A look at how colleges and universities respond to inquiries from prospective adult students

Project Background

InsideTrack works with colleges and universities to provide one-on-one coaching for prospective and enrolled students. Many of the schools we work with serve adult and other non-traditional students. As part of our market research activities, we conducted a “secret shopping” exercise. We inquired as prospective students at numerous adult-serving degree programs to assess their inquiry handling processes. Our goal was to better understand the typical responsiveness of admissions staff and the comprehensiveness of information provided.

After reviewing the results, it occurred to us that this information might also be of value to colleges and universities seeking to better understand the enrollment decisions of nontraditional students. To that end, we prepared this summary of our initial findings.

It is important to note that this is not a scientific study. While our “secret shopper” analysis does include quantitative and qualitative data from a broad range of institutions, academic programs, and campus types, the colleges and universities we assessed were not chosen at random and there are numerous other limitations to our analysis. We strongly encourage more statistically sound inquiry into this topic.

Warnings aside, our “secret shopping” exercise did find that certain programs, including for-profit programs, online campuses, and Art / Design programs, responded in a more timely fashion and with more comprehensive information than their peers. This included quickly providing the prospective student with sufficient information to help them gauge:

  • A program’s fit with their educational needs
  • Their qualification for the program
  • The application process

Where most programs fell flat was in providing prospective students sufficient information to assess the personal and financial commitments associated with enrolling in school. Programs looking to increase enrollment and encourage student success might look for ways to enhance their performance in this area.

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