How to Increase College Enrollment: A Guide to Understanding and Addressing Student Anxiety

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one-third (31%) of American teenagers suffer from anxiety disorder. Additionally, per a recent study conducted by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation, among adults aged 17-27, “emotional stress” was the fourth leading cause reported as the reason for not attending an institute of higher learning.

It’s clear: Stress and anxiety are causing American teens to forgo a college education, and it’s a real concern that needs to be addressed. But what exactly is the role of institutions in addressing this growing concern?

How Higher Education Marketing Can Help

From the same study, researchers concluded that advertising the resources that institutions provide might help win over individuals who cite stress as a deterrent to attending college. Understanding the intersection of emotions, particularly the emotion of anxiety, in the higher education decision-making process is the first step in developing more impactful marketing communications.

To effectively advertise the institution’s resources, we must first understand how teen angst manifests itself. Once we understand the why behind anxiety, we can then craft an effective approach to combat this challenge and communicate the available resources.

Anxiety in Higher Education

How Institutions Can Address Student Anxiety
Below are the two most common types of teen anxiety and what institutions can do to address this situation to boost college enrollment and retain more students.

  1. Student Concern: Performance Anxiety

According to Dr. Jerry Bubrick, Clinical Psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, “A lot of anxiety is geared toward perfectionism, or needing to do their absolute best in school, beyond an intense work ethic.”  Even when parents report that they urge their kids to not stress over college admissions, teenagers say they feel intense pressure to get those straight A’s. Over the past 20 to 30 years, teens, even those excelling in school, increasingly believe that their efforts are not “good enough” to get into or attend their college of choice.

Institution Solution: Communicate a Robust Academic Assistance Program

An institute can assist these students by developing and communicating a robust tutoring and mentoring program designed to assist students in achieving their desired academic goals, while also providing the ongoing guidance and nurturing needed for success. No student should feel isolated or absent from the help needed to achieve their degree.

  1. Student Concern: Social Anxiety

“Every teenager is going to have an awareness of and a certain vigilance about how they’re being perceived,” Dr. Bubrick notes. “That’s just part of the adolescent process, but some kids have that on steroids. They’re going to be excessively worrying about whether they might be seen as incompetent or stupid, or they’re really worried about doing something embarrassing.”

Institution Solution: Communicate access to counselors as an integral part of Campus Life and train Resident Assistants in addressing anxiety disorder

Beyond simply providing access to campus affinity groups for the purpose of providing social outlets, institutions should also provide resources designed to assist students in overcoming their fears about “fitting in.”

With the growing rate of anxiety among American teens, understanding that anxiety is negatively impacting potential students as they decide whether or not to attend college, as well choosing where they will attend, is the first step in developing a plan to attract these students.

Taking corrective actions to provide the assistance students experiencing anxiety need and communicating these benefits in higher education marketing will aid universities in their ongoing efforts to attract qualified students and increase application and college enrollment figures.