Historically, college admissions recruitment strategies have focused on high school seniors who plan to enter college the fall semester after graduation. Unfortunately, this strategy overlooks prospective students who fall outside the norm. These prospective students, nontraditional and transfer students, represent an untapped resource for college recruitment. Therefore, it is in the best interest of most colleges to develop a specific nontraditional and transfer student recruitment plan.
The unique needs of nontraditional and transfer students should be considered when developing admissions recruitment strategies that include them. This article will identify these needs and suggest how colleges can meet them during recruitment. We will also discuss specific strategies that admissions teams can use to reach prospective nontraditional students. Finally, we will close with a discussion of how your team can use personalized video to better connect with prospective students. For a hands-on demonstration, request a demo with a higher education expert to see how video messaging can boost enrollment.
What is a nontraditional student?
A nontraditional student is any student who did not enroll full-time in the same calendar year they graduated from high school. Students can also be labeled as nontraditional if they:
- Enroll in college part-time
- Work full-time while enrolled
- Have dependents other than a spouse, such as children
- Are considered financially independent for financial aid
- Do not have a high school diploma
Nontraditional students outnumber traditional students in college enrollment. Almost 75% of enrolled college students fit the criteria for a nontraditional student. These students are more likely to enroll in online courses, night classes, or community colleges that allow for more flexibility while balancing education with work and other commitments.
Why universities need to recruit nontraditional students to survive
All colleges have enrollment goals that they must meet in order to maintain their programs. Since the majority of enrolled students are nontraditional, most universities need to actively recruit nontraditional students to survive. This is especially true given the recent decline in college enrollment exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. College enrollment went down 7.8% on average from Fall 2019 to Fall 2021. The situation is even worse for community colleges, where enrollment declined by about 15%. Fewer students mean fewer tuition payments and less revenue. Already, several colleges have had to shut down due to bankruptcy. As such, recruiting nontraditional students could be necessary for your college to weather the financial difficulties that emerge alongside lower enrollment. So if you’re struggling to meet enrollment goals, switch up your recruitment strategies and focus on attracting nontraditional students.
What about recruiting transfer students?
Like nontraditional students, transfer students are a largely untapped market for college recruitment. Transfer students make up over 1.3 million enrollments each year. Furthermore, more than ⅓ of college students will transfer schools at some point during their education.
Students may seek to transfer colleges for a variety of reasons, such as:
- They have graduated from a community college and wish to pursue more education
- They can no longer afford the cost of attending their current institution
- There has been a situation in their personal life that requires them to live and attend school elsewhere, such as a family emergency or health concerns
- Their current institution does not provide the educational or social environment that they need
Some transfer students are nontraditional, while others began college full-time after high school graduation. However, regardless of their status, transfer students face many of the same challenges as nontraditional students when finding a college that will meet their needs.
Therefore, nontraditional and transfer students deserve better recruitment strategies that understand their unique needs and value the contributions they can make to the college and the larger community.
Recruitment issues for nontraditional and transfer students
To develop effective recruitment strategies for nontraditional and transfer students, first, you need to understand the specific issues that such students face when deciding where to attend college. Though these students aren’t a monolithic group, they have similar concerns. So, your recruitment efforts should address these concerns and demonstrate how your college can meet their demonstrated needs.
Let’s go over the most common issues for nontraditional and transfer students and specific strategies you can use to address these issues.
1. Flexible scheduling
Nontraditional students, in particular, require flexible options for scheduling courses and meetings. In addition, many adult learners have other responsibilities that take up much of their time, such as work or childcare. As a result, they may need flexible courses such as online and hybrid courses, night classes, or weekend offerings. Additionally, they may need to contact your office outside regular business hours to ask questions or discuss enrollment options.
In your recruitment materials that target nontraditional students, emphasize what kind of course options are available. For example, you can offer to let them sit in on an online course or class that meets in the evenings or on the weekends. You can also help them reach out to an academic advisor in the specific program they’re interested in to discuss course options.
