Marketing to the Nontraditional College Student: Who Are They? [2-Minute Snippet]

nontraditional college students

The modern college classroom is made up of students of all ages, backgrounds, identities, and preferences. Despite what you see in the movies, a college’s student body isn’t made up of only eager 18-year-olds. There is no such thing as an “average” student in the modern classroom, which means your marketing strategy shouldn’t be average, either.

But before we discuss the reasons your marketing strategy should target nontraditional college students, let’s take a look at how a nontraditional student is defined.

What is a Nontraditional College Student?

The National Center for Education Statistics defines a nontraditional college student as a student who meets one of the following seven criteria:

  1. Delays enrolling into postsecondary education
  2. Attends classes part-time
  3. Works full-time in addition to going to school
  4. Is financially independent when seeking financial aid
  5. Is responsible for dependents other than a spouse
  6. Is a single parent
  7. Does not have a high school diploma

These nontraditional learners now make up roughly 70 percent of the enrolled higher education student population, according to higher education thought leader, Stamats.

Start Marketing to Nontraditional College Students

Marketers know every strategic decision we make should be tied to our target audience’s goals, desires, and needs. But if the current college classroom consists of everyone from the 19-year-old, full-time international student looking for the knowledge necessary to start their career, or the 70-year-old, part-time commuter student looking to further their education after retirement, how can you create a marketing strategy that resonates with the right individuals?

Develop Personas

Unfortunately, you can’t target everybody. To truly entice your target audience, you have to understand the common drives and decision points among each student, and and use these commonalities to inform future decisions. By developing personas, you’ll gain a clearer idea of who you should be targeting with your messaging.

Tailor Your Content

Inbound marketing—a data-driven marketing methodology designed to attract traffic and generate leads—is one of the most effective ways to reach your target audience. Create content that answers prospective students’ questions before they even have the chance to ask them. Then, continue nurturing the relationship through ongoing, targeted emails and newsletters, which help develop a sense of urgency for application.

The content you create to entice nontraditional students should be as diverse as your student body. Consider the following types of content when developing your strategy:

  • Short video interviews with current students sharing their experience on campus
  • Targeted emails based on user behavior (i.e., “We noticed you might be interested in a math major. Here’s more information about our math programs.”)
  • A landing page or website subpage where nontraditional students can learn about the various resources and programs available to them

Whether you work at a four-year institution, a community college, or a trade school, it’s important to cater your marketing messaging toward nontraditional students. Remember there is no “one size fits all” approach; taking the time to understand who your target prospective student is and how your institution meets their needs is step one. Step two is catering your content to this audience in order to increase enrollment and ROI.

If you’re facing other challenges while marketing to nontraditional student audience, you’re not alone. Discover why marketing to nontraditional college students is never easy.

Erika Voeller

Erika Voeller

Erika is passionate about content creation and brand growth. As a copywriter, she uses her talent for writing to help elevate brands. When she's not writing, you'll find her practicing yoga, exploring Minneapolis, or sipping on iced coffee.