College Athletes Score Graduation Wins – How to Get in the Game

Pete Campie

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Contributions to this article by Tyler Davidson

The year 2019 was fraught with controversies impacting colleges and universities—most notably the celebrity college admissions bribery scandal.

But there was also positive news in the world of higher education: student athlete graduation rates are skyrocketing.

NCAA statistics released in October 2019 show 89% of student athletes enrolled in colleges or universities in 2012 graduated with a degree, which is a historic high since the NCAA began tracking student athlete graduation rates in 2002. This trend far exceeds the NCAA’s initial 80% graduation rate goal.

A shift this dramatic should grab the attention of higher education marketing professionals. Now is the time to scrutinize and adjust your messaging to provide students with the right information and drive recruitment success.

Leverage Athletes’ Focus on Academics

The jump in graduation rates has many contributing factors. Most obviously that student athletes are increasingly focused on achieving success off the field. Colleges and universities need to reach these increasingly academically focused student athletes with messaging and services that appeal to their needs.

Consider that student athletes are likely to have specific needs non-athlete students may not. You want to think proactively—look to address potential questions before prospects can bring them up to your admissions team.

3 Tips to Fine Tune Messaging to Athletes

1. Start Strong with Email – Get the right message in front of your student athlete prospects. Focus email subject lines and message content on academic/campus benefits. Does your institution offer online classes, flexible course schedules, or one-on-one tutoring? Highlight how these can lead to success in school and on the field.

2. Anticipate Future GoalsMarket research and/or social listening can give insights into what student athletes are interested in off the field. Use these insights to determine how they plan to put their degrees to work after college. This type of user-generated information can be a valuable resource in deciding where to allocate marketing dollars for program promotion.

3. Spotlight Athlete-Specific Resources – Highlight resources that set your college apart. Whether it’s dietitian support, on-campus workout facilities benefits, or tutoring, benefits tailored to athletes can drive enrollment.

4. Highlight Differentiators – When you’re promoting your college or university to student athletes, or to any specific group, it’s essential to determine and speak to their core needs. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box—what sets you apart? Does your college have industry connections for job placement after graduation that may appeal to student athletes? What academic supports are offered that they can take advantage of? Look to address specific challenges, especially those student athletes and their parents may not be anticipating, to underscore your institution’s investment in their success.

Take advantage of this opportunity to tap into new demographics such as student athletes, or strengthen your current marketing objectives.

Ready to make meaningful connections with student athletes? We can help hone your messaging and deliver it via email, social media, webinars, podcasts—or a combination of channels! Contact us today.

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