Market research is beneficial to a wide variety of businesses and establishments, including community colleges. A student could be categorized as a general “consumer” or “customer” for a college or university since they pay tuition to attend classes, and ultimately acquire a degree. There are many aspects of college student’s behaviors and experiences that would be valuable for a college or university to understand. Much like any company or organization with paying customers.
Understanding a potential student or current students’ preferences and experiences can help the college to enhance the student experience, address and fix problems the students are facing, or discover why or why not a student chose to enroll or not enroll with the college.
There are several market research options available for community colleges. Read more from our community college market research company.
In this post, our community college market research company will discuss 4 specific market research options including: (1) new admission surveys, (2) failure to enroll surveys, (3) user experience interviews, and (4) transfer student surveys.
New Admissions Surveys
New admission surveys can be utilized for two purposes. One, to survey potential students whom are interested in applying but have not yet applied, and two, students whom have enrolled but have not started attending classes yet.
A graduating senior or a transfer student has over 1,000 community colleges to choose from in the United States. It is beneficial for community colleges to learn what potential students’ needs and preferences are when choosing a college, so they can more effectively guide students to an enrollment decision.
Examples of questions could include:
New Admission Survey (Interested but have not applied):
1. What is the most important factor in making your college choice?
2. What other colleges have you considered?
3. Have you visited our campus?
4. Does tuition cost impact your decision?
5. What do you like about our college?
New Admissions Survey (Accepted and enrolled):
1. What was the most important factor in making your college decision?
2. What other colleges did you consider?
3. What made our college a better fit for you than others you considered?
4. Did our tuition impact your decision?
5. Did our program offerings impact your decision?
6. What was your application process like?
7. How helpful was your enrollment counselor?
8. What could we do to make your enrollment experience even better?
9. Would you recommend our college to a friend?
By gaining knowledge regarding the needs and preferences of potential and new admission students, the college has the opportunity to analyze what is working and what is not, adjust marketing or improve the student experience, and offer better support during the decision and enrollment process.
Failure to Enroll Surveys
Failure to enroll surveys would include potential students who applied and were accepted, but ultimately did not enroll. Gaining insight about why those students were interested in the college in the first place, as well as what made them chose another college option (or none at all) would help a college to better serve potential students in the future.
By learning from this unique group of students, the college would be able to uncover why and at what point they are losing potential students. Is it for financial reasons? Life changes? Did they attend another school and why? What could your community college have done better?
A survey can reveal common reasons for initial interest and lack of enrollment. The college can adjust and implement needed changes, for example, policies, procedures, or support to increase future enrollment.
User Experience Surveys
The evolution of the internet has changed society in general, which includes how potential students choose a college. Anyone has the ability to research any topic on the internet and potential college students are apt to conduct a search regarding potential colleges. College visits are still common, but only after initial research has been conducted from the comfort of their own home on their laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
For this reason, community colleges need to become very aware of how potential students feel about the user experience when using the college website. Prospective students rely on the information provided directly from the college and will scan the site for answers. For example, prospective students may search about tuition, financial aid, programs available, campus life, diversity resources, the application process, support resources, or extracurricular activities.
Conducting some in-depth interviews (IDIs) with prospective students or an on-site intercept survey (pop-up) could prove very insightful.
Some key questions could be:
1. What kind of information were you looking for on our website?
2. How welcoming did you find the homepage?
3. Were the navigation options easy to understand?
4. How quickly were you able to locate the information you were seeking?
5. What do you think we could do to improve the user experience with our college website?
In the age of the internet, it is vital for a community college to understand how prospective students are using the website, how user-friendly they think it is, and what improvements need to be made. If prospective students are losing interest in a college due to the inability to find information they are seeking or frustration from a non-user-friendly website, these problems could easily be addressed and fixed, leading to an increase in applicants.
Transfer Student Surveys
According to the National Student Clearing house Research Center, 37.2% of college students transfer at least once. Going through the college enrollment process can be emotionally taxing, and yet more than 1/3 of students choose to go through it more than once.
Students transfer for a multitude of reasons. Some reasons can include financial circumstances, switching majors, wanting to be closer to family, or simply the current college not feeling like a good fit.
As stated above, transfer students have over 1,000 choices of community colleges, and yet the transfer students the enroll in your community college chose your establishment over the rest. A community college benefits from not only learning why those students chose to transfer to their establishment, but also how the transfer process went.
Gaining insight regarding how easy the application process was, how helpful the enrollment and academic counselors were, how satisfied they were with transfer credits allotted, and what would have improved their experience would help the community college improve the transfer process for future transfer students. It would also help them understand the transfer student mindset which, in turn, could improve the transfer rate of incoming students to the community college.
Market research is extremely valuable for community colleges and this article highlights four areas in which market research can be conducted: new admission surveys, failure to enroll surveys, user experience surveys, and transfer student surveys. Every college and university desires higher enrollment and wants to see students succeed. By gaining valuable insight about different categories of students and their unique preferences and experiences, a community college can achieve higher enrollment, while providing a great education and student experience.
Drive Research is a community college market research company located in Syracuse, NY. Our team works with organizations and higher education institutions across the United States.
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