Research Study: What Do Prospective Students Want From College Web Sites?

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1 Research Study: What Do Prospective Students Want From College Web Sites? June, 2013

2 About the Study Web sites have replaced brochures and catalogs as the first place prospective students turn when evaluating colleges and universities. But many institutions of higher education are still struggling to develop valuable, informative web sites that give prospects what they re searching for. Thermo Interactive, in partnership with Stasney Consulting, polled 1985 people between the ages of 22 and 45 in a survey conducted from May 31 to June 5, The goal was to determine prospective students use of and preferences for the resources available online to help them research, evaluate and interact with colleges and universities. The purpose of this survey is to help institutions of higher education evaluate their Web strategies and understand what tools, resources and content they should be offering on their web sites. Some of the questions we sought to answer included: How do today s prospective higher education students use the Web in researching their educational options? What types of information and tools do they find most useful when they visit a higher education web site? What types of activities do they conduct at the web site? How do they prefer to interact with enrollment representatives? How does today s findings compare with past surveys? How have prospective students behaviors and attitudes changed?

3 Summary of Findings The majority of qualified respondents (those actively planning to return to school) are in the Millenial Generation and our findings with respect to social media is consistent with the current attitudes towards these venues. Social media is not the preferred communication method for today s or yesterday s students. They prefer to obtain information from the school website and prefer to be contacted by within 1-2 days. The overwhelming majority of respondents prefer to find complete information on a website in order to make an informed decision as opposed to social media or printed brochures. When selecting schools, the vast majority of respondents are only going to visit the website and are going to consider 3-5 schools. The school website must stand out and must be easy to navigate.

4 Respondent Demographics Plans to Return to School? Yes Plans to Return to School? No Total respondents in this survey = 1985; blank responses were omitted. Only responses submitted by those who planned to return to school (1,045) were considered in subsequent questions. The highest number of respondents fell in the age groups and

5 Respondent Demographics 14% 12% 10% 8% 6% Female Male 4% 2% 0% Of those respondents planning on returning to school, the difference between number of males and females is insignificant.

6 Respondent Demographics What is the highest level of education you have completed? Master's 16% Doctorate 2% High School/GED 21% Associate's 14% Certificate 4% Bachelor's 41% Some college 2% These respondents indicated that they were interested in continuing their education although the majority already have advanced degrees.

7 What type of school did you or are you attending? Private For- Profit School 15% Private Notfor-Profit School 25% Public Notfor-Profit School 60% Multiple responses were allowed.

8 Would you consider a degree from a private career college as valuable as a degree from a public university? 13% 34% 50% Equally Valuable More Valuable Not as Valuable Not Valuable at all 3% In 2006, 53% of respondents considered a degree from a private career college equally or more valuable than one from a public university. In 2013, that number fell to 37%.

9 Would you consider a degree from a private career college as valuable as a degree from a public university? (By type of degree attained) Doctorate Degree Master's Degree Bachelor's Degree Associate's Degree Not Valuable at all Not as Valuable More Valuable Equally Valuable High School/GED Certificate The majority of those with high school diplomas and associate s degrees consider private career college degrees equally valuable.

10 How many schools did you or would you consider before making your final decision? 10% 6% 30% 54% or More This is consistent with past findings. The vast majority of prospective students will consider less than five schools before making a decision.

11 College Website Preferences When researching colleges, did you visit their website? 10% No Yes 90% Are photos important on a college website? 45% 55% I'm more interested in reading the content to find out about a school than looking at pictures - These aren't really important to me Photos are really important on a college website to depict the college experience

12 College Research Preferences When researching colleges, did you visit their mobile sites? 19% 81% No Yes Did you visit their Facebook page or Twitter account? 13% 87% No Yes

13 College Research Preferences Value of Student Blogs I'm suspicious of student blogs and feel that they are edited to paint the college in a positive light 61% I think that student blogs are an excellent way to convey the real student experience 39%

