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The Concerns Adult Students Have About Going to College

Becky Morehouse

Becky Morehouse

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Colleges and universities interested in recruiting adult students often fill their recruiting communication channels with information on why an adult student should go (back) to school. The information is logical and their arguments are persuasive. At least up to a point. 

What schools often forget, however, are the very fears that many adult students often have about going to or returning to college. And until these fears are addressed, there is little likelihood that entreaties to them to enroll will be effective.

A recent Stamats study of adult students revealed the following concerns:

Adult Student Concerns About College Infographic

The top four responses:

1. cost;

2. juggling time issues;

3. securing resources to pay for college; and

4. childcare neatly summarize the big challenges adults face: Issues related to cost and issues related to family.

Research and practice indicate that helping a prospective adult student deal with any three of these four issues will dramatically increase the likelihood they will enroll.

As they seek to overcome these issues, adult students are interested in two things.

First, the resources a particular school has to help them address their concerns (i.e., financial aid, child care, etc.). At this point, students are seeking factual information. They want to see how you have dealt with these issues in the past.

In addition to information from the school, students are keenly interested in how students like them addressed and overcame these same issues.

For example, testimonials from other students on how the college or university helped them deal with cost or child care are highly persuasive. The key, of course, is that they see/hear students who are actually like them; students with whom they can readily identify.

Ideally, you want to capture the actual words of the students who dealt with these issues. This will be much more believable than an overly sanitized, highly scrubbed video or written testimony.

While you may cringe at some of the words and phrases used by these current or recently graduated adult students, the unedited information will be much more believable.

In addition, it speaks to the overall confidence you have in both your students and the support services you provide.

From a best-practices perspective, it is best to have a number of testimonials on hand so you can “match up” with adult student segments.

Another best practice (and this one is even scarier to admissions professionals), is allowing prospective students to call or email current or recently graduated students.

The majority of the other concerns: transfer, academic preparation, transportation, dealing with administrative issues, and the feeling that they might be technologically challenged are of clear concern, but they tend to fade into the background once the bigger worries are addressed.

Keeping the concerns of adult students in mind as you develop and refine your communication strategy will go a long way toward recruiting success.

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