Should Colleges Use Social Media to Engage Non-traditional Students?
One of the questions we’ve been hearing a lot lately from schools, “do non-traditional students use social media the same as traditional students?”
This is a great question, since non-traditional students are one of the fastest growing segments in higher ed. For those of you not familiar with the concept, the most commonly-used definition of a non-traditional student is an individual enrolling in higher education age 25 or older. But that’s not the only definition.
Differences in enrollment patterns, financial and family status, and high school graduation status are also characteristics of a non-traditional student. That means non-traditional students include adults who enroll in college more than a year after their high school graduation, single parents, financially-independent students, and GED recipients, among others.
How many non-traditional students are there in higher education?
Recent reports by the NCES state that only 15% of the undergraduate population consists of full-time, first-time students; these are what we normally think of as “traditional” students.
38% of students enrolled in higher education are over the age of 24, with projections showing students over the age of 24 in higher education increasing by another 23% by 2019.
Do non-traditional students use social media?
Absolutely! Take a look over some statistics about popular social media sites and their users. By looking at all of the popular social media sites, anyone can see clearly the users are predominantly non-traditional students. At least 80% of users on any of the big social media sites are over 24.
Facebook is by far the most popular social media site, with 845 million active users. 725,700,000 individuals over the age of 24 are on Facebook. That’s a lot of prospective, admitted or current students colleges can be engaging with online.
How are you engaging with non-traditional students?
In recruiting non-traditional students, you may be ruling out an easy way to connect with potential students by not using social media. Since the majority of users on popular social media sites fit the non-traditional student definition, this is a fantastic place to share information about your university with prospective and admitted students.
Here’s just one example of how non-traditional students have been connecting on our Schools App private social network for colleges and universities.
While this is just one example of the conversations that happen with our community, we’ve seen other schools have similar success engaging non-traditional students.
What methods are you using to connect with non-traditional students? Have you seen this audience engage with your institution on social media in the same ways as traditional students? Share your thoughts below!
Bell, S. (March 8, 2012). Nontraditional students are the new majority. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/03/opinion/nontraditional-students-are-the-new-majority-from-the-bell-tower/#_
National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). Nontraditional undergraduates/definitions and data [Data file]. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs/web/97578e.asp
National Center for Education Statistics (2012). Enrollment in postsecondary institutions, fall 2010; financial statistics, fiscal year 2010; and graduation rates, selected cohorts, 2002-2007. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012280.pdf
Skelton, S. (March 9, 2012). Social demographics: who’s using today’s biggest networks [infographic]. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/03/09/social-media-demographics/