How Colleges Are Marketing to Potential Students

Colleges and universities need to be creative in their marketing efforts, and one of the latest tactics is to dangle enticing perks and amenities in front of prospective students. These amenities can include anything from laptops to gourmet dining plans to luxury dorm rooms. When they are stacked on top of tuition discounts, it can really make the difference for prospective college students and their families.

Perhaps the biggest group of students that benefit from tuition breaks are international students. They don’t qualify for the same federal aid programs such as Stafford and Perkins loans as American students do, so the cost of the tuition is the price that they pay. Tuition breaks accompanied with a few other perks will separate a school from its competition.

While laptops and tablets and gourmet dining may sound like schools are practically begging for students to choose them, these amenities aren’t so far off. Students are demanding more of these services to enhance their health, happiness and quality of life on campus. Schools that are able to provide this – and show that they care enough to provide it – is a big selling point to students.

Let’s take a look at the types of amenities that colleges and universities are throwing out to prospective students and how schools are using them to increase enrollment.

Location, Location

Where the college is located matters. For one, it’s where students will be living for the next 4+ years, so they need to be happy. What’s the weather like? Can they get to and from home easily? Are there attractions nearby? Places to work? Things to do?

For schools that are located near popular vacation destinations, it’s easy to play up the location. But for those that are nestled in quaint college towns, they’ll have to rely on other perks. Of course, some students prefer the quiet college towns with nothing but cornfields surrounding them, but that’s probably not enough of a selling point on its own.

Wherever your school is located, find creative ways to play it up. Are there things to do on the weekends? Places for family to stay when they visit?

Luxury Living

As little as a decade ago, it was okay for freshmen to stay in the smallest, rotten-smelling dorms possible. Today, the picture is quite different. Students want nice dorm rooms to call home, and they want them to feel like home as well.

At Davidson College in North Carolina, students have access to over 80 free laundry facilities. Tulane University has free washers and dryers in the residence halls, and students get a free microfridge in their rooms. Also, free massages are available certain days of the week at the wellness center. And to curb end-of-the-semester stress, the college brings in animals from the local petting zoo.

The University of Northern Colorado doesn’t just bring in animals for a visit. They allow students to bring a dog or cat under 40 pounds with them to live in the dorm. Other schools have implemented their own amenities such as flat-screen televisions, media lounges, gaming consoles, exercise facilities and breathtaking views.

Gourmet Dining

Just as students are demanding more in terms of where they live, they are also demanding more in what they eat. The yucky cafeteria food that is traditionally served at college dining halls is getting a major upgrade. At High Point University in North Carolina, meal plans allow students to eat at the school’s steakhouse on a regular basis. Recent options include filet mignon, New York strip steak and pan roasted duck breast. So much better than meatloaf surprise.

Of course, you don’t have to go black tie to impress prospective students. A small liberal arts college, Kenyon College, in Ohio feeds students locally grown foods. They buy whole hogs and steers instead of packaged cuts or ground beef, and all leftovers are composted. They hope to be the leader in local-food and sustainable farming.

Technology Gadgets

No college student will turn away from a new technology gadget like a laptop or tablet. These are easy incentives for schools to offer since they don’t require a renovation or makeover. At Wake Forest University in North Carolina, new students receive a Lenovo ThinkPad. Seton Hall in New Jersey offers the same thing, or students can pick a Mac that is loaded with educational software. At Seton Hall, students can turn in their computers in two years and get a new one. They then get to keep the computer when they graduate. It’s a neat incentive that keeps students focused on graduation.  

Tuition Discounts

Obviously the best way to offer a tuition discount is by shaving some money off the total cost. And the more you can shave off, the better. The cost of tuition is the biggest deciding factor for the parents of college students. But there are other ways to make the college tuition look a little better, and more colleges are cashing in on these ideas.  

For instance, some schools take students to Broadway shows, art exhibits, museums and more for no extra charge. Others treat students to new release movies for a nominal charge. For parents, this is a huge selling point because it means the tuition includes some healthy entertainment for their college student and less out-of-pocket costs for them.


Students are demanding more, and it’s important that you are sensitive to their needs. The exciting part is that your school can offer virtually anything that you feel will be of value to your students. Now is the time to really focus on what sets your school apart from others and use this as a foundation for your incentives, just as Kenyon College has done with their sustainable farming program. When you find this niche, you won’t have to keep offering bigger and better things to outweigh your competition. You’ll be able to relate to your niche students and give them something that will enhance their quality of life on your campus.

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