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Struggling to engage busy adult learners? Start by auditing your recruitment emails.

3 tips to improve your outreach to prospective graduate and adult learners

July 8, 2022

Today’s busy graduate and adult learners are spending less and less time reading the emails they open. Couple this with the fact that adults are commonly time-constrained due to the distractions of work, family, and life responsibilities, and it’s easy to see why emails that quickly engage the reader are critical.

So how can you maximize the precious seconds you have with prospective students to ensure you’re speaking to their needs and making a lasting impression? After spending the better part of two decades crafting recruitment communications on behalf of colleges and universities (including our 140+ Adult Learner Recruitment partners), here are a few insights that can put you on the right course for writing your next recruitment email.

Speak to the essentials

Adults looking to further their education often have two questions they want answered right away: “Do you have the program I want?” and, “Do you have the modality/scheduling options that work for me?”


You will want to address these topics as succinctly as possible in most (if not all) email communications. And include a link in your email for prospects to explore your offerings in depth, especially if you have multiple degree or program options. Providing easy access to these key details will help remove potential obstacles and start paving the way for prospects to take the next step in their journey to enrollment.

Include your call to action early

Standard recruitment emails often include calls to action at the bottom of the email. This may make sense from an academic point of view—making a compelling case about why your school is the right choice and concluding with an invitation for the reader to learn more. But the data shows that you want your CTA to be there whenever the reader is ready to take action, such as following an emphatic point, as in this example:

In addition to on-demand flexibility, our online learning platform provides a high-level of personal support. Learn more about our programs.

Including an early CTA also reduces the amount of scrolling the reader needs to do—a positive given how frequently adult learners read email and research programs on their cell phones.


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    tests performed annually to uncover new marketing and recruitment best practices.

Refine your copy

Given that adult learners are often pressed for time, you want to make reading your email as smooth and effortless as possible. The two preceding points help, but based on our continuous testing, there are several other strategies that can aid in effective writing, including:

  • Be short with the reader. This doesn’t mean be rude. It’s about recognizing that your readers may have limited attention spans and that you should write accordingly. Keep sentences and paragraphs concise to speed up readability. If you do go long (and you will at times), remember to include an early CTA so readers have an easy off ramp for getting to the content they need.
  • “”


    of survey respondents who do not plan to pursue graduate education immediately said “more affordable tuition” would lead them to do so.

  • Theme your messages. Identify your points of strength—such as your competitive price point, flexibility, student outcomes, and available support services—and build out messaging around no more than two of those points in each of your communications. It’s easier for the reader to absorb one or two topics than a laundry list of ideas. For greater cohesion, incorporating the theme into your subject line is a great way to set the tone right away. As a general rule, the idea of “opening new career opportunities” can serve as an evergreen theme for the adult audience.
  • Draw attention. As opposed to reading an email in its entirety, many people will skim your message to gain key insights. Some readers may never go through your message line by line, so it is important to ensure your most top points do not get overlooked. One of the easiest ways to make your message more skimmable is to lean on techniques such as bolding important words or phrases, using italics, writing a one-sentence paragraph, and including bulleted lists.

Ultimately, it is critical to always write with the adult learner’s perspective foremost in your mind. Provide the specific information and primary messaging points that show you care about students’ needs and that your institution offers the right degree program to help them achieve their goals. These lessons apply not only to email copy but also to the copy in your paid ads and on your website—each of which play an important role in attracting your future adult learner.

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