New Year, New Students: Radio Reaches Rising Numbers of Prospective College Students

January 2, 2019 By Brittany Faison

It’s the start of a New Year, which also means the start of New Year’s resolutions. For some Americans, that means furthering their education. For colleges, AM/FM radio is a powerful way to reach students who could potentially enroll.

To understand the profile and media habits of prospective students, CUMULUS MEDIA | Westwood One fielded a national study with MARU/Vision Critical. The results from the study highlighted some essential aspects on the profile of the prospective college student. Here are some of our key findings:

1. 43% of Americans 18+ are prospective college students and 16% are college intenders. Prospective college students can be defined by two distinct subgroups: college maybes and college intenders. 27% are college maybes or those who might consider going back to school. The remaining 16% fall within the college intenders segment, people who are definitely considering or planning to go back to school. Advertisers and schools should focus on the 16% college intender segment, as they are truly in the market. Let’s look at who makes up this segment.

2. The profile of college intenders skews young, female, and fully-employed. Over 60% of college intenders are women. Millennials 18-34 and Gen X 35-49 make up 81% of college intenders, 41% and 40%, respectively. Conversely, “college maybes” skew towards 35-64, with Boomers 50-64 comprising 40% of this segment.

According to Nielsen’s Q2 2018 Total Audience Report, Millennials 18-34 represent 23% of 18+ AM/FM radio listening and only 12% of total 18+ TV watchers. Since AM/FM radio audiences skew younger versus other traditional media, it provides education advertisers with a head start on attracting in-the-market students.

3. AM/FM reaches over 90% of prospective college students. AM/FM radio is the number one reach media among adults 18-34 and adults 35-49, even overshadowing smartphone activities. It reaches 9 out of 10 adults for both age groups. Nielsen’s ROI analysis also revealed reach is the number one media factor that drives sales lift, 2.4X more than targeting. AM/FM radio is a powerful reach platform advertisers should have in their media arsenal.

4. AM/FM radio and digital campaigns work for education. Online courses are gaining traction among students. 54% of college intenders believe online courses offer an equal value compared to courses taken in a classroom. Combining AM/FM radio and a digital media plan can produce massive impact for education-based advertisers. For example, an AM/FM radio and digital campaign delivered nearly 2,500 website interactions from three Cumulus Radio Station Group ad campaigns.

The data is clear. AM/FM radio provides the proper foundation to grow successes for education-based advertisers. It has the ideal audience, massive reach, and delivers media impact.

Key takeaways:

  • 43% of Americans 18+ are prospective college students and 16% are college intenders
  • The profile of college intenders skews young, female, and fully-employed
  • AM/FM reaches over 90% of prospective college students
  • AM/FM radio and digital campaigns work well together for education

Brittany Faison is the Insights Manager at CUMULUS MEDIA | Westwood One.

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