1 GRADUATE EDITION Advanced Degrees of E-Recruitment The E-Expectations of Prospective Graduate Students Many university e-recruitment programs are built around enrolling undergraduates, but what about students seeking graduate degrees? These students, having already been through the recruitment process and college experience, have a different set of expectations and goals than their undergraduate counterparts. How can campuses strengthen their connections with prospective graduate students through their Web sites and e-communications? The answer is to know what those students expect. The E-Expectations: Graduate Edition study surveyed more than 1,000 prospective graduate students about the behaviors of these students what they are doing on graduate program Web sites, as well as their e-communications preferences from those programs. The study shows that these students seek a connection with the institution, and especially with faculty. They value academic quality, overall value, and their fit with the programs. Graduate e-recruitment programs need to provide details about the programs of study, opportunities for aid, value of a degree from that institution, and how to communicate with potential faculty mentors. Even more, many of these students prefer this information electronically on the Web and in which means graduate programs need to put as much information as possible within a few mouse clicks of their target audience. Sponsored by
2 The E-Expectations graduate respondents The E-Expectations graduate survey polled 1,069 prospective graduate students in an online survey. The majority of respondents were 22 to 28 years old and seeking master s degrees. 62% of respondents said they preferred Web sites over brochures. Age 21 years or younger 26.2% 22 to 28 years 46.5% 29 to 35 years 8.5% 35 to 41 years 5% 42 to 48 years 6.1% 49 to 55 years 5.3% 56 years or older 2.4% Turning to the Web first Degree sought Master s 65.4% Doctorate 26.9% Professional (JD, MD, etc.) 3.8% Other 3.9% One of the most interesting results of the survey showed a clear preference for electronic communications over print. Given a choice between two answers, two out of three respondents preferred the Web over printed materials. I would rather look at a Web site about a graduate program than read brochures sent in the mail. 62.4% I would rather read brochures about a graduate program sent to me in the mail than looking at a Web site. 37.6% I would like to receive messages from people at a graduate program on my list. 62.5% I would like to receive information in the mail about a graduate program on my list. 37.5% This doesn t necessarily mean that graduate programs should throw away their viewbooks and other printed materials. However, it appears imperative to provide that information electronically. 2 E-Expectations: Graduate Edition: Advanced Degrees of E-Recruitment 2007 Noel-Levitz, Inc.
3 What they want to know What information do students want when searching for graduate programs? The respondents ranked the importance of a number of information categories, from 1 (not at all important) to 5 (extremely important). Here were the responses rated 4.00 or higher. Category Importance rank (5 = extremely important) Graduate program detail 4.77 Assistantship/scholarship information 4.62 Financial aid information 4.57 Assistantship opportunities and information 4.40 Tuition/cost/fees 4.38 Length of time to complete program 4.35 Connections with employers or career services 4.18 Details on faculty 4.03 While cost and financial aid clearly weighed on their minds, the last two responses showed a strong interest in faculty and post-graduate connections. After program details, cost and aid/assistantship information is the most valuable to prospective graduate students. What they are doing and what they expect What are these students doing online with graduate programs, and are those activities meeting their expectations? The following table shows the top ten activities students said they engaged in, as well as the percentage of students who had not done these activities but would like to. In a number of cases, less than half of the students had completed one of these activities, yet many expressed an interest in them. This could signal a gap between the e-expectations of prospective graduate students and what graduate e-communication programs are delivering. In reviewing these activities, consider whether your campus offers them. 3 E-Expectations: Graduate Edition: Advanced Degrees of E-Recruitment 2007 Noel-Levitz, Inc.
4 Submitted a form online to receive more information in the mail or by completed this not but would like to complete this 92% 87% Read profiles of faculty 67% 90% Viewed a virtual tour 53% 82% ed a faculty member 52% 84% Forwarded a Web page to a friend or family member Completed an admissions application online Entered information about your interests to see a personalized Web page Completed a tuition cost calculator to learn more about how much a school might cost 50% 48% 45% 90% 40% 66% 35% 90% Read profiles of alumni 35% 70% Offered by your campus? Read profiles of current graduate students 33% 71% Outside of those 10 activities, there were a number of other areas that had a high discrepancy between completion and desire to complete. Again, does your campus offer these features? Completed a financial aid estimator form to learn about how much money you might receive in aid or scholarships Requested a campus visit by completing a form Completed a form to RSVP for a campus event ed current graduate students from the Web site Filled out a form to get a personalized viewbook PDF Created a profile that describes your interests to other prospective graduate students completed this not but would like to complete this 27% 93% 18% 80% 20% 77% 13% 71% 23% 66% 25% 55% Offered by your campus? 4 E-Expectations: Graduate Edition: Advanced Degrees of E-Recruitment 2007 Noel-Levitz, Inc.
