Heading into summer, college admissions officers begin to shift their focus from their May 1 milestones to putting the “freeze” on summer melt. While most treat May 1 as a mile marker, not a destination, the methods of preventing summer melt (namely, missing coveted enrollment targets) vary.
One popular method is boosting efforts to recruit and enroll transfer students. A selective institution may make waves when deciding to enroll transfer students for the first time in decades, but the reality is that most colleges and universities readily admit and enroll transfers … provided they can reach, support, and convert them.
As recently as last January, University Business reported that admissions leaders believe the population of transfer students they will be serving is predicted to increase. Until recently, however, there has not been much research to inform how admissions officers should go about actively engaging, marketing to, and supporting this important cohort of prospective students.
What Drives a Prospective Transfer?
When recruiting transfer students, a common assumption is that all enrollment marketing should focus on the four-letter word, “cost.” Surely, one of the huge advantages of attending a community college is to save money on the cost of education.
As one might expect, seven out of 10 students in Eduventures Transfer Prospect Survey, a recent survey of 950 currently enrolled community college students, indicate cost was a reason for choosing to attend their current school. Two-thirds of respondents had completed 29 or more credits at their current institution, indicating they are prime candidates to transfer to a four-year school within the next two years.
It is important to note that the Transfer Prospect Survey focuses on students currently enrolled at community colleges because this is the population of prospective transfer students that colleges and universities that adhere to the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s Statement of Principles and Good Practice may actively market to.
While cost may be a top influencer for most students, the data reveals that its influence is more complex. Diving deeper into the key influencers of prospective transfer students, we used statistical analysis techniques to identify four main types of students who choose to attend a community college as the first stop on the long road to completing a bachelor’s degree.
Here’s a snapshot:
The Local Explorer (10%)
In attending community college, cost matters, but specifically because these students were not ready for a four-year program or were unsure of their major. Local Explorers applied to their local community college with specific plans to transfer to a four-year degree at a later time. By transferring, they are empowered to explore all of their options without being tied to a specific major or feeling as if they are over-investing financially to determine their next career step.
To best engage and recruit Local Explorers, admissions teams should ensure that marketing showcases the ease of the transfer process and achievement of transfers completing their degree.
The Home Body (37%)
Being close to home and having flexible schedules were key factors in deciding to attend a community college for these students. Cost certainly comes into play since staying home and commuting may be perceived as more affordable than the room and board costs of a traditional residential experience. While Home Bodies always planned on pursuing a four-year degree, they felt ill-prepared, likely because they weren’t ready for a completely independent experience.
To best serve Home Bodies, recruiters should focus on their backyard, being present on campus—in person and via digital marketing—to show them they are welcome in the campus community.
The Late Bloomer (15%)
To Late Bloomers, community college programs are attractive because they offer structure and a pathway they may not have identified before. Late Bloomers are unique because they did not necessarily plan on attending a community college to begin with. Rather, they likely delayed starting the process of researching colleges, which curtailed their options later in the college search process.
To attract Late Bloomers, admissions officers should focus on keeping the process simple. These students are likely to remain stealth until very close to when they submit an application, meaning rapid response and smooth processes will be necessary.
The Cost Saver (38%)
The final population, Cost Savers, fit the mold most enrollment managers think of when they consider the reasons a prospective student would transfer. While most plan to complete a four-year degree, the far-and-away primary reason for attending a community college first was saving money on tuition fees. These students are likely to be enrolled in direct-admit pathway programs that ensure they are making the best use of their time and money.
To engage Cost Savers, institutions should ensure articulation agreements with two-year institutions are established and well-communicated to show how students are on-track to graduate. Additionally, focus on return on investment (ROI) and affordability in messaging.
Bigger Challenges Beyond Messaging
Understanding what drives a prospective transfer student’s decision-making is, of course, one piece of the puzzle. The greater challenge faced by admissions recruiters is finding efficient ways to connect with this unique cohort of students.
While methods to reach traditional prospects are plentiful, directly recruiting transfer prospects can be difficult and time-consuming. Our Transfer Prospect Survey uncovers the top resources utilized by transfer prospects in an effort to guide strategic decisions for the enrollment marketers trying to reach them.
Thursday, June 28 2pm EST, 1pm CST
Research from Eduventures® confirms what many of us already know – transfer students have different needs and different influencers than their first-year student counterparts. But, what are those differences and how can enrollment offers improve their outreach?