Recruiting for your business program? Focus on reputation.

December 16, 2014

In a previous post, we looked at Academica Group Consultant Stefanie Ivan’s findings around what motivated business students to pursue postsecondary education. But knowing why students apply is only half the battle. To get students into class, it takes another step: understanding why a student chooses one institution over another. This takes targeted intelligence, specific to each program.

In this post, we’ll follow up on what we learned last time. As you may recall, we looked at the decisions of more than 27,000 university and college applicants who responded to Academica’s University/College Applicant Study (UCAS™) to find out what motivates business students, in particular, to pursue an education. This time, we’ll consider some of the nuances in how business students ultimately decide whether or not to accept an admission offer.

Reputation management is key

Business students do have a lot in common with the general student population. When asked to name the most important consideration for choosing an institution, most applicants to a college or university choose things such as a strong reputation in a specific program of choice, a strong overall academic reputation, and a strong reputation for graduates having good careers. Business students are no different: these factors appeared at the top of their list as well, but with a slightly greater intensity.

Focused on careers

Single Most Important Consideration for Choosing an InstitutionBusiness students do seem slightly more concerned about an institution’s reputation for graduates finding good careers. 21% of business applicants cited this as the single most important characteristic for choosing an institution, compared with 16% of non-business applicants.

This career focus was especially strong among college business applicants. 24% cited the institution’s strong reputation for graduates having good careers as the most important consideration, compared to 20% of university business applicants. University business applicants, on the other hand, were more interested in reputation of the school and the program itself. 41% of applicants to university business programs cited the institution’s reputation in a specific program of interest as the most important factor, compared to just 25% of college business applicants; meanwhile, 18% of university business applicants and 10% of college business applicants pointed to the strong reputation of the institution as key consideration.

Get the message out

If institutions want to succeed in converting a business applicant into an enrolled student, the message here is clear: reputation matters. Build your program’s story around its successes and make sure students know about your successful graduates and your faculty. Colleges need to trumpet their strong job placement rates, and universities need to enhance the standing of their program. Work with alumni and be creative in how you do that; think of opportunities to use alumni in meaningful ways throughout the student lifecycle.

Now that we’ve looked at some of the ways your messaging can target business students in particular, the next job is making sure your message is reaching them. In a future post, we’ll look what kind of channels are effective at reaching—and converting—business students in particular.