Don’t Miss Out on the Recession Boom in Graduate School Applications

June 5th, 2020 by Alula Amare

Research by The New York Times, Stanford, and other sources suggests that interest in graduate school will hit new highs in the coming months and years due to the global recession. Instead of looking at how your organization can cut costs by reducing its marketing budget, you should make the most of this opportunity by allocating marketing dollars to get in front of audiences receptive to your messaging.

Graduate student smiling wearing a cap and gown at graduation

Now is the time to make a push to drive more applications to your programs. You need to ramp up your efforts to ensure that your advertisements are being seen by prospective students who are wondering if they should apply to business school, law school, or another graduate program.

Increased Online Activity Enhances Targeting Efforts

Online activity has surged in the past few months due to stay-at-home orders. With more active users browsing online, it’s clear that budget allocations and targeting should shift to align with this change. Advertisers can adjust their marketing strategies and find more cost-effective ways to use their marketing dollars.

Now is the perfect time to push your messaging on Facebook because costs have dropped. Like any marketplace, supply and demand drives Facebook ad pricing. As the platform’s ad inventory has increased due to more activity, the amount it can charge advertisers has decreased. Facebook saw a 50% surge in the use of their messaging apps, as well as a similar increase in the time people spend on Facebook and Instagram.

Right now, it costs a lot less to reach potential students on social media and on mobile apps. From March 1 to May 20, 2019 it cost an average of $3 for 1,000 impressions (CPM) on Facebook and Instagram. Due to increased online activity in 2020, the CPM fell to an average of $1.22. The first three months of 2020 also saw unprecedented spending ($23.4 billion) and activity (a 20% increase year-over-year) on mobile apps, which grad schools can take advantage of by running ads on Google’s Display Network.

Graduate student sitting at a desk working on a laptop

How to Market Your Graduate School Programs: Proven Industry Results

Our higher education clients have seen a sharp increase in inquiries during the past few months. Several factors drove this spike, including a 20% surge in searches for online degree programs and an increased appetite for applying to grad school. However, increased consumer interest doesn’t mean much if you can’t capitalize on it.

In March, most states issued shelter-in-place orders. Data from one of our clients, a professional and continuing education school at a private university, shows a record-breaking number of inquiries since this time. Although this organization has a competitive advantage because they already offered many of their programs online, online programs will increasingly become the industry standard.

Here’s a checklist of tactics our clients utilized to pivot their strategies, which you can use to benefit your institution:

  • Make every course available online
  • Emphasize messaging that provides details about policies regarding transfers, financial aid, and credit for life/work experiences
  • Maintain a digital advertising budget
  • Leverage Facebook Live to increase awareness
  • Shift blog post topics to address the current climate

Implementing these adjustments yielded significant improvements in digital campaign performance: In March, one higher education client received more Facebook inquiries than they have in any other month since we began working with them. During Q1 2020, they achieved 47% of the total inquiries that they received during all of 2019.

Marketing Strategy Changes For Your Institution: What You Need to Do Right Now

The cost of advertising on Google, Facebook, and other platforms are lower than they have been for years; now is the perfect time to get in front of new audiences and build a student pipeline for upcoming semesters.

Take the next steps:

  • Adjust your marketing budget to accommodate the surge in online activity
  • Leverage video content and mobile platforms
  • Update your messaging to communicate any changes to your services relevant to the current climate

Millions of Adults Will Consider Graduate School

In times of a strong economy, individuals interested in graduate school have to balance the
the impact of two or more years away from their full-time jobs to attend graduate school with the potential of career advancement (or a career change) a graduate degree provides.

  • Loss of full-time salary
  • Forgoing chance of promotion
  • Taking on tuition debt

Wondering how to ensure your website reaches these expanding audiences? Download our self-assessment to score your marketing strategies and uncover the opportunities you have to drive leads into and down the funnel!