Location, location, location, as they say in real estate. It can help you attract students to your school. But no matter whether your campus is rural, in the middle of a big city, or somewhere in between, you can market the unique attributes of your location. Any way you can stand out and appeal to the students who will love your location can help you mitigate the effects of the coming enrollment cliff.
There are advantages to any site for certain students, and finding the right students for your institution is what recruiting is all about. So let’s look at some factors to consider in making the best of your school’s location in your recruitment efforts to help you keep enrollment healthy.
Unique Selling Points of Your Campus
Your location is part of your institutional brand. Finding the features and advantages in your location can help you bring in students who can thrive in the environment you offer.
- Rural Colleges
Rural colleges often benefit from a strong sense of community on campus, the absence of distractions from studying, integration within a small town, closeness to nature, and the safety of being away from cities and traffic. Dorm space and open spaces may be more expansive and luxurious. Agricultural programs and natural sciences can capitalize on the environment around them. The quiet and peacefulness can help students study and also promotes the campus community’s cohesiveness.
- Suburban Campuses
Suburban settings can be great for colleges and universities, with lushly landscaped campuses yet access to more businesses and culture a short distance away. The suburbs can offer more space for buildings and grounds, while there may be more access to stores and restaurants nearby. There is the safety of not being right in the city yet having the ability to travel for events, internships, shopping, and more. Because 55% of the US population lives in suburban areas, the environment is familiar to the majority of students.
- Urban Universities
Students are attracted to urban universities because of their access to culture, restaurants, internships and jobs, and the general excitement of being in a city. Though campus space may be more compact, the social excitement appeals to young people often tempted to experience the “big” city. Cities also often have good public transportation, making it easier for students to get around town. In addition, the diversity of cities can add interest and opportunity to urban campuses, and the nearness of companies and other colleges makes collaborations and exchanges convenient.
- Satellite Locations and International Programs
Schools with smaller satellite locations in their region can market their accessibility to working students, students from smaller communities, and the convenience of attending classes close to home or work. Schools with international programs or locations can highlight this as a way for students to experience more of the world while staying within their university for courses. While a central location for your college is often the main focus, your outreach locations can provide extra opportunities to explore the settings and environments that can attract more students.
Lessons from Tourism: Place Branding
Like destination branding for tourists, college marketers can identify the strongest and most appealing aspects of their campus locations for prospective students and their parents. Remind prospects of facets of your campus environment that will evoke an emotional connection, emphasize your values, and highlight the culture of both your campus and the surrounding community. While your campus is the destination, the surrounding people, businesses, architecture, services, and cultural activities can help to inform a sense of place for your prospective students. You want them to imagine themselves there.
Branding your university can include a sense of place in the college environment, and your location will provide facets of the college experience specific to your school. Whether it is the visual beauty of the locale, the atmosphere of creative interaction of a busy city, the sense of relaxed concentration of a peaceful town, or any tangible description of the place, you can personalize your college in the eyes and—most importantly—the imaginations, of potential students.
Attracting students relies on some of the same principles as tourism’s branding of place—evoking an emotional, visceral, sensational impression of your school that creates a connection with students. People feel intensely loyal to their cities and towns, and you are looking to draw prospective students to enroll and then develop that loyalty to the college. The sense of place is part of that loyalty, with alums returning in future years to support the campus and relive a bit of the sensation of belonging in this special place when they were students.
Maximizing the Value of Place
Your campus location is part of your unique selling proposition to prospective students and their families. Consider what qualities your location brings to the fore, be it accessibility to transportation, a strong historical connection to the area, a peaceful and safe learning environment, or the nearness to a student’s home. Then, capitalize on the practical, aspirational, and emotional connections you can conjure in students’ minds by highlighting your campus location in your marketing.