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Nontraditional: The New Traditional

April 12, 2016

Nontraditional: The New Traditional

tag higher education
Nontraditional: The New Traditional

What do you think of when you hear “nontraditional” in higher ed? Adult learner? Part-time student? Hybrid program? MOOCs? With higher ed’s ongoing makeover, there’s more meaning in that word than ever before. 

Nontraditional could mean that your students are not 4-year, dorm-dwelling, 18-year old freshmen looking for the best route to the cafeteria. Nontraditional could mean that your next class of students hears the call of alternatives like tech incubators, coding bootcamps, and MOOCs that offer a faster path to a career than sitting in class for four years. In this era, it likely means both.  

Nontraditional is becoming the new traditional. Your school may be ahead of the curve in developing both sides of this coin—appealing to tomorrow’s student by taking a new approach to higher ed, but it’s starting to change the higher ed marketing game. Nontraditional students and programs are slowly but surely becoming the new majority. 

The irony is, by the time you work out how to market these rapidly changing and growing programs, everything will likely have changed and you’ll have to start over.

So, good luck with that!

Good talk.

I’m kidding, but I know it can feel that way sometimes. Here’s a few things we’re learning about marketing today’s rapidly evolving higher ed, where nontraditional is becoming the new normal.

More than “going to class in pajamas”

When marketing an online program, it’s easy to make the mistake of focusing on the obvious and forgetting that online students probably care more about “convenience”, “flexibility” and “going to class in pajamas”. In our work with University of Georgia Online, we found out that online students cared the most about quality faculty, so we brought that front and center.

You might find that your prospective students looking for nontraditional (often online) programs care more about quality faculty, personalized instruction, internship opportunities, and where alumni are placed after graduation. They might want to know what it’ll really be like to be in a hybrid program, and if it’ll work with their family and work obligations. You can get ahead of the curve by finding out what they care about (hint: it involves research) and making that strength your selling point. 

Meet your audience where they live

When your prospective student is a full-time working parent, or a returning veteran, they’re probably not looking for school information in the same places as 17-year-old high school juniors. Think outside the traditional admissions site, and look into sponsored & display ads on the sites they frequent & the apps they’re glued to. Go find them, and you’ll make it easier to find you.

You’re probably seeing a common theme in higher ed marketing like we are—it has to shift. Yesterday’s methods are quickly fading. The future is challenging—but bright!

Tell Us What You Think

How are you marketing your nontraditional programs? Do you take a unique approach to reaching nontraditional students? Share your experience in the comments.

Let’s talk about marketing to the next generation.