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How To Market Smaller Universities To A Fast Growing Market Segment

How To Market Smaller Universities To A Fast Growing Market Segment
July 01, 2014 Joseph Schmoke

We know most of today's better jobs require candidates with college degrees. This recent economic slump has caused many prospective college students without the necessary funds to set their academic goals aside for a while. Lack of financial means is only one of several issues facing today's prospective enrollees, however. Many also are adrift when it comes to selecting an appropriate field of study and a college that fits a student’s financial profile and personal criteria. 

The problems facing prospective students, as well as their parents, are all centered around two things, information and advice.  High school counselors, with few exceptions, are overburdened and do not have the time, energy or incentive to provide detailed personal guidance to each student.  Students who are the first in their family who aspire to college face unique problems in that no family member can provide experienced counsel regarding the sometimes overwhelming barriers to enrolling in, and paying for, college.  This widespread – and growing – dilemma provides opportunities for smaller, lesser-known colleges and universities to recruit these students.  But the smaller institution must commit to providing information and advice to these prospective students and their families.


How to Effectively Market Your Smaller, Lesser-known University To A Growing Market 

Population growth in minority markets, especially the rapidly growing Latino/Hispanic segment, has created unique opportunities for progressive colleges and universities to recruit these sometimes shunted aside students.  The keys to this market segment are simple but require special effort to be effective.  Here are the keys to being a succesful small university:

  • A clearly stated willingness to help one-on-one, by phone, text and email;
  • Provide each individual with access to, and guidance with, information on grants, scholarships and federal loans;
  • Offer personality profile tests to help determine which field of study is appropriate for the individual;
  • Recommend degree programs that match appropriate fields of study;
  • Explain the entire application process, the costs, debt a student can expect to carry, course selection process, and provide advice based on the student’s unique circumstances;
  • Become the student’s and the family’s trusted adviser.
  • Strive to maintain that relationship throughout the student’s time in college.


The Personality Profile Test

A proven personality profile test can provide the admissions adviser (note we use the word “adviser,” not “representative” which suggests the best interests of the institution, not of the student) with detailed information on what the student would be good at.  This is always a good starting point as a college wants to retain the student year after year through graduation.  And with the knowledge that half of all college students change fields of study prior to graduation, and a third change schools, it is critical that the right guidance regarding field of study be provided up front.  If an individual chooses a field of study that does not correlate with his or her personality, and the college adviser meekly goes along with an inappropriate selection, it is likely that student will not only be unhappy with the first choice but may transfer to a competing institution. 


Relevant Information Freely Available

There are services, free and fee based, that provide research on the current and forecasted work environment, pay and job outlook.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics is one such source.  Your admissions advisers can use this data along with the personality profile to guide college candidates to fields of study and resultant career paths with good economic potential. Make sure the student’s family is aware of the guidance and suggestions your adviser is making; your effort will be far more effective if you get the family on your side.


Marketing Smaller Universities By Emphasizing Career Oriented Programs

Today's students need educational and training programs that are designed to bring them real world experience. This can be achieved by small colleges and universities by establishing internship and fieldwork opportunities for all students. These beneficial programs allow students to:

  • Build their resumes early with relevant work experience;
  • Gain feedback from experienced faculty and industry professionals;
  • Tap into a professional networking opportunity.

Students participating in these programs have head starts on their peers which is invaluable in today's competitive workforce environment. Depending on the program, students are also able to hone their skills and find out if certain specialty fields are right for them. Talented students put their skills on display for future employment opportunities during internships. 


Highlight Your Small University’s High Quality Career Center

Many small colleges and universities have the advantage of being able to apply personal attention to each student. This is of particular importance to students who have no experience creating resumes, cover letters or thank you notes. University and college career center professionals should help students craft resumes in terms that reflect their foundational experience gained from important class projects, internships and fieldwork. When thinking about how best to market their smaller, lesser known university or college, savvy administrators should consider marketing their career centers as an essential free service to current students. This expert guidance will likely be appreciated by a student and her family, especially a family whose own education, or lack thereof, has limited their opportunities in this competitive environment we all live in.



There is a growing segment of students, many of which are the first in their family who aspire to college, who need and appreciate individual attention and guidance in selecting a school, a field of study, a degree program and a career path.  A growing number of these prospective college students are from Hispanic/Latino families.  An outreach program targeting these families, most of which retain their strong authority structure, will relieve the burden of guiding the child in a college or university environment that the parents have not experienced themselves.  Done properly, this approach will create a bond with the student – and her family – that may last for years.



BestValueColleges is an award system administered by University Research & Review LLC that recognizes deserving often-overlooked colleges, universities and career schools.  The Best Value Award results in prestige, differentiation, and importantly, the attention of qualified potential enrollees. To learn more about how your school can be nominated, click here: Best Value School Award.

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