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Unlocking high school student interest in Prof-Tech programs


The following insights were collected through a series of interviews with K12 administrators responsible for “career connected learning” initiatives.

  • College programs work hard to reduce barriers for students. However, the biggest barrier for high school students is often their being unaware of the career pathways opportunities a college program offers.
  • Too many excellent college programs experience stagnant enrollment conditions that seem to correlate with little to no effective marketing effort. There’s often a mismatch between who should, and who does, program marketing. For many programs, there is no marketing. For some programs, the marketing is ineffective. For only a few programs, the marketing is on-target.
  • Don’t rely on "Running Start" initiatives to draw-in high school students. College program faculty need to be willing and innovative with “College in the Classroom“ articulations. Experience shows that many Running Start high school students still need the supports found only in high school, support that most college programs don’t offer.
  • Key concepts to engage high school students: Be relevant, be authentic, and be experiential.

A few "insider" suggestions to effectively market to high school students:

  1. Don’t wait for students to come to you (the college program), you need to go to where the students are (the high schools), go there often, and be interesting and engaging.
  2. Avoid sending general college recruiters who have only a superficial understanding of the program pathway and the connected careers. High school students want to hear from the faculty, currently enrolled students, and employers of the program's graduates.
  3. Traditional presentations about a specific program will bore high school students; design interesting hands-on experiences in which students can get a sense of the skills and activities involved in a specific pathway.
  4. Provide tours of campus learning environments and relevant workplaces during school hours. Arranging tours during the evening and weekends presents a number of barriers for high school students.

When designing a series of marketing visits to high schools, college programs should:

  • Emphasize the career opportunities available to program graduates.
  • Show how a program pathway connects to a job in that career.
  • Engage high school students in the learning activities they can expect in the college program.
  • Convey confidence to high school students that can succeed in the college program.
  • Provide clear and easy access to the college's supports for enrollment, learning success, program completion and employment.
  • Extend a helping hand to get started with applying, registering, and enrolling.

The above are aggregated observations from a CLNA stakeholder assessment currently underway for a community college seeking to understand, adjust to, and re-align with post-pandemic realities.