Prospective Student Communication Survey

February 2024
Pie Chart

In our second year running the Prospective Student Communication Survey, we collected responses from over 1,400 students who requested information on the SchoolFinder Group platform in 2023.

The students ranged from grade 11’s to mature students; predominantly living in Canada, followed by Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe.

We asked students to rank the communication topics (15 in total) that were the most important to them. This year we added Employability after graduation and Co-op/Experiential learning — good thing, as they ranked number 2 and 3. Otherwise Scholarships/Financial Aid and Programs topped the list, as they did last year. There were some variations by international/domestic and by student type — you’ll find more below.

More students this year are considering one school or more than 5. And this year, students indicated that they expect a faster response to their request for information. 14.8% (vs 11.2% in 2022) expect a response within 24 hours.

Students are open to receiving email communication more frequently. And interestingly, not getting a response from a school seems to have a less negative impact.

We broke out the communication channel options by differentiating between email and physical mail. Email ranked number one by a long shot, followed by physical mail and text.

Device wise, mobile moves up, and in terms of email attributes, content and relevance continue to be top ranked. 

Finally, we asked about email preference (branded HTML vs. plain text) and interestingly 48.8% of students indicated a preference for getting a mix of both!

Survey Results

What describes you best?

We had students at all stages respond, including those in high school, post-secondary school, and those who identify as mature students. 

The breakdown reflects the 2023 results.

  • Student in grade 11 6.2% 6.2%
  • Student in grade 12 61% 61%
  • Student in post-secondary 22.3% 22.3%
  • Mature student 10.5% 10.5%
  • Other 0.1% 0.1%

Where do you live?

Students from all around the world are represented, but the majority of them live in Canada.

This year, almost all respondents came from Canada — but this includes both domestic and international students living in Canada.

  • Canada 91.2% 91.2%
  • Africa 5.3% 5.3%
  • Asia 1.9% 1.9%
  • Mexico, Central, or South America 0.8% 0.8%
  • Europe 0.7% 0.7%
  • USA 0.2% 0.2%
  • Australia or New Zealand 0% 0%

Which topics are you interested in receiving further information on?

 Just like the 2023 results, all students want to hear more about scholarships/financial aid

This year however, high school students living in Canada ranked student life and employability after graduation as #2 and #3.

For international students, “getting a student visa” and “application process” moved above employability to the #2 and #3 spots. For older students, the application process takes the #3 spot. 

Topics of Interest (all students, ranked)
Scholarships/financial aid
Employability after graduation
Co-op/experiential learning
Student life
Residence and accommodation
Student/career services
Application process
Sports and clubs
Living in the region (city/country)
Getting a student visa
Connecting with alumni
Connecting with student ambassadors

What type of degree are you currently interested in?

Students are interested in a range of degrees — similar to the 2023 results.

  • Undergraduate degree 81.7% 81.7%
  • Undergraduate diploma 7.3% 7.3%
  • Masters or PhD 6.8% 6.8%
  • Other 2.3% 2.3%
  • Certificate 2.0% 2.0%

How many schools are you considering?

While most students request information from 2-5 schools, this has gone down 5%, and the students interested in only one school has gone up 5%.

  • One school 19.4% 19.4%
  • 2-5 schools 64.9% 64.9%
  • 6-9 schools 10.3% 10.3%
  • 10+ schools 2.7% 2.7%
  • I am not interested in any schools 2.7% 2.7%

How quickly do you expect to receive a response to your request?

This year, 8% more students (48.7%) want to hear back within 0-48 hours, compared to 40.9% in 2023.

And, the response rate expectations differ depending on age and stage. 46% of international students and 25% of graduate students expect a response within 24 hours, compared to 10% of Canadian high school students

  • Within 24 hours 14.8% 14.8%
  • 24-48 hours 33.9% 33.9%
  • 3-5 days 20.9% 20.9%
  • It doesn’t matter as long as I hear back 30.4% 30.4%

How many emails do you want to receive from a school prior to applying?

This year, students are open to receiving more email. Almost one third of students want to receive emails once a week or more frequently.

Note: International students want more frequent communication, with 34% saying they’d want to hear from a school more than once a week. Graduate students want less, with 42% saying once a week is sufficient.

  • More than one week 8.3% 8.3%
  • Once a week 32.4% 32.4%
  • Once a month 12.8% 12.8%
  • Once in a while 8.5% 8.5%
  • Once is fine 5.5% 5.5%
  • Whenever the school has something important to share 32.6% 32.6%

Did the response you got from the school(s) have a positive impact on your decision to apply to and/or attend the school?

The 2024 responses are largely unchanged from 2023. Students told us loud and clear how important it is to hear back from a prospective school; only 15.5% said it had no impact.

  • Hearing back quickly made them a top contender 40.0% 40.0%
  • It had somewhat of an impact 44.5% 44.5%
  • It had no impact 15.5% 15.5%

How would not hearing back from a school negatively impact your decision?

This year, 15% less students said that not hearing back eliminated a school as a contender. However, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook — 56.7% of students still said it had somewhat of an impact.

Note: International and graduate students are less forgiving this year, with 20% saying that not hearing back eliminated a school as a contender

  • Not hearing back eliminated them as a contender 14.7% 14.7%
  • It had somewhat of an impact 56.7% 56.7%
  • It had no impact 28.7% 28.7%

In addition to receiving emails, from what other channels would you like to receive information?

Although most students prefer to only receive email, physical mail and text messages are emerging trends for students.

Note: 47% of international students indicated that WhatsApp was an important channel. 

  • Email only 65.7% 65.7%
  • Physical mail 23.6% 23.6%
  • Text messages 22.9% 22.9%
  • Phone calls 7.2% 7.2%
  • WhatsApp 6.5% 6.5%
  • Other 1.4% 1.4%

Which device do you usually use to read your email?

This year, 3% more students are reading emails on a cell phone, making mobile optimization all the more important.

  • Cell phone 68.7% 68.7%
  • Laptop 25.2% 25.2%
  • Desktop computer 3.9% 3.9%
  • Tablet 2.3% 2.3%

How important are certain qualities when you receive an email from a school?

Similar to last year, graphics and images rank on the bottom of the leaderboard. Students care more about content and relevance

Email Qualities (ranked)
The content (it was useful and on point)
Relevance (“I asked about programs, not accommodation!”)
The response speed
Mobile/desktop layout (looked good on my phone and was easy to read).
Personalization (“Hi [first name]”)
Graphics and images (a good looking email)

What is your preference when receiving emails?

Interestingly, most students prefer a mix of school-branded and plain-text emails.

Note: Across international and graduate audiences, a “mix of both” is still preferred. 

  • Branded emails with school logo, graphics, etc. 24.1% 24.1%
  • Shorter, plain text emails from a recruiter 12.8% 12.8%
  • Mix of both 48.5% 48.5%
  • I don’t have a preference 14.7% 14.7%

Overall, how satisfied are you with current communications from prospective colleges/universities?

The good news: majority of students are satisfied with the communication they’re receiving from prospective schools. This is consistent across Canadian high school students, international students, and grad-bound students.

But there’s always room for improvement!

  • Not satisfied 3.8% 3.8%
  • Neutral 32.9% 32.9%
  • Satisfied 53.8% 53.8%
  • Very satisfied 9.5% 9.5%

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