14 How do you prefer to be contacted by an enrollment advisor? Would you be receptive to a text message? 35% 65% No Yes Where do you prefer to receive a phone call? Work Home Cell

15 Preferred Methods of Contact How do you prefer to be contacted? Social Media Postal Mail Text Message Telephone How quickly do you want to be contacted? Longer than 2 days Within 2 days Within 1 day Within 30 minutes Within 10 minutes

16 What type of content do you want to see on a school website? 73% 27% I prefer colleges to offer just the top-level information so that I can find what I'm looking for quickly and easily. I can dig deeper when I speak with an enrollment advisor. I want colleges to provide a deep level of content on their websites so that I can gather all the information I need to make a decision. The overwhelming majority of respondents prefer a richer website content with complete information readily available.

17 Which activities have you conducted on a school s web site? Completed an online application Used a tuition calculator Viewed an online "campus tour" or ed a student or faculty member Used a financial aid estimator Read a student testimonial Completed an online survey Dialed a toll free phone number to Submitted a campus visit request Read a student blog Used a live chat feature Listened to a podcast Forwarded a page Other Personalized a web page Multiple responses were allowed.

18 Which activities have you conducted on a school s web site? (Findings) In order of preference, the top five activities conducted on a school website are: Complete an online application (moving up from #4 in the past) Use a tuition calculator (moving up from #6 in the past) View on online campus video or tour (consistently 3 rd ) a student or faculty member (down from #2 in the past) Use a financial aid estimator (consistently 5 th ) Responses from those who indicated they did NOT visit a school website (10%) in their search were excluded

19 What activities would you like to do on a school website? Complete an online application Use a tuition calculator Use a financial aid estimator Read a student or faculty profile View an online "campus tour" or "demo" Submit an inquiry form a student or faculty member Use a live chat feature Submit a campus visit request Read a student testimonial Dial a toll free phone number to speak with Read a student blog Complete an online survey Listen to a podcast Forward a page Personalize a web page Other Multiple responses were allowed.

20 What activities would you like to do on a school website? (Findings) Multiple responses were allowed Complete on online application remains the #1 activity The Other category included such responses as: Figure time and cost with estimated transfer credit View job placement statistics for program See more online class work Read testimonials about specific classes Look at course offerings Request materials See job placement and wages of graduates Preview course offerings via itunes U View a course catalog and degree requirements Easily search for degrees that may be relevant to my interests. This is one of the biggest obstacles for students, a tedious task.

21 What question would be most important for you to ask an alumni or current student of a college you are considering? 17% 9% 5% 36% What are the instructors like? Do they have lots of practical experience? Can I take classes totally online, and are they as good as campus classes? 33% Did the school's counselors help you find your job after graduation? What's it like being on campus? Other

22 What question would be most important for you to ask an alumni or current student of a college you are considering? (Other) What majors do you have and of what quality are they? Do teachers seem to really take a lot of time to make sure that information can be understood for students? How has a graduate degree helped your career advancement? Going back to school as an adult, was it difficult to get back into it? What is the biggest thing you learned and would you do it again? Do you currently have a career in your field of study? Describe the student body. Who attends this college? What is the graduation rate of this college? How has your specific degree track assisted you in your current career? How is this Masters program going to improve my career path? What is the atmosphere of the college like? How up to date is the curriculum? Do you feel more prepared for the world than when you started? How were you treated? Was it worth the cost and effort?

23 Would you be interested in a faithbased college experience? Yes 35% No 65%

24 Thank You! We appreciate the opportunity to share our findings with you. Any questions, comments, or media inquiries regarding this survey should be directed to: Thermo Interactive

25 Additional References Social Media & Mobile Internet Use Among Teens and Young Adults by Amanda Lenhart, Kristen Purcell, Aaron Smith, and Kathryn Zickuhr, February, 2010, Pew Research Center, Pew Internet and American Life Project

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