Which students were already not visiting college campuses?

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Estimated read time – 3 minutes

A question came up last week and I had to dive deeper in to the results of the 2019 Niche College Applicant Survey of Student Confidence and Concerns because I was curious what the answer would be. The question? What demographics affected the likelihood of a student visiting a college campus?

This is a salient question now with students largely unable to visit campuses. Yes, there are virtual tours and events, but students have been reporting that there’s no replacement for the real thing. Nearly 17,000 students responded to the survey with strong representation closely mirroring US socioeconomic data and skewing slightly more diverse than the US. Below is interactive data with analysis below.


Demographics of 0 visit students

Gender didn’t affect the distribution of visits and the type of high school (public/private) had only a small difference. The biggest indicator of whether or not a student didn’t visit any colleges or visited more than ten campuses was their household income. One in ten students in the bottom quintile didn’t visit any colleges prior to enrolling, compared to 6% of middle quintile students and only 3% of students from top quintile households. Students in the bottom two quintiles were also twice as likely of those at the top of household incomes to only visit 1-2 colleges and 1/3 as likely to visit more than ten campuses (3% vs 9%). Low income students reported many challenges and were less confident in their ability to thrive in and after college. Some colleges offer fly-in programs or other visit events meant to help low-income students get to campus.

Race and ethnicity played a smaller role in their likelihood to visit. Native American and Asian/Pacific Islander students were the most likely to not visit any campuses (11%) and white students were the least likely to not visit (6%). Hispanic (7%), African American (8%), and Multiracial students (8%) fell in the middle. White and Multiracial students were the most likely to visit more than five campuses (29%), followed closely by African American students (28%). Native American students reported that they were the least likely to visit more than five campuses (19%).

In an unexpected twist, when controlling for income level it was low income African American and Hispanic students who were the least likely to not visit any campuses (10% and 8%) and the most likely to visit more than five colleges (25% and 22%). Low income white students were the least likely to visit more than five colleges (17%), and half only visited one or two.

Who was taking the most visits?

The most visits were taken by suburban students at private high schools who come from households earning over $150k/year. This shouldn’t be a surprise. They visited two more campuses than their counterparts, and in fact 28% of them visited more than 10 campuses and 10% visited more than 15. Their first choice colleges list were reads like a list of the Ivies and Little Ivies. This should signal a prioritization by these schools, and those who compete directly with them, to focus heavily on virtual experiences.

Race made no difference in the median number of visits. White and African American students were the most likely to visit more than 10 campuses at 5% and 4% overall.

Supporting students

  • Low income African American and Hispanic students may have been visiting with support from CBOs or programs. Look back at your own data to see if that was the case. If so, work with these organizations or on-campus groups to develop new virtual pathways.
  • Limiting or eliminating visits will carry through to next fall and possibly spring 2021. Wealthy students will be the most affected, but also the most resourced to find solutions. Take time to learn what most led to yielding these students and make sure that they are still being addressed in virtual visits and events.
  • Connect students to others using messaging apps like Telegram, WhatsApp, and ZeeMee. Students have told us in surveys that they want to hear from current students and are already reaching out. Make sure that students of as many backgrounds as possible are represented in your ambassadors.
  • Track year-over-year changes in visits by demographic, if you aren’t already, to understand the impact on your own prospects and inquiries.
  • Step back, readjust, and continue recruiting. Things have changed and you can either wait forever to get back to normal or you can work in the environment we now find ourselves in.

Will Patch

Will Patch is the Enrollment Marketing Leader at Niche and helps clients with their enrollment strategies and digital outreach. He also shares insights and research on the Enrollment Insights blog and through webinars and a monthly newsletter. Prior to coming to Niche in the summer of 2019, he served Manchester University for 9 years in roles including Digital Strategist, Social Media Coordinator, and Associate Director for Admissions Operations. Outside of Niche, Will also coordinates the #EMChat community on Twitter, with weekly chats Thursdays at 9:00 PM Eastern.
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