Have you ever wondered when the best time to bring stopped-out students back to school might be?  Most people know that the best time to bring in new enrollments is the fall when everyone is thinking about going back to school.  In fact, every August my favorite TV commercial loops in my head of the mother pushing a shopping cart around Target gathering school supplies with a smile plied across her face and the music playing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”  So, OK, we all know that time.  And maybe we even know that the second-best time for new enrollments is January—”New year, new you.”  But when is the best time to bring back students who dropped or cancelled?

It’s actually the month of October.  Not because of Halloween, but because it’s about 8 weeks from Thanksgiving.  What happens at Thanksgiving?  You sit around the table with relatives that you have most likely not seen in a while who all want to know what you are doing with your life.  And if they know you dropped out of school, that judgment is going to make you want to sit at the kiddie table.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could bound in the door sharing your good news that you decided to go back to college and finish your degree?  

Now that you know the BEST time of year to recapture some of your stop outs, you need to understand how life may have gotten in the way, and what outcome they were seeking—ultimately like marketing guru Simon Sinuk discusses—you need to know their WHY.  Most adult learners are looking for career advancement or a career change.  Career advancers are focused on creating a better life for themselves and their loved ones.  They seek more income, prestige, upper management roles, and sometimes having the discretionary funds to simply take a vacation with their family.  Career changers are motivated by feeling like they are making a difference, like they are a part of something bigger than themselves, it’s more of fulfilling a dream or a calling and want to leave behind the “job” they are in for a “career.”  

All of what I’ve been discussing is designed to evoke emotion. Most people are motivated by relieving pain more than they are motivated by the desire to move forward.  Working with the stop-out population, you need to take them from pain to the promise of higher ed or what I call G2 (not Gatorade)—graduation and achieving their ultimate goal. Stop-outs occurred because they wanted to relieve themselves of short-term pain, they lost sight of their goal, gave up because of lack of time, money, incredible pressure, responsibility, competing priorities, kids schedules, etc.  And remember—college is a pain.  It’s paper writing, tests, posting, reading, studying—it takes commitment and a sound belief that they can push through, it’s a temporary sacrifice for long-term gain.  We are here to help them build the bridge from where they are today, to where they want to go.  

Where are the best places to meet our stop outs?  Online.  Many of us lurk on social media.  We don’t all post, but we have FOMO (fear of missing out) and envy.  What’s worse is many of us look to see what people we know are doing, who are doing better than we are, and it can be a big motivator to get someone to finally get back into college.  Using social channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram with targeted advertising can help.  Leveraging an existing database and sending an email with a compelling student testimonial video is also a great way to get people to re-engage.  We all want to belong and feel like we are a part of a community—remember, like attracts like.  Inviting stop outs to a webinar to learn about the advances in a career tract, with an engaging professor, employer, and recent graduate to help them focus on their goal can also be a nice addition to your marketing plan. And if all of this sounds like a heavy lift for you, consider hiring an expert partner like myFootpath.  

This team of industry experts knows the stop-out audience inside and out.  They can analyze your stop out population and design career-specific targeted messaging to reach them and help you move the needle.  If you are interested in learning what they can do for you and your institution, send a #I’mIN! to marketing@myfootpath.com

And remember, Thanksgiving will be here before you know it! So, get started crafting your stop-out plan today.