Transfer students are often the forgotten demographic when it comes to higher education marketing strategies. According to the New York Times, transfers have been almost invisible because they weren’t counted in federal graduation rates for colleges and universities until recently. But did you know that depending on the school, transfer students can account for anywhere from 15%–40% of all newly enrolled undergraduates?
That’s huge! And that means it’s critical for higher education institutions to actively communicate with potential transfer students in a tailored way. Unlike traditional undergraduates, transfer students can be harder to pursue. They often have more questions, conditions, and expectations. Simply put, they’re different from new undergraduates and shouldn’t be treated the same way. The following are just some of the ways that transfer-specific content on your website can help with recruitment efforts.
Make your transfer audience feel valued
For many transfers, a common reason they left their previous school is because they had a hard time forming friendships or finding their place in the campus community. You can draw these students to your school by showing them a community where they’ll feel welcomed and wanted.
The first step to making your transfer prospects feel seen and heard is by creating web content specifically for them. If you group them in the same bucket as new freshmen by directing your outreach to a general undergraduate page, how will they know their needs are being met when they step foot on your campus? Take financial aid, for example—cost is usually a huge consideration for any student, but oftentimes transfers don’t qualify for the same scholarship opportunities as first-year students. Directing them to a general undergraduate page may be unhelpful and frustrating. Instead, show these students you’re thinking of their needs by calling out transfer scholarships and aid clearly on your website.
How to implement
There are numerous ways to customize your website content for transfer students as a way to meet their needs, answer their questions, and build a sense of community. Below are a few ideas to help you start connecting to this audience:
- Tabs and/or pages that call out student life for transfers and give details on clubs, housing, ways to integrate yourself into campus life, testimonials from other transfer students, etc.
- Creating web pages that highlight transfer-specific open houses and events where they can visit and talk with admissions, sit in on classes, etc.
- Pages promoting ways transfers can save money and what’s unique about your financial aid and transfer-specific scholarships compared to the competition
- This Transfer Website Strategy Guide from Carnegie’s Web team’s blog offers a deeper look into creating the optimal website for transfer students to find.
Improve your SEO
According to Mia Pang, a Senior SEO Specialist at Carnegie, “SEO is beyond just ranking on search engines; it’s also about creating an experience that’s helpful to the target audience.” When transfers are searching for a school to switch to, they’re searching for websites that provide answers. Think about the questions transfer students are asking (like “How many credits can I transfer?” or “When can I transfer?”) Keep these in mind when creating your web pages and make sure the answers are clear and accessible.
How to implement
Create web pages that focus on degree completion. Many transfer students are adult learners and community college students who want to finish a degree they started. Optimizing the program pages on your website to include keywords about completing, finishing, transferring credits, or continuing a degree will play a big part in attracting transfers. For four-year college transfers, Carnegie’s Communications Manager & Senior Slate Strategist Jess Severt states, “We’ve found that transfer students are very interested in credit transferability, affordability, and life on campus.” So take the time to create content that speaks directly to your transfer audience. When you do, you’ll also improve your SEO ranking, making it a win-win situation.
Move transfers along the enrollment journey
Your school’s website is one of the most powerful tools you have for urging transfer students to apply! But are you utilizing it in ways that specifically target your transfer audience? One of the biggest mistakes institutions make is not providing detailed planning guides and degree program maps. These resources make it easier for transfer students to figure out the best course of action they need to take to attend your school. Keystone Education Group writes that transfers have “challenges pertaining to course equivalencies, credit evaluation, and credit transfers.” And if they can’t get the answers they seek quickly and clearly, you risk losing their attention and having them click off your site.
How to implement
Two effective ways to help transfers take the next step toward completing their degree are a transfer credit tool and easy-to-follow infographics.
- A transfer credit tool allows transfers to plug in classes they’ve taken to help them see which courses are accepted at the school they’re hoping to attend. This can give them an idea of how long it’ll take them to complete their degree at your school. This tool should be easily found on your website by linking to it on your admission pages, calling it out in digital ads, etc.
- Easy-to-follow infographics are a reliable option since everyone likes to look at a map when they’re not sure where they’re going. Infographics are a great way to provide a clear outline for transfers to refer to when they’re deciding the best path to take toward completing their degree. Are there special classes unique to your institution that everyone needs to take? Show transfers where they can fit them in. Will it take them longer to complete their degree, or will they have to take a heavier course load in order to graduate on time? Be sure to highlight that.
These resources can be images or features right on your website or downloadable PDFs. Either way, they allow for multiple placements throughout your digital campaigns and website. You can even take it a step further by creating a downloadable transfer guide that can be used as an incentive for your lead generation campaigns.
What to take away
Ultimately, transfer students just want to be heard and treated with the same importance as traditional undergraduate students. By keeping these three areas in mind—improving the emotional connection, SEO, and helping them along the enrollment journey—you’ll create great relationships with your transfer audience. And soon, you’ll start to see more engagement and applications.