When answering student inquiries, you can send a video email instead of scheduling a meeting. This way, the prospective student can view your video at any point instead of having to take the time out of their day to meet in real-time. Video email respects students’ busy schedules while still giving them the face-to-face contact needed to form a personal relationship. With Covideo, your student can even reply with a video of their own without signing up. Discover the best strategies for using video email to connect with nontraditional students by signing up for a free demo.
2. Financial assistance
Even more than traditional first-years, nontraditional and transfer students need financial assistance to afford college. These students are more likely to be low-income or have other significant financial obligations. These students are also more likely to have specific goals they want to achieve by furthering their education and are less willing to waste money on anything that won’t help them reach those goals. If you can’t provide financial support – or prove that your college is worth the price of admission – then they will look elsewhere.
Be prepared to direct students to resources that can answer their specific questions about student loans, scholarships, grants, and other financial assistance. If your college has programs to specifically help certain types of nontraditional students (such as students who have children, who work full-time, are from an underrepresented community, etc.), highlight those programs in admissions materials. For example, Penn State has a webpage targeting adult learners that offers information on scholarships, funds, and other resources for nontraditional students. Creating and maintaining a similar webpage will help you reach more nontraditional students.
3. Career assistance
Both nontraditional and transfer students are more career-focused than your average student. They have specific goals that they want to meet through their education. Many adult learners return to school to advance their career paths or switch fields. They need to know your school will help them achieve their goal.
You can work with other departments to meet students’ career needs. For example, collaborate with your college’s career development office to target recruitment materials for career-focused students. In addition, ensure that students know about all of the career-building resources available for them at your college.
The best way to reach prospective students who already work full-time is to contact businesses in your community. Business leaders may know which employees are interested in furthering their education. Building relationships with community businesses will help you both reach more prospective students and offer career-building opportunities such as internships to your current students. It’s a win-win!
4. Transfer credits
Transfer students will be concerned about whether the college credits they’ve already earned will transfer. Many nontraditional students have also already earned college credit at a past institution. Both sets of students will not want to spend the time or money retaking courses.
You can assuage transfer students’ fears by streamlining the transfer credit process. If you work at a 4-year university, establish relationships with local community colleges and develop programs that make transferring credits to your institution hassle-free. Provide an online guide that details the steps needed to transfer credits. Connect students with other offices on campus that can assist during the transfer process.
5. A welcoming environment
Most of all, students want to be part of a campus that cares about them. Does your college provide resources specifically for transfer and nontraditional students? For example, are there orientation events and programs geared towards these students? Are there events hosted by the college over the school year that targets their needs, such as career development classes or fun events for families?
If you answered yes to these questions, great! Be sure to emphasize these resources in your recruitment materials and illustrate how they create a welcoming environment for nontraditional and transfer students. If you answer no, your college needs to build a better environment for these students. Create new orientation events such as info sessions that address common issues nontraditional students face or social programs that allow transfer students to connect.
Identify college events and programming that will appeal to adult learners and advertise them to local prospective students. Speak with current students to learn about how your college can better address the needs of nontraditional and transfer students and implement changes to create a genuinely welcoming environment for diverse students.
Creating a nontraditional and transfer student recruitment plan
We have already discussed numerous strategies for addressing nontraditional and transfer students’ unique needs and issues in your recruitment efforts. These strategies can form the basis for your student recruitment plan. However, to effectively implement these strategies, you must know how to best communicate with prospective students.
There are mediums through which you can contact prospective students and encourage them to apply to your school. Regardless of your platform – social media, email, or website – we recommend adding personalized video to spice up your messages. With video, you can introduce yourself to students, show off your campus, share recordings of courses, connect prospective students with resources, and more! Watch the following example of all the ways that your admissions team can use video to communicate with prospective and admitted students:
Covideo is the best platform for admissions teams that want to add a personalized video to their college recruitment strategy. The software lets you record and sends videos embedded directly into emails, text messages, and social media posts. In addition, you can host your videos on a personalized landing page that shows off your school colors and includes customizable CTAs that students can use to navigate your website or meeting calendar. Many institutions, such as Knox College and Michigan State University, have already used Covideo to boost college enrollment and better connect with prospective students.
Want to learn more? Sign up for a free demo with a team member specializing in higher education recruitment and see how Covideo can upgrade your student recruitment plan.