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Top 10 podcast ideas for universities (+ examples)

by | Mar 14, 2024

Almost 50% of the Gen Z population, in the US, listens to podcasts every month, according to Edison Research’s latest Gen Z Podcast Listener Report. This means there are around 11 million people, between the ages of 13 and 24 ready to engage with audio content created by brands. And they’re not the only ones, their parents are listening to podcasts too.

Today’s plugged in student generation is already searching for ways to connect with their future university. They’re following you on Instagram, liking your TikTok videos, and keeping up with your tweets about the latest news. And every interaction helps them figure out which school is the best fit for them. This is not news. In fact, virtually every university is battling for your future student’s attention on social media.

So, how can you cut through the noise?
I suggest taking a look at podcasting.

Podcasting is a growing medium, and one that not enough educational institutions are using to boost brand visibility and connect with potential students. Instead, it seems like colleges and universities rely on print magazines to reach their audience. My alma mater is an example. Putting together a magazine takes a lot of effort, and its reach could be easily expanded if they covered the same stories in a podcast. Audio is an intimate medium, which gives podcasts an unfair advantage compared to other mediums. It is a direct line to your listener’s uninterrupted attention.

Adding a podcast to your university’s toolbox can help you in many ways. It can increase your brand awareness and reputation, leading to improved enrollment. It can help you build a stronger sense of community for students, staff, and faculty. And it can keep you top of mind for alumni and donors, even when you aren’t fundraising.

Student with headphones

If you are interested in starting a podcast for your university, the first step is to decide what your goals are. Once you have a clear goal, you can center your podcast around it.

In this article, I will share our team’s favorite podcast ideas for universities and 5 examples of universities that are doing a great job with their podcasts. These ideas are a good place to start your brainstorming session.

Podcast ideas to improve student enrollment:

#1 Showcasing the talent teaching on your campus.

You’ve hired the best of the best to lead your university to higher ground. A podcast can provide a platform to showcase the recognized professors teaching on your campus. There are many ways to structure these shows. You can sit down with professors in each department for a one-on-one interview, and ask them about their classes, their teaching styles, and what students can expect from the academic aspect of University life. You can also follow a group of professors throughout the year to create a narrative style show. The results are similar in both cases. You create a strong connection between professors and current students, and can give future students a glimpse of the inspiring minds they will find on your campus.

#2 Student spotlight.

Future students want to know what a day in the life of a student is like. Interview students you believe exemplify the spirit and values of your university. They should have different majors, backgrounds, and stories to share. This vibrant introduction to your student body will allow you to meet your future students where they are at. And, it will simultaneously strengthen connections in the current student body.

#3 Helping students make higher education decisions.

In recent post-pandemic years, prospective college and university students feel like they are not prepared for higher education, leading to lower enrollment rates. Your university can position itself as a part of the solution by sharing tips that will help transition from high school to college successfully. Put together a guide to higher education success. You can feature counselors and students sharing their perspective on how to choose the right university. Discuss tips on everything from financing to writing powerful applications. Prospective students will come to trust you and your brand as they navigate the decisions they need to make at this stage of their life.

Podcast ideas to build student success and community:

#4 New student orientation series.

Round up your admissions counselors, current students, and a handful of professors to create a narrative style podcast about life on campus. Topics can include everything and anything a new student needs for success. Outline what they should know, do, bring, and look forward to as they prepare to join your university’s family.

#5 Weekly news podcast.

There’s something new happening every day on campus. Keep your students and faculty in the loop with a weekly podcast. For example, it could include information about upcoming events, important deadlines, changes in school policies, and security procedures. Highlight and recap the best moments from the weekend’s big game or a soundbite from the fall musical.

#6 Finance tips for university students.

The average federal student loan debt in the US is about $37k. This means money is top of mind for the majority of students at your university. You can support your students’ decision to value knowledge by providing them with a roadmap to navigating university financial challenges. Include overviews on work-study opportunities, scholarship applications, loan payment plans post-graduation, and resources for money management. You can also feature inspirational stories of other students who overcame their debt.

#7 Focus on community and campus culture.

A strong education is the foundation of any successful university story. However, the community and campus culture are vital to your students’ health and wellbeing. And guess what, the podcast possibilities are endless in this realm. Invite alumni roommates who are still fast friends, a husband and wife duo who met at a pep rally, or current students to share how they found their people. These stories will illustrate the rich culture that awaits future students.

University students during graduation

Podcasts ideas to add value to alumni and donors’ lives:

#8 From print media to podcast.

Most universities already curate content through campus and alumni magazines. You can easily turn each of those published magazines into a podcast episode, expanding their reach and turning them into an evergreen marketing asset. Additionally, by creating content for alumni, you can stay top of mind all year long, making fundraising seasons more effective. Our team is currently working on a similar solution for an investment firm. Their podcast helps them increase their brand awareness with potential investors during off-seasons and makes it easier to raise capital when needed.

#9 Highlight commencement speeches.

Commencement and graduation speeches that inspire should be shared beyond campus confines. Therefore, consider gifting your alumni, donors, and future students with an “audio ticket” to the best on-campus speakers by creating a podcast series