We’re all guilty of basing decisions on what we think. Many institutions decide to run with a specific campaign, or target a range of markets, based on what they ‘think’ students will like. No judgement here, it’s easy to do. But building a strategy based on student insights and desires has never been more important. Excuse the pun, but really #thinkingstudent. 

Education institutions and student-specialist brands need to discover how to engage with prospective students, without looking through the prism of your own brand or the bias of your own experience. 

Did you know that many 16-18-year-olds don’t use WhatsApp because it’s what their parents use? Or that they trust Facebook Messenger for instant chats as they don’t need to give their phone number away? 

These little glimpses into the student mindset are what makes or breaks your marketing, your brand, your ability to connect with your audience. And so, we put together six surprising statistics shared at Think Student Live Online (you can still watch on-demand here) that you need to know, and there’s no judgement here if you need to pivot your strategy once learning them. 

1. Seven in 10 students do not think that education institutions represent them effectively. 

Students are becoming more diverse, but are the marketing teams responsible for reaching these students improving their knowledge on diversity, and applying it to their own initiatives? 

How visible is your student union or student association? How bought in are your existing students with the student body? And are you, as an institution, empowering your student union or association to influence and lead the decisions you take when it comes to the wellbeing and education of your students?

We talk a lot about students being partners in their educational experience, and student associations have a huge part to play. They are key to ensuring your students feel the institution represents them, so get them on board.

2. One in four 18-24-year-olds have contemplated suicide over the past year. One quarter of this same group increased substance abuse during the pandemic.

After nine months of pandemic-created isolation, anxiety, health worries and financial instability, mental health challenges among college students have gone from bad to worse. The need for student crisis support is greater than ever.

Food and housing insecurity, unemployment and underemployment, being fearful of getting sick (or making a loved one sick), and other stressors have come together to create a perfect storm of mental health overload. With fewer resources and greater needs, institutions need to develop creative ways to prioritize mental health.

3. Only one in five adult learners think additional learning is worth the cost. And only one in four adult learners believe additional education will make them attractive job applicants.

Historically, during times of economic downturn or recession, workers with a college degree typically fare better than their degreeless counterparts. Yet during Covid-19, the perceived importance of a college degree was turned on its head. 

Since the pandemic began, adult learners are opting for quicker, less expensive non-degree credentials (39%) and skills training (24%) over the traditional Bachelor’s degree (11%).

This means institutions really need to rethink their curriculum. Do you offer a diverse enough portfolio of programmes to truly appeal to this changing market?

4. Six in 10 students have installed ad-blocking software.

Students are not easily swayed by interruption marketing. 56% will purposefully not click on ads whilst browsing websites, whilst 65% have gone as far as to install ad-blocking technology on their devices to stop seeing them altogether. 

Considering college students’ wariness of marketing is vital to delivering a brand message that will not simply be ignored on arrival. Advertisements geared towards college students should be tailored to their values and priorities.

5. Three in four high school students ranked email as their preferred medium for communicating with admissions teams.

Institutions rely too much on reaching students on the phone and are quick to disregard a lead if they don’t answer the phone within a week. But ask yourself, how often do you pick up the phone from an unknown number? How comfortable are you with giving away your phone number when prompted on a form?

Personalization, automation, omnichannel communications. If you haven’t reviewed your communications strategy, or are still running very basic email drip campaigns, now is the time to evolve what you’re doing.

What now? 

The world has changed. What we care about. What we see. What we experience. It’s all different. At Net Natives, we have seen some institutions thrive in this new environment, adapting quickly and intelligently. 

But some have not. Many struggle with bureaucratic legacy processes, with a million committees to get anything signed off or done. Quite often with these institutions, data, insights, research, are the only way to get things pushed through. Which is why we hope these six statistics can be the start of creating and driving forward change, for the benefit of your students. Get in touch today with our experts to see how you can make an impact.


Did not think universities represented them


18 to 24 year olds contemplated suicide


Adult learners thought additional learning is helpful


Students installed ad-blocking software


High school students preferred email