How to Effectively Market Your Adult Degree Programs


More than ever before, colleges and universities are launching degree completion programs for non-traditional adult audiences. Of course this only makes sense, as the majority of degree-seekers these days are actually adult learners. Since having a college degree still offers a considerable advantage in the workplace, more people who don't fit the mold of the traditional undergraduate student (aged 18–22) are considering going back to school as a powerful way to advance their careers. Today’s technology allows for easier access to educational opportunities, and non-traditional programs are thriving.

Yet, while there are more adult students to reach, there are also a lot of schools trying to reach them, creating “noise” to cut through in your marketing initiatives. This is all the more reason to have a solid marketing strategy for reaching this audience.

Here are a few ways to ensure you’re marketing to adult students effectively:

Show them you understand and care about them. Many adult students have been away from school for many years and are often struggling to balance a career and family while adding the significant commitment of going back to school. They may be nervous, apprehensive, and fearful. That’s why it’s important to communicate to them that you understand going back to school is a big decision and can seem overwhelming. This can obviously be presented in your marketing materials, but it should also come across in every instance of engagement with this audience, whether in person, over email, or by phone when answering an admissions question. Your audience needs to trust that you actually care about them and understand their problems before they’ll let you help solve them.

Highlight what’s in it for them. Flexible offerings allow students to take classes online or in the evening so they can balance work and family obligations. Student and career support services provide academic and professional guidance. Financial aid resources help make paying for school more manageable. An accelerated program format helps students “get in and get out” quickly. Make sure you’re highlighting the key benefits like these since they address the primary questions and challenges of the majority of adult students.

Start to educate them for free. One great way to show this adult audience that you care is to provide them with free content that helps address their questions. How about a white paper that details why earning a BA is so important? Or what about a lead-nurturing campaign that helps students develop networking skills to advance in their careers? Or why not host a free webinar that provides tips on crafting an effective resume and cover letter? If you can show that you care about them and can educate them in small ways through your content, then they’ll be more likely to believe in and consider your school when it comes to committing to a program.

Promotion is half the battle. No matter how great your ad copy or how alluring your program’s offerings, if you aren’t getting your messages in front of your adult audience they won’t do any good. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re advertising your programs in the right way. For example, if your school is located in an urban setting and many of your prospective adult students live in the city, then it might be worth geotargeting in that area or investing in outdoor advertising at a bus or subway stop. Or if you’re advertising to adult nurses looking to earn their BSN, then how about meeting with local hospitals and seeing if you can advertise in their breakrooms? You need to be both creative and strategic about where you advertise and be willing to spend the time and money to do so.

Show and don’t (just) tell. It’s critical that your adult audience sees people like them finding success in your programs. This means highlighting testimonial content in your marketing efforts. Can you craft a few videos of a returning student sharing about how they found camaraderie in their cohort and feel both academically and personally supported? Can you feature quotes from a working mom who has been able to complete her degree because of the convenient and flexible class schedule? The more you can show adult students finding success because of your programs, the more convincing your marketing will be.


Luhby, Tami, Tal Yellin, and Caroline Matthews. "Just how much better off are college grads anyway?"

Quinn, Laurie. "Going Back To College After 50: The New Normal?." July 1, 2018.