The VPM Blog

Out-Of-State Series: How Students Find Universities

Posted by Melissa Cook on Oct 10, 2017, 12:00:00 AM


Determining what college or university to attend is a huge decision, and one teens make every day. These potential students for your university matter, especially the out-of-state students. Why? Let's take a look.

The average percentage of college students that attend out-of-state schools is 13.7%. This statistic may seem relatively low, but when you consider small colleges with a 1% out-of state rate, it brings the average down. Luckily, being located in Auburn, Alabama allows us to have Auburn University (and their above average out-of-state percentage rate) in our backyard. At 37%, Auburn's out-of-state percentage is higher than most SEC schools. 

But why does this percentage matter?

Tax dollars

dollars.jpegMoney doesn't grow on trees, and nonprofits need to be savvy in the ways they gather and spend theirs. The reason in state tuition is so much lower than out of state tuition comes down to tax dollars. Since those students live in the state and they pay state and local taxes, that money is funneled to the university. Out-of-state students do not pay state tax and therefore are contributing less to the university, so their tuition is higher to compensate for the lack of tax dollars being given to the institution through them. But how does that help you? By having more out-of-state students, you have a more direct line of income and rely on state tax less, allowing you to better budget and have more to spend, especially in states where taxes are cut or public universities are receiving less from the state taxes. Some states have even considered switching to an entirely private model to ensure funding for their schools.


Oh, diversity. This buzzword dominates everything from marketing campaigns to student population statistics. Generally, a diversity index is from 0-1, the closer to 1 being high in diversity, which is what schools should aim for. Having a more diverse student population will help your university appeal to more students both domestically and internationally, bringing in more funding and a better student population.

Most universities are in-state dominating, but that may be changing in the near future as the leaders in higher education begin to see and reap the benefits of an increased out-of-state population. Now that you know why out-of-state students are so important, so let’s discuss how they are finding you to better understand what it is that you should be offering.

How do they find you?

Top “insert major here” Universities

grad.jpegFor the more academically inclined student, they are going to choose what universities to apply to based on how well your program is ranked. For example, my brother chose Auburn University because he did a quick Google search on “Top Engineering Colleges in the South” and Auburn was ranked. But, ranking isn’t enough, especially when you take into consideration that around 80% of students change their major at least once during their college career. 

For my brother, Auburn University being ranked a top engineering school wasn’t enough. He wanted to attend a SEC school because athletics, atmosphere, and the overall experience was equally as important to him. He looked at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, but ended up choosing Auburn University because it checked off more of his boxes. When trying to attract diverse, out-of-state students, you need to be aware that they aren’t just looking for programs that excel and will benefit them in the future, but high diversity levels, differing atmospheres, student population size, teacher to student ratios, location, and more.

Social Media

Having a strong social media presence will help you be found by prospective students and will help them get to know you better. Through social media, you are better able to showcase your personality as a university, your student body, and what goes on outside the classroom better than you can using statistics and your university website. Once they’ve narrowed their choices down to their top few choices, their research becomes more intent and they want to get to know you. This is the same logic used in scheduling a tour. Students want to see your campus and get to know you to see if your university is a good fit for them, so show them what makes you unique through your social platforms.


family.jpegIs there really anything better than good, old-fashioned word of mouth? Students with family that attended your university have a higher chance of wanting to attend. They know the culture, have visited before, and have heard stories from their friends and family about how great their time was. One way to reach new students in this way may be to have an alumni campaign. Reach out to alumni and have them share their stories to share on your social media. That way, students without friends or family that attended you university can feel as though they know you and your culture better.

Why all this matters to YOU.

So why does all of this matter? Why does it matter how these students find you? We discussed the importance of increasing your percentage of out-of-state students, and by knowing how they find you and choose you, your communication and marketing team has a better idea of how to find them. By knowing what you audience is looking for, you understand what you need to improve and what strategies to employ to bring in these students.

Have an idea? Think you now know how to reach those elusive out-of-state students? All you need now is a toolkit. Download our FREE eBook on how to run an inbound campaign and boost your social media presence, learn how to target certain demographics, and show your dean how you can better improve your university’s out-of-state percentage and student diversity ranking.

creating successful marketing campaigns

Topics: higher ed, higher ed inbound marketing

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