What if you could hear what over 6,400 high school students want you to know about their college search process; their experiences with communications, marketing, and websites; and what they’d recommend schools do differently or better? At this year’s NACAC Conference in Louisville, you can.
On Saturday, September 28, Carnegie Dartlet will present the results of our first annual CollegeXpress Student Insights Report at the NACAC Conference. This report was built from the results of a survey we conducted this spring in which we asked high school students to share their perspectives on the college search process. Each grade level was surveyed and presented with a similar survey with some questions altered to better reflect where the student was in their college search journey. Nowhere else is this massive amount of data—and significance of student voice—available when it comes to hearing what prospective students want to say to colleges and universities.
For those who aren’t familiar, CollegeXpress is a leading college and scholarship search site managed by Carnegie Dartlet that is geared toward students, parents, and counselors. Hundreds of colleges and universities are featured on CollegeXpress.com, which experiences enormous amounts of traffic and engagement each month, allowing schools access to over three million prospective students via its student outreach channels to connect with the audiences that are the best fits for them. The result is over five million connections made and leads generated for participating schools each year, while students receive tons of valuable content, college lists and rankings, and research opportunities to help them on their college search path. It’s the significance of this engine that enabled us to reach and survey such a large student population, and it’s the connection and trust they have in CollegeXpress that helped lead to such a great response.
What Makes the CollegeXpress Student Insights Report Most Unique
We wanted to make sure the CollegeXpress Student Insights Report offered a unique and valuable perspective on the mindsets and opinions of these student audiences that’s as informative as possible for admission and marketing professionals at any campus. To accomplish this, we focused on a few key aspects:
- Volume: We received over 6,400 responses—period, the end. Statistically speaking, we could’ve had valid data to work with from a much smaller response pool. But to be able to draw insights from an engaged student population like this meant we could develop significantly more conclusions and insights. Plus, the direct and free-form feedback this resulted in meant stories emerged in all sorts of different ways that have never been told before.
- Varying stages: When we conducted our initial survey back in 2018, we focused on seniors only during their decision-making process. That data was incredibly valuable, but we knew a bigger and more diverse picture could be developed based on the access to student audiences CollegeXpress could provide. This year’s survey and report involve data and results from students across all four years of high school. The ability to help inform strategies and communications from early-stage awareness and interest to final decision-making makes this report exponentially more valuable.
- Cross-channel: In today’s world of making true and authentic connections with students, there needs to be a comprehensive approach across all channels, from print and email to digital advertising and your website. The CollegeXpress Student Insights Report covers all those and everything in between. And as you can imagine, students have plenty to say about their experiences across them all.
- Qualitative response: And lots of it. It’s one thing to report back on statistics from a survey, but it’s another to give a voice to your audience and let them tell you what they are looking for. This report has the regular statistics and data that can be found in many other places. But what it also has (which no one else does) is aggregated content from 16,000 rows of free-form responses answering questions about the advice students would give to colleges, how their perception of a college changed over time (good and bad), and what they are looking for on your website. This data can be quantified and spit back out, but the magic is not in the numbers and categorizations we built—it’s in the real comments from real students, those of which you will find throughout this report, unfiltered and unaltered.
Want more? Here’s a very small sample as a sneak peek:
Real student quotes
- “Showcase the college’s personality as best as you can. Displaying a distinct personality and culture to students makes the college standout, and attracts more students that would be the best fit for the campus.”
- “Give us real stories of the student’s journeys. ‘It was truly an amazing experience.’ is not good enough.”
- “Price is a huge effect on many searching students today. By making expenses more well-known – whether that be on your main web page or pamphlet – just make it clearer. We (as students) don’t have the time or energy to go searching for it.”
- “Instagram posts are a great way to promote your school. They are an opportunity to show your school in a realistic and fun way. Also, it is an effective way to reach students with busy schedules. It takes less time for me to see, process, and absorb the information so it is a quicker way for me to learn about your school.”
- “To attract students, don’t send them the same 3 post cards. The information on the cards is also the same for 4 other universities (‘Do you want to attend a world renowned College/University that will help you on your career path?’). Getting new information every time the college contacted me was good.”
- “The quality of the presenters is key. If you are going to have a presentation, pick a great dynamic presenter (we saw quite a few of these). We also saw some lovely schools where the presenter was so bad it killed any interest we had in the place. Why have someone really poor present?!”
- “Colleges should look at each other’s websites, pamphlets, and campus tours to see what can set them apart. Many colleges present themselves nearly identically.”
- Website stats: 67% of comments were about navigation/organization; 27% were about wanting more information; and 6% were about having a more personalized experience.
- 68.7% of male respondents started their college search during their junior year or later (18.4% waited until senior year to begin searching), whereas 54.3% of females started searching during their junior year or later (11% waited until senior year).
- 10.8% of female respondents started searching before freshman year, compared to 6.5% of males.
- 13% of students (a mix of juniors and seniors) mentioned that finding out a school had their program of interest changed their perception of the school enough to add it to their final list.
When you tie everything together, this report will not only give you a true view of the college search process from every point of view but also a road map for how to communicate with your target audience better. This is where you’ll forge the human connection this generation and your future students are truly craving.
If you’re headed to NACAC, please plan to join our session on September 28 at noon, where we’ll be presenting the data and findings from the CollegeXpress Student Insights Report. Also stop by the Carnegie Dartlet booth for more information and advanced access to the report itself. If you won’t be there, feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you’d like a copy once the report is released immediately following the NACAC Conference.