Today’s College Students: Who You Think They Are Vs. Who They Really Are

October 11, 2018 Victoria Pallien

college students

When thinking of college students, most picture an 18 year old who has recently graduated from high school. Many might think of a student who is striving for a four-year degree at a traditional college, whether it be private or public. Frequently, we envision students who live on campus, largely dependent on their parents and with few responsibilities beyond their schoolwork.

When picturing a typical college student, many might conjure up images of individuals who fit aptly in the Mindset List.

Characteristics of today’s college students

By many measures, today’s college students are older, more diverse and differ in significant ways from our traditional notions of what “college” has represented.  As NPR reported, today’s college students are “decidedly nontraditional.” The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a report about modern college students, including some data that may be surprising:

  • Nearly a third of college students are independent from their parents.
  • The number of students who have children or other dependents has increased to 27.5%. 15.2% of students with children may also be the sole provider of their children.
  • 43.3% of students are attending school part time.
  • A quarter of students work part time while attending classes, and nearly the same amount work full time while in school.
  • 20% of college students are 30 years old or older.
  • 62.6% of independent students were raised by individuals who didn’t obtain a high school diploma.
  • 51.2% of independent students may be considered low-income.
  • 49.9% of students who are independent also report a disability.
  • 78% of independent students took a year or more off before beginning college after high school.
  • A little less than half of students attend a two-year community college.

What does this mean for education marketers?

education marketers higher education college students

Marketers need to know their student profiles. Think about the following when developing your marketing strategies:

  • Understand your students’ motivations. Why are they returning to school? What was the tipping point for them? What was the micro moment that made them decide to return to school?
  • Know their restrictions. How many years have they been out of school? Do they have children? Are they concerned about how they will pay for classes? How many times have they tried to go back to school before?
  • Learn what media they consume and when. Cater to your targeted audience’s needs. Consider what media your audience will be consuming and when they’ll have time to view it. For example, busy parents who are interested in pursuing higher education may only have time early in the morning before their kids wake up or late at night after their children are asleep.
  • Understand what will make them pull the trigger. Does your educational institution offer financial aid that may compel students to pursue their education? Do your class scheduling and support services make it easy for them to get to class and be a part of the community? Do you offer placement services that can help students start their careers after graduation? How will you support their success?

Modern students are redefining what it means to be a “college student,” as they break out of the box and strive for higher education no matter their age, background or circumstance.

Reimagining Your Next Steps in College Marketing

Learn more about DMS Education, an industry lead in matching school with students who enroll and graduate. DMS Education manages an extensive portfolio of owned-and-operates, education-focused properties that attract today’s high-intent prospective college students.

Contact DMS to learn more about what DMS Education can do for you.

About the Author

Victoria Pallien

Victoria Pallien is a Marketing Communications Writer at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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