Many products and services, from magazine subscriptions and book clubs to software and digital services offer a risk-free trial program. Career colleges may wish to borrow this tactic and offer prospective students a risk-free trial period at their school. Doing so shows prospective students that you understand their anxiety about enrolling. Some students may not be familiar with the idea of career college, or they may be unsure how it compares with other educational options. Others will be uncertain how they will perform in a career college environment. A risk-free trial gives them a chance to relieve these concerns by experiencing career college firsthand before enrolling. Here are a few best practices to effectively and ethically use this strategy:
Emphasize the Advantage of Trying Before You Buy
Emphasize the benefits of a risk-free trial. Students can satisfy their curiosity about career college rather than relying on someone else's opinion. They can find out for themselves whether they enjoy learning in a career college environment and whether the format works well for their learning style. They can get to know their teachers before committing to classes. And they can do all this without risking their money.
Offer a Specific Course
To give students a genuine experience with your career college, let them take a class on a specific subject and not just a general orientation class. A class on a specific subject gives them a better feel for what an actual course will be like and if they are really interested in that field of study. By testing out a real course, students will be more satisfied with their career college trial experience and more likely to enroll.
Make It Easy to Opt Out
To make your offer truly risk-free, make it easy for students to opt out if they decide they don't want to continue. Instead of automatically enrolling them at the end of the trial period, let students know that they will only be enrolled if they want to continue and they specifically authorize payment. This will make students feel more comfortable accepting your risk-free trial offer, and it will reduce the frequency of refunds and complaints.
Be Clear about What Happens if Students Decide to Enroll
Be explicit about what happens when students decide to enroll. Doing so removes uncertainties they may have about your payment process — and that will increase their willingness to accept your trial offer. It also ensures that when they accept your free trial offer, they are going into it with a clear vision of potentially upgrading to a paying student, which in turn should increase their predisposition to follow through and enroll in your program.
Understand the Department of Education’s Rules on Risk-Free Trials
Before implementing a risk-free trial, make sure that you have a full understanding of and are in compliance with the Department of Education’s rules regarding the matter. The Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid lays out the requirements for such programs as well as the standards for participation.1,2 These guidelines can be found on the Office of Federal Student Aid website, so be sure to consult that resource before implementing a risk-free trial program.
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Resources: Photo Credit. (1) Department Offers Guidance to Schools on Tuition-Free Trial Periods to Help Students Decide if an Educational Program is Right for Them (2) Office of Federal Student Aid: Trial Periods of Enrollment