5 Instant messaging, blogging, and podcasts E-communications are going beyond Web surfing and , with instant messages, blogs, and text messaging gaining popularity rapidly. How did these students feel about newer forms of e-communications being used in recruiting efforts? The reaction was mixed, with students showing interest in blogging but not nearly as much in podcasts or chats. Read a blog written by a member of the faculty completed this not but would like to complete this 16% 72% Offered by your campus? Students showed widespread interest in reading faculty blogs. Exchanged an instant message with an admissions counselor or someone from the program Read a blog written by a current student 13% 68% 19% 66% Downloaded a podcast 6% 41% Downloaded a video podcast 6% 38% Participated in an online chat event 11% 35% Subscribed to an RSS or XML feed 7% 29% The E-Expectations survey also asked more specifically about instant messaging and the recruitment process. The vast majority of students said they use instant messaging and would respond to instant messages from college representatives: Do you currently use instant messaging? Yes 70.5% Would you consider sending an instant message to a college representative through the school s Web site? Yes 75.2% Would you consider reading and responding to an IM from a college representative if he or she just noted that you were online? Yes 87.1% 5 E-Expectations: Graduate Edition: Advanced Degrees of E-Recruitment 2007 Noel-Levitz, Inc.
6 This same attitude carried over to taking cell phone calls from college representatives, but did not extend into receiving text messages. Do you currently own a cell phone? Yes 93.4% Would you consider taking phone calls on your cell phone from a college representative? Yes 73.5% Does your cell phone have text messaging capabilities? Yes 85.6% Would you consider taking text messages from a college representative? No 51.7% When to contact them Many prospective graduate students want to complete a certain amount of research and decision making on their own before even connecting directly with college personnel. These responses showed when they want to receive certain types of information or make contact with graduate personnel. Action Before applying After applying Never Sending a brochure or letter to me in the mail. Sending me an invitation to visit campus. ing me general information about the graduate program ing me a personalized PDF graduate program brochure Calling me to talk about the academic quality of the graduate program Calling me to talk about financing and scholarships Inviting me to participate in an online chat session Instant messaging with a representative from the graduate program Calling me to talk about career development, employer relationships, and networking 93% 6% 1% 63% 35% 2% 95% 4% 1% 78% 19% 3% 67% 27% 6% 53% 44% 3% 46% 34% 20% 48% 32% 20% 27% 65% 8% 6 E-Expectations: Graduate Edition: Advanced Degrees of E-Recruitment 2007 Noel-Levitz, Inc.
7 Four strategies to take away What implications does this research have for graduate programs as they recruit prospective students? Here are four things that can help you strengthen your graduate e-communications. 1) Put the e in your communications More than 60 percent of the E-Expectations: Graduate Edition respondents stressed a preference for electronic communications over print. While this does not mean that print communications should be scrapped, it appears students are turning to the Web first when seeking information about graduate programs. Make sure your e-communications offer comprehensive data about your program. In fact, many of the online tools sought by graduate students are identical to those identified in the undergraduate version of the E-Expectations research program (www.noellevitz.com/ expectations). Institutions devoting resources to undergraduate e-recruitment could adapt those services and features for graduate programs. 2) Offer details on cost and aid opportunities When ranking the value of content from graduate programs, four of the top five responses related to cost, financial aid, and assistantships. Furthermore, many students requested online calculators to calculate cost and estimate financial aid. By offering these details and applications on your Web site, you can provide information that s key to the decision making of prospective students. If you have e-recruitment resources targeted toward undergraduates, consider adapting them for graduate e-recruitment. 3) Connect graduate students to faculty and your campus Prospective graduate students expressed a desire to connect with faculty members. Offer opportunities for them to or contact faculty directly, and if faculty members keep blogs, provide clear links to those on your site. The respondents also showed an interest in looking at virtual tours. However, on most campus Web sites, these tours are geared toward undergraduates. Consider offering virtual tours specifically for prospective graduate students. 4) Explore new communication options such as blogging and instant messaging The survey respondents were overwhelmingly positive about using instant messaging to communicate with graduate programs. If you do not already use it, add it. Blogs also scored high, as they offer a great way to connect with faculty and other graduate students through posts and comments. Encourage faculty members and current grad students to keep blogs and make them visible on your site. 7 E-Expectations: Graduate Edition: Advanced Degrees of E-Recruitment 2007 Noel-Levitz, Inc.
8 Iowa City, Iowa Denver, Colorado Braintree, Massachusetts Phone: Web: About the research sponsors Noel-Levitz Noel-Levitz has consulted with more than 1,800 public and private institutions, helping these campuses and systems reach their goals for enrollment, marketing, and student success at the undergraduate and graduate/professional levels. James Tower James Tower, headquartered in North Mankato, Minnesota, provides an unparalleled range of recruiting communications services, helping colleges to create custom-built, highly interactive Web sites; targeted campaigns; virtual tours; videos, DVDs, and CD-ROMs; and print publications. GradSchools.com Based in suburban Philadelphia, GradSchools.com is the Internet s leading source of graduate school information. The site helps students find their ideal graduate school through a comprehensive directory of colleges and programs organized by subject, school and location. GradSchools.com is a service of Educational Directories Unlimited (EDU), a leading Internet company serving higher education. About the methodology The E-Expectations: Graduate Edition survey was conducted via the Internet. A list of individuals who had opted in for the study was provided to Noel-Levitz by GradSchools.com. A total of 1069 responses were gathered in July Questions about this paper If you have any questions or comments about the E-Expectations: Graduate Edition study, please contact Stephanie Geyer, executive consultant at Noel-Levitz. Call , or P E-Expectations: Graduate Edition: Advanced Degrees of E-Recruitment 2007 Noel-Levitz, Inc.
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