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    The StratEDgy blog is intended to be a thoughtful hub for discussion about strategy and competition in higher education.


Beyond the Average: Prospective Student Demographics

Thinking about student demographics.

September 16, 2013

Last week’s post highlighted the importance of looking beyond the average when making data-driven decisions.  Often analyzing other data points and performing additional analysis can paint a more accurate picture of an issue.

Here’s another example. Continuing education divisions tend to serve students who range widely in age. A school may calculate the average age of prospective students to inform marketing messaging.  However, this average alone may not be enough information to accurately craft meaningful communications.

For example, if the average student age is 30-years-old, a school may try to appeal to what they think a 30-year-old needs.  However, it could be that 50% of prospective students are 20 years old and 50% are 40 years old, resulting in an average of 30.  As such, that school may not reach any members of the target audience with their current messaging that primarily speaks to 30-year-olds.

In other words, calculating the average age of prospective students provides another example of what can happen when averages are used in isolation.  The humorous image below by Tom Fishburne, “marketoonist,” further illustrates this point. 

Source: Tom Fishburne


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