The Times has an interesting article discussing how college graduates are choosing to live in the cores of large urban areas. Within this migration are those who become graduate students. Among the several implications is a new value proposition that graduate programs in these urban areas can offer recruits. Increasingly vibrant live, study, play communities. This is a good trend that bodes well for these graduate institutions and their metropolitan areas.
The process that most take to investigate graduate school is rarely straightforward. Think of it as a funnel separated by three distinct phases: See, Think, and Do. Knowing what students are doing and thinking while in these phases should inform your recruitment strategies.
When in the See phase students are undifferentiated. They might understand that their long term career and personal goals will involve an advanced degree of some kind, but their plans are otherwise very vague.
Students in the Think phase are in an active phase of discovery, doing research on schools and programs, and are beginning to make decisions. While in the Think phase they can still be undecided about their field of study, and many are uncertain about the schools or the part of the world in which to pursue further education. But they are working actively to resolve those issues.
While in the Do phase students are whittling down their options into lists and are in the process of making final decisions. They’re creating their own rankings. They are getting everything lined up to apply, taking standardized tests, writing their narrative summaries, enrolling recommendations. They have become very differentiated.
How should programs act upon these stages?
See -> The See phase represents a significant opportunity to influence prospects early. Your main goal should be to ensure students in this phase are even aware that your program exists. You should target your searches broadly in terms of academic backgrounds and geographic locations. Widen the majors and locales. Students in the See phase are likely to be passive consumers of your information, so you should have video’s for them to watch, and although they might not respond to your bookmark, they’ll see it.
Think-> You can also be influential while they are in the Think phase. Your success will be dictated by your ability to engage them. They’ve researched what public material you’ve shared, but can benefit now by the human touch because they are curious about how and whether they fit into your community. Use all the engagement tools you can muster. Respond to Bookmarks and Messages on Gradschoolmatch, exchange emails and phone calls. Try to understand what they are looking for. Invite Collaborators on Gradschoolmatch to join the conversation. Consider introducing them to current students in the program.
Do-> You want students to enter your tunnel before they’ve advanced to their Do phase, as little opportunity exits to get on their radar, if not. If they are in your tunnel, engagement is essential for the simple reason that they are also in the tunnels of your competitor programs. If you waive application fees or have any other application inducements, now is the time to let them know.
Here’s a simple test to determine whether prospects can find your program easier than on Gradschoolmatch.
Go to the home page of your university. Count the number of clicks it takes from there to be on your program’s website. If it takes 2 clicks you may want to use Gradschoolmatch.com If it takes 3 or more clicks, you need to use Gradschoolmatch.com
How many prospects can’t find your program because it is too hard to find?
As the leaves fall graduate program fair season is in full bloom, when representatives of various graduate schools converge on campuses seeking prospective applicants. Graduate program directors everywhere would do well to read the concerns expressed by Jason Krell on these graduate school fairs.
Majoring in creative writing and Italian at the University of Arizona, Jason appreciates the value these events can provide students, most especially opportunities to interact with grad school representatives and to get questions answered. But he is frustrated by the on-campus implementation of the concept. His trigger concern was the absence of representation by schools offering advanced degrees in the fine arts, fields that interest him.
To zero in on the difficulty here: Jason, like virtually all prospective graduate students whether they have arrived at a level of self-awareness as him or not, has some fairly specialized academic interests. Chances are that a few hundred graduate programs exist out there in a field that might interest him, but in all probability only a handful that truly fit him well. That is the nature of graduate education. The on-campus graduate school fairs are not really capable of providing the level of specialization that Jason, and most other students irrespective of field, will need.
On campus grad school fairs are generalist affairs. The recruiters who attend these represent multiple programs, sometimes hundreds of programs, back at their home institution. No doubt great connections can be made with recruiters at these fairs, and no doubt lives often move in unanticipated directions as a consequence of these meet and greets. But these events have inherent inefficiencies. First, with travel and lodging, a school will spend ~$2000 to send one representative for one seat at a table.
In fact, the landscape of graduate opportunities at many graduate institutions can be so broad that it is simply cost-prohibitive for them to send sufficient numbers of representatives to thoroughly present the scope of the fields they offer. A school the size of the University of Arizona could alone would occupy hundreds of seats.
Think of Gradschoolmatch is a 365/24/7 online graduate school fair. With interactive features designed to connect the students who are seeking information on their next step directly with the program decision makers themselves. A starting place to get specific information tailored to specific interests. Gradschoolmatch.com is a place on the internet where students and program representatives with common academic interests can find each other and also do the meet and greet that you would hope a grad school fair could deliver. And since our tables are virtual, or space is unlimited. And since no travel or lodging is involved, a seat at the table is extremely cost effective.