or offering tips on navigating your graduate program. In addition, host forums where prospects can ask questions and virtually connect with your existing students and faculty.
In all forms of communication, stick to your brand, provide clear messaging, and be ultra-responsive when a prospect reaches out for more information. When a potential student is choosing between a few programs, that extra step to show interest and personalize their experience can make all the difference.
Get your graduate offerings the exposure they deserve. LIGHTSTREAM can help you more effectively market your program to prospects. Contact us today.