How does brand affect the adult student? As we referenced in our last issue, adult learners looking for programs from degree completion to graduate programs continue to use search engines to research programs and narrow their consideration set. Does that mean brand messaging goes unnoticed on this prospective audience? Not necessarily, as the “new traditional” market continues to grow and more players enter the online completion and graduate market, research shows the adult students are more likely to choose a program at an institution they are familiar with.
So the first thing you should ask is: How does your brand resonate with adult students in your region? Does your brand convey an environment that welcomes degree completers and graduate students? If your target audience is the undergraduate market your brand may be designed to align with their expectations. That does not mean it cannot resonate with adult students, it simply means that you need to hone in how your distinguished traits and promises relate to the adult market. Time and again, adult students have expressed to me that they did not select or transferred out of an institution because they did not feel a connection, they had no emotional response. Your goal should be to create an emotional relationship between your school and the nontraditional market.
OK, so hopefully the ideas are starting to flow, but are you forgetting somebody or a whole bunch of somebodies? The next question you should be asking is: How are you reaching out to your alumni? Who understands your brand better than your alumni? No one, they have experienced it firsthand. So how are you enticing them to continue their education with you? Again, this ties in with the fact that adult students select programs at institutions that they are familiar with. The big question is are they aware of your offerings and how they are being delivered. If your institution is not informing and targeting your alumni about your post-graduate program offerings, you need to start. The more aware this audience is of your offerings and how they are delivered the more likely they are to research it and apply.
Moral of the story is to build upon your brand with the adult audience that is easiest to reach and most likely to identify with the connection.