How to attract applicants with tips from this month’s student research

Year 12 and Year 13

Today we are sharing hot-off-the-press applicant research. Our October TSR Asks survey has revealed what really makes a difference to the students you are recruiting now.

TSR Asks is a monthly omnibus survey targeted at prospective university applicants in Year 12 and Year 13. You can use this survey to ask specific questions about university applicant recruitment (the results are exclusively provided to you).

This month we included extra questions to bring you fresh insights about what students are thinking, their motivations and some of the buzz-words you should be including in your campaigns.

What motivates students to go to university?

In the October survey, the top two reasons for going to university were career-related:

Why have you decided to go to university? (Please select all that apply)
468 respondents (275 – 2022 entry, 193 – 2023 entry)

Can’t read this graph? Download it here.

Main reasons given by applicants:

  1. Get the qualifications I need for my chosen career (75%)
  2. Improve my future employability (66%)
  3. Continue studying the subject I love (61%)
  4. Gain life skills / become more independent (59%)
  5. I’ve always wanted to go to university (47%)

Emphasising employment outcomes and how you help students network with prospective employers will show that you understand the key motivating factors for your applicants.

But don’t forget a communications strategy for those who influence applicants – 18% said that they were motivated to go to university because someone else (like a parent or guardian) wanted them to.

What stage are applicants at in their decision-making journeys?

Sending the right communications at the right time can make all the difference for your student recruitment targets. With this in mind, we asked 2022 entry and 2023 prospective applicants to let us know how far they are into the application process:

Have you decided which universities/courses to apply to?
461 respondents (269 – 2022 entry, 192 – 2023 entry)

2022 entry applicants

39% had chosen where to apply, but had not submitted their application yet. 29% had a shortlist and were narrowing down their options, while around one in five (19%) said they had already submitted their application.

2023 entry applicants

We always recommend brand building and early engagement with Year 12s because they start forming opinions sooner than you think. Right now, 2023 applicants say they are doing initial research (44%) or are narrowing down their shortlisted universities (36%). Only 5% said that they had not thought about it at all.

How should you describe your course or university?

It can be tricky crafting copy for university communications, especially when there are so many buzzwords flying around and your target audience is the super-woke Gen Z. Are you turning them off without realising it?

We asked applicants to tell us if they thought the following words were “appealing” or “unappealing” when used to describe universities or courses: exciting, immersive, outstanding, ambitious, inspirational, vibrant, extraordinary, challenging, life-changing, transformative, and interdisciplinary.

The good news is that “appealing” was the majority response for all of these words, so if you are using them in copy already you can relax. But which are the best?

The words applicants found most appealing were:

  1. Exciting (92%)
  2. Immersive (90%)
  3. Outstanding (88%)
  4. Ambitious (88%)
  5. Inspirational (86%)

These words focus on how the university will make applicants feel (excited, inspired, immersed) or how the university will help them perform (ambitious, outstanding). At the bottom of the list were interdisciplinary (65%) and transformative (73%) – perhaps because the former evokes the word discipline (or maybe it just sounds too formal) and the latter suggests that applicants need to change/transform.

Want to know more about applicant audiences? We will be sharing more findings from TSR Asks surveys in future blogs, so stay tuned. You can also contact our team to discuss bespoke recruitment or research needs:

Get in touch:
0800 999 3222
For research needs or to ask about putting your question in our monthly TSR Asks survey, please complete this form.

TSR Asks Monthly Online survey of The Student Room community, data 4th October 2021