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Sam ThorsonMay, 5, 20227 min read

The Recruitment Journey – Non-Traditional Student

What’s an example of a recruitment journey? As an agency, we force ourselves to base our recruitment strategies on real-life situations. Data, surveys, and research can help us collect all the information we want on a specific audience, but how does all the knowledge get put into practice. In this series, we’ll be illustrating an example of a potential student’s “Recruitment Journey” as they learn about, engage with, and become enrolled at a university.

Meet Brandon

Brandon, 42, is a working dad, serving as a lower-level administrator in the health care industry.

With three children at home, he’s beginning to think about paying for college and realizes that if he could take the next step in his career, helping to pay for his children’s education would become easier.

He’s beginning to search for online-only master’s programs related to communication, administration and/or business. His only allegiance school-wise is to a separate Midwest public university where he earned his degree 25 years ago.

What our Research Says about Brandon

Top Personal Values

  • Safety in Community

    With Brandon having a family and looking ahead at his future, he strives for security. This can mean physical, emotional, and financial security.
  • Flexibility & Time with Family

    Family is very important to Brandon. He values a learning option that works with his busy schedule. He wants something that doesn’t take away time with his family.
  • Caring for Family/Friends

    Brandon is devoted to the welfare of family and friends. To him, life is about helping people who are dear to them.
  • Fulfilling Obligations

    Brandon takes his responsibility as a father seriously. He is self-disciplined, obedient, organized, and dependable.

Top Psychological Drivers

  • Social / Professional Advancement
  • Proving Competence and/or Skills

Top Media Consumption Time & Sources

  • Averages 20-40 Hours Online / Week
  • Social Channels include Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn
  • TV Channels include ESPN, USA Network, and HBO

Strategy & Objective

Brandon represents both the non-traditional and graduate audience. His work/life balance priorities and content consumption habits create messaging opportunities that can be leveraged in many ways. Brandon has a higher likelihood of being exposed to traditional media placements - billboards, television, and radio.

This audience also has high research motivation. This means Brandon’s audience will require multiple research-based touchpoints before advancing down the funnel. For this reason, Brandon’s example includes the use of search engine marketing, remarketing, and downloadable content.

Because Brandon is a professional, we’re also able to send him targeted ads on LinkedIn using job title targeting. This creates more direct messaging for his audience.

Lastly, research tells us that Brandon’s demographic is more open to person-to-person communication. We also know that making a personal connection with a contact greatly increases the chances of a conversion, we’ve set Brandon’s campaign KPI as a conversation with an admissions counselor. Phone and email communication are an essential part to Brandon’s recruitment lifecycle.


Media Recommendations

Traditional Radio

Brandon’s commute to and from work gives us the opportunity to incorporate traditional radio broadcasts for specific CTAs during heavy trafficked drive times. 


Utilizing digital and static billboards in highly trafficked areas in key cities and across the targeted territories.

Traditional Broadcast

Targeting - Spots on highly rated appointment programs (news/sports) in the DMA

Google Search

Targeting - keywords around graduate degrees in the health care industry

Google Display

Targeting - In-Market Segment for graduate degrees in health care (excluding those who already have grad degrees, those who don’t have bachelor’s degrees, etc.), building audiences from the pages of competitors who offered similar degree/program


Targeting - Demo age range, interest in grad degree, current employment, lookalikes based on site traffic to the key program page, retargeting visitors of specific program page


Targeting - In-Market Segment for graduate degrees in health care (excluding those who already have grad degrees, those who don’t have bachelor’s degrees, etc.), building audiences from the pages of competitors who offered similar degree/program


Email Nurturing Workflow

Downloadable Content

Fact sheet about the university’s online programs

Native Advertising

Putting out article content on news and entertainment related websites that Brandon visits frequently.


Brandon’s Recruitment Journey


On his way home after working his healthcare job in the city, Brandon gets stuck in construction. It’s always in bumper-to-bumper traffic when Brandon starts to think about his life. Lately, he’s been thinking about going back to school, but just the thought of attending classes is exhausting. He knows what it’s like working remote and how much work that took with also having three kids.

While in traffic, Brandon notices one particular billboard from our target university. Even though Brandon didn’t go to this school, he works with a lot of people who did. As traffic begins to move, he notices a couple more billboards from the university on his way home.

Later that night, after he and his wife put the kids to bed, Brandon turns on the news - it’s always good background noise as he scrolls through Facebook on his phone. During one of the broadcast breaks, a commercial that catches is attention. It was a commercial was from the same university he saw the billboard for. The commercial talks about pushing the boundaries of learning. Brandon doesn’t think much of it at the time, but it reminds him of his thoughts while he was in the car on his way home.

Feeling a spark of late-night motivation, Brandon grabs his laptop and starts searching for online classes in his field. He goes to the one place he knows to research - Google.

Brandon starts using general keywords to look for classes. He uses words and phrases like “online graduate classes”, “healthcare administrative graduate classes”, “flexible online graduate programs”.


He starts looking through the results and notices a search ad for (Master of Public Health) from our target university. He clicks on the ad and starts to read about the program. After about 15 minutes, he hears one of his kids get out of bed. Brandon puts away his computer.

Over the next week, Brandon notices ads from the school about the Master of Public Health program. He sees the ads on Facebook and as banner ads while he’s on other websites. That Sunday afternoon, Brandon talks to his wife about his thoughts about pursuing a master’s degree. She supports him and encourages him to talk to someone to answer his questions.

That night, Brandon goes back to the university’s website and finds the Master of Public Health page. He sees a form at the bottom of the page and fills in his information hoping that someone will get back to him. After submitting the form, he receives a confirmation email informing him that someone from the school will be in touch shortly.

Brandon then receives an email from an admissions counselor thanking him for submitting the form and would be happy to answer any of his questions. Brandon is surprised how quickly they reached out and asks if there is a time they could talk. They schedule a time to talk over the phone and Brandon is able to ask all of his questions.

After the conversation, Brandon feels great about moving forward with the program. He receives a follow-up email from the counselor that contains a link to apply for the program.


Brandon clicks the link and fills out an application. Once the application is submitted, Brandon is now moved to the “Applicant” list in the CRM. He receives a confirmation email thanking him for submitting his application and outlining the next steps he can expect to happen while his application is being reviewed.


Within a short amount of time, Brandon receives an email from the university’s Admissions office that informs him that he’s been accepted into the graduate program. He also finds a letter in the mail congratulating him on being accepted.

Brandon is now placed in an automated marketing workflow for “Admits” that sends regular emails explaining next steps.


The admissions counselor regularly checks in with Brandon to make sure that he’s submitted all the necessary paperwork to enroll. Once Brandon has all his information submitted, he has officially become an enrolled online student at our target university.

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Sam Thorson

Sam specializes in Higher Education marketing strategies. He works hand in hand with university and college admissions and marketing teams to set goals, launch campaigns, and analyze results. With over 7 years of digital, content, and general marketing experience, Sam dedicates himself to connecting modern marketing strategies to higher education institutions.