According to a 2012 survey of college freshmen conducted by the University of California-Los Angeles,1 getting a better job and the ability to make more money are the top two reasons behind their decision to go to college. When it comes to why the students chose the particular college they did, students cited the college's academic reputation as the number one reason, followed by:2
- This college's graduates get good jobs
- I was offered financial assistance
- The cost of attending this college
This is good news for career colleges, for affordability and job placement are two fortes of the industry, especially when compared to four-year colleges. The challenge lies in getting word of available programs to prospective students in an easy-to-digest manner that reaches them where they are. Here are three key selling points to help promote your school, and some tips for promoting:
High School Completion Program
Having a high school completion program is a major selling point, and if your institution offers one, you have an advantage in attracting new students. A high school completion program is a hybrid of classroom and online learning that gives high school non-completers a second chance at earning a high school diploma. It's a tailored and flexible approach for the nontraditional learner who didn't succeed in a traditional classroom setting and now needs the tools, support and resources to return to school and graduate.
Offering a high school completion program is not only an excellent way to serve non-completers and help your community but to boost enrollment, because non-completers who earn a high school diploma through your institution's high school completion program naturally matriculate to your school for post-secondary education. In fact, oftentimes non-completers seek their high school diploma because they wish to enroll in a career college in an effort to make more money and secure a better future for themselves and their families.
To attract non-completers to your high school completion program:
- Emphasize the need for a diploma in today's job market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, high school graduates earn an average of $388,000 more over their working life than non-graduates.
- Position your institution as an alternative to the GED. Recent changes to the exam prevent non-completers from pursuing a high school diploma and subsequent post-secondary education.
- Offer evening, weekend and online courses to increase the appeal of your institution. Non-completers typically have full-time jobs and a range of personal obligations that make them think they don't have time to go back to school.
- Reach out to the local businesses who are most likely to employ non-completers, such as quick-service restaurants and retail establishments. Suggest they partner with you to offer a high school completion program and explain the benefits of doing so.
- Showcase your support services. Fear plays a large role in preventing non-completers from returning to school. Show them precisely how they will be supported by your institution.
Include the above messaging on your admissions website, in your marketing materials and on social media. To help assuage non-completers' anxiety about returning to school, create and post a virtual tour of your program to get them familiar with your institution. Generate buzz on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with messaging about your high school completion program, including an appropriate hashtag such as #getaHSdiploma.
Programs and Instructors
At a time of sky-high tuition and overwhelming student debt, students are rethinking the traditional four-year college. Career colleges appeal to them by delivering specific job training for less time and money it would take to go to a four-year school. But at the same time, these students want a solid education from qualified instructors that prepares them to enter the workforce.
You need to differentiate your programs and instructors from those at other educational institutions. One way to do this is to conduct case studies that showcase your instructors' successes in the field in which they teach and students' successes after graduation. Gather real-life examples (with data to back it up) that demonstrate the experience and expertise of your staff and how that translates into a high-quality education and job placement after graduation. Your case studies should show students that your college:
- Has top-notch programs and instructors
- Understands their specific needs
- Can deliver qualified graduates to local employers
Another way to highlight the quality of your programs and instructors is to publish interviews with staff members, current students and graduates. Let them speak for themselves, so to speak, highlighting:
- Their experience in the industry they teach (instructors)
- Their experience attending your school and the quality of the classes (current students and grads)
- Their experience interviewing and securing a job after graduation (grads)
- Create a magazine (online and/or offline) targeted at prospective students and their parents.
- Create a section of your website that's billed as a "for students, by students" hub. Here, current students can highlight their experience with your classes and teachers.
- Share program news, updates on staff accomplishments and job placement stats on social media.
- Update your blog regularly with compelling, relevant content.
Career Placement Services
Yes, the broad education and personal growth that comes with the college experience is important. But ultimately -- and especially for students at a career college -- post-secondary education is about receiving the specialized training necessary to secure gainful employment and make a decent living. This is where your career placement department must herald its good news.
Students need to know your institution has a vibrant career services center that will help them on their journey to a secure career. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Professional Standards for College and University Career Services, a career services center should:
- Provide ongoing career advising and counseling
- Offer online resources, group programs and career planning courses
- Help students establish short-term and long-term career goals
- Help students develop interview skills, create a resume and look for employment
- Obtain information on employment opportunities and prospective employers and help place students in internships and jobs there
- Teach online and in-person professional etiquette, including the potential pitfalls of social media
- Match students with alumni willing to serve as mentors
- Teach students how to market themselves on LinkedIn (The Wall Street Journal reported on a Wisconsin college that goes so far as to offer students free professional headshots for their LinkedIn profiles).4
Start talking about career planning and placement during the recruitment/admissions process. Reinforce that these services are available throughout their academic journey with your college.
Sources: Photo; (1) Survey: More freshmen than ever say they go to college to get better jobs, make more money (2) Freshmen Students Say Rankings Aren't Key Factor in College Choice (3) The Career College Solution (4) College Advises Students: Ditch the Selfies