The National Clearing Survey 2017 is here, and if you’re planning to target the Direct Applicant during Clearing this year we’ve taken a look at what you need to know about this student profile…
But first, who is the Direct Applicant?
These are the people who did not previously apply for a university place, so Clearing is the first time they will have been in the UCAS system. They are older than a ‘traditional’ university student – they were the oldest of the four Clearing student profiles uncovered by the National Clearing Survey 2017, with an average age of 22.6 years old.
They’re also the profile that saw the most growth in 2017 – up by nine percentiles from 2016, from 18% of the National Clearing Survey sample in 2016 to over a quarter (27%) of the sample in 2017. This reflects the national picture – UCAS reported in their end-of-cycle report an overall 14% increase in applications from Direct Applicants in Clearing 2017. Meaning there are whole new audiences for student marketers to be engaging with during Clearing!
Here’s what you need to know when engaging the Direct Applicant during Clearing this year…
So, where do Direct Applicants usually come from before they decide to attend a Higher Education institution? Direct Applicants are more likely to be found in a further education college than other Clearing students (21% versus 14% overall in the National Clearing Survey 2017), and less likely to be found in a school sixth form or sixth form college (48% versus 57% overall). They are also less likely to have taken A-levels (66% versus 79% overall), and almost a quarter from the National Clearing Survey 2017 sample (23%) had taken BTEC qualifications.
Instagram (62%), YouTube (62%) and Facebook (60%) are the platforms the Direct Applicants use the most on a daily basis. This contrasts with the other three profiles, where Snapchat was the most commonly used platform on a daily basis. Good to know when you’re planning both your paid and organic social media activity in the run-up to Clearing so you can allocate budget accordingly.
And what about their influencers? 25% of the Direct Applicants cited friends and peers as the place they heard about their destination institution first. Because, evidently, a Direct Applicant’s networks are extremely important to them you’ll need to be thinking about how you can incorporate influencer marketing tactics into your wider strategy when looking to target Direct Applicants during Clearing. Check out our resources if you’re looking for some inspiration on how to incorporate influencers into your marketing and content plans.
These guys aren’t in any rush either. The Direct Applicant was slower to begin their research on A-level Results Day, with 42% starting their search for a place five or more hours after receiving their results. This was also the largest group coming back to Higher Education some years after receiving their A-levels (or equivalent) – 36% received their results in previous years.
So, we know friends and peers play an important part in the Direct Applicant’s decisions, and they aren’t in any rush to find a Clearing place on A-level Results Day, but what are they looking for when they do? An institution’s facilities and career prospects were relatively more important to the Direct Applicant, whereas institution ranking was relatively less important, indicating that practical factors play a large part in the Direct Applicant’s decision-making process.
Most university marketers will already be using the National Clearing Survey to consider cross-channel, cross-platform media plans aimed at the Direct Applicant, but these applicants are notoriously difficult to identify, track and measure. It can feel like they drop into your application funnel seemingly out of nowhere, so you need to get your analytics and tracking on point to ensure that you know which campaigns and landing pages are working. Make sure your web analytics are set up accurately with tracking, conversions and goals in place and use your campaign data to understand who your Direct Applicants are and where they are coming from.
To really smash your Clearing targets, work on developing a full funnel, cross-platform creative strategy with bespoke messaging and creative that supports your Direct Applicant campaigns throughout their application journey from consideration and intent, through to decision and enrolment.
If you want to hear more ways to engage and attract the Direct Applicant during Clearing or how our team of conversion strategists can help you map out the routes of conversion for potential students coming from UCAS as direct applicants, get in touch.
Partnering with one in five Russell Group universities, one in five post-92 HEIs, plus specialist institutions, the 2017 National Clearing Survey analysed over 250,000 data points and conducted deep-dive qualitative surveys with 2,979 students. The results have been benchmarked against the findings from 2016 to identify evolving trends and behaviours.