What Motivates Undergrads to Take Their Education to the Next Level?

A recent Gallup survey commissioned by two law-school associations shed new light on how graduate programs should consider recruiting and marketing to prospective students. The law school groups — the Association of American Law Schools and the Law School Admissions Council, which administers the LSAT — hired the polling service to gain better insight into what motivates undergrads to go to the next level as well as what discourages them.

More than 22,000 undergraduates at 25 universities likely to send students on to advanced degrees responded to the survey. Several things stand out.

First, the top three factors that motivates undergrads to pursue graduate or professional school were: 1) high interest in the work; 2) high-paying jobs in the field and 3) opportunities for advancement in the field. Of the undergraduates who are likely to pursue an advanced degree, fewer said they were driven by the prestige of the institution or because their families said it would be a good choice.

As enrollment marketers and GEM professionals know, during their enrollment consideration phase, graduate students prefer program messages to institution-wide messaging. This is important … because graduate admissions offices often need to serve content to the whole graduate population rather than just a program subset.

What can we learn from this?

When looking for content messaging and strategies to deploy across the graduate population vs. a particular program set, focus on:

  • Outcomes related to career advancement;
  • ROI from graduate tuition (Advanced degree holders make over $10,000 more compared to those with a bachelor degree only. This amounts to more than $400,000 over the course of an employment lifetime, according to the US Census Bureau report, “The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings.”);
  • The joy of learning more about a field the student is highly interested in.

To read more about the Gallup survey, check out The Chronicle of Higher Ed’s article, “Undergraduates Aren’t Sure About Postgraduate Study. These Factors Encourage Them to Apply.”

By Jack Klett, Director of Graduate and Online Initiatives, Capture Higher Ed