applying for college

A First-Hand Account of the College Decision Making Process

Choosing a college can be an intimidating process, with many factors and motivators. The key to successful marketing for your school is understanding how prospective students will make their final decision.

Personally, I decided to attend The University of Alabama so I could be closer to family at a reasonable expense. Location was a huge influence for me, as was cost. I also knew a lot about the University because many of my friends already attended, so I didn’t feel the need to do extensive research to come to my decision. Sometimes it’s that simple, sometimes it’s not.

Obviously, reasons for enrollment vary from student to student, but there are some common themes.

What do potential students consider?

1. Cost and financial aid. The struggle is real. More often than not, we are broke, and highly sensitive to good deals. With a constant increase in the price of tuition, we definitely want to get the greatest value for our money. Do the costs outweigh the benefits? We need to know if it’s worth the investment. How will we pay for it? These particular questions weigh heavily on the minds of students. You don’t need a degree to know that money doesn’t grow on trees.

2. Future career opportunities. A steady career/income almost always a motivator. We want to know that after we have a degree, we can actually use it, and that it was worth the blood, sweat, and tears that are sure to come.

3. Living arrangements. There are dorm rooms out there that are hardly a step up from prison cells. I should know, I lived in one my Freshman year. I can tell you that the “home away from home” sentiment of college is crucial. Poor living arrangements, in conjunction with bad word of mouth, can deter the most eager of students and their parents.

4. Social environment. When students visit your campus, we can view your Campus Story on snapchat. Sometimes, like in my case, that’s as deep as the college research goes. We can also search Instagram and Twitter using hashtags about your school. If it appears that other students enjoy their time at the school and give positive feedback, we’re more likely to want to enroll.

5. Communication throughout the application process. If we are digitally connected with faculty and staff early on, you already have an advantage. That sounds obvious, right? Channels of communication are not always so clear. Personalized attention throughout the application process can make a big difference in persuading us to enroll. Plus, it makes us feel wanted and valued by the school.

What does this mean for your school?

It’s important to make us feel like we are getting the full value of our money. Present your academic reputation to reinforce your worth. Tell us how you can make the process as simple as possible, and use technology to connect with us every step of the way. Of course, some key factors like location or size are part of your school’s identity, but if you can hone your focus to areas that are more manipulatable, you can better target your students, and have the advantage over your rival.

Written by guest blogger Claudia Watkins, a marketing and economics major at The University of Alabama and aspiring business mogulette


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