What Students Are Looking for In a College first appeared on edCetera.com on May 9, 2o14.

By: Kristen Hicks

Students work hard to understand the expectations and priorities of college admissions offices, in the hopes of having their pick of all their favorite colleges. Admissions offices, for their part, can benefit from paying as much attention to what students are focused on through the admissions process as students are giving them.

Two reports paint a snapshot of what students are doing and thinking as they’re working through the lengthy process of choosing the right college. The Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA’s annual report looks at trends in where students are applying, where they’re choosing to go, and why. The report on social admissions, produced by Udacity and Zinch, looks at the role that social media and online search plays in the decision-making process.

The Key Takeaways for Institutions of Higher Education

1. Students want the opportunity to be picky. They’re applying to more schools than in the past, with 55% applying to at least four.

2. Most students aren’t attending their top choice, even if admitted there. Their decisions of where to enroll are commonly influenced by the financial aid packages they’re offered and the cost of the institutions they get accepted to.

3. The main four things students say they value in choosing where to attend are:

  • Good academic reputation
  • Job prospects of graduates
  • Financial aid offered
  • Cost of the college

4. A college’s website is one of the main resources students use in researching schools.

5. The well-established U.S. News and World Report falls far behind newer websites like Zinch and Scholarships.com in the list of sites students say they visit in doing their research.

6. Scholarship information was the main thing students searched for in their visits to the websites they used to research colleges.

7. 68% of students used social media to research the colleges they were interested in.

8. 97% of students visited a college’s website on mobile.

9. Most of the students who visited a college website on mobile didn’t find the experience satisfying.

10. Nearly 75% said they wouldn’t download a mobile app though.

What Schools Should Do With this Information

It’s no surprise that cost is driving admissions decisions. Most institutions of higher education are already actively looking for ways to bring costs down and help students cover costs with financial aid. With financial aid and scholarships top of mind for students making their higher ed decisions, anything a school can do to increase the options available will help them attract better students.

What might be more surprising for some schools is the growing importance of mobile and social. Making sure your mobile website offers a good experience that makes it easy for students to find what they need is paramount.

If you’re not already active on social media, you’re missing out on lots of opportunities to connect with potential students. You need to be where the students are and in recent years, that’s meant platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Students’ priorities and behavior are changing. To maintain a strong pool of applicants and admissions, schools have to make an effort to adapt.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an insatiable interest in learning and experiencing new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring innovations and untraditional approaches to education for edCetera.

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