Most schools tend to focus the majority, if not all, of their marketing efforts on acquiring new long-term students. For a typical school, the best prospects are those who are destined to stay in school year after year until graduation, versus someone at risk of transferring or dropping out. While it’s a thought that makes sense, this strategy leaves a vast untapped market of prospects for certain types of schools.
Community colleges in particular have long relied on temporary (aka guest) students to help meet enrollment numbers. Guest students are those who are enrolled full-time at other colleges or universities to pursue their degree. But during some semesters, most frequently summer, they enroll at a community college as a guest to complete pre-requisite classes. This often saves money versus the same class at a university, allowing students to knock out requirements while home for the summer, and helps keep course hours down in the spring and fall.
If your community college or career college has transfer abilities with area universities, there’s a great opportunity to boost enrollment numbers by bringing in guest students. You’ll need to understand what credits transfer back and are equivalent to universities near your campus. So this isn’t necessarily a solution for every school or program. But if the opportunity is there, engaging prospective guest students can be a highly converting and cost-effective enrollment booster.
Most guest students pursue the temporary education route because they want to take care of some lower-level pre-requisite classes. This also coincides with many guest students trying to figure out whether they can accomplish that early on so that they can create the following semester’s schedule accordingly. If you wait to promote guest student opportunities as one semester is already ending, you’re too late. University students will have to meet with advisors and get the proper credit transfer paperwork first, in addition to registering for the rest of classed next semester or year. Reach them early so they know the opportunity is there, and they’ll feel more comfortable planning on that route as they work with advisors.
We’ve already touched on the impact of geofencing strategies when it comes to digital higher ed marketing for your campus. The same strategies are key for bringing in guest student enrollments. Traditional edu marketing won’t have the same impact, because you’re no longer marketing to prospective college students. You need to find those already in college, and at the right point in their education to still need prerequisites and core classes.
Geofencing provides a way to engage users on college campuses already, narrowing your target ad audience. Run display ads geofenced to main classroom buildings on campuses near your own, and use the ads to build awareness of the guest student offering. If you really want to get granular, turn to a DSP that allows geofencing with behavioral targeting layered on top. Statwax leverages Centro Basis to add targeting layers such as “users who spend at least two hours on a college campus per day at least three days per week,” helping eliminate visitors or non-students from targeting.
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The biggest obstacle to enrolling guest students will likely come from them having a lack of information. For someone already dedicated to their university and paying big money to attend, it takes a lot to get a guest student prospect to feel comfortable taking classes somewhere else. The possibility of credits not transferring, schedules not working out, or payment requirements being vague can all deter good prospects.
As with anything in higher ed marketing, CRO is key to turning prospective guest students into actual enrolled ones. Make sure a separate landing page is created specifically to cater to users researching guest student possibilities. Highlight key information points such as cost savings compared to area universities, specific credit transfer rules, available programs and schedules, and a call-to-action about reaching out for more information or contacting an advisor. Keeping these students away from the main information for your school as a whole (financial aid, scholarships, other semester info, etc.) is key to avoiding analysis paralysis.
If your school could benefit from guest enrollment, the strategies above are a great place to get started. And whether you’re new to guest students, or have been welcoming them on campus for years, there’s a growing bucket of nuanced strategies to pull from and adapt for your college or university’s specific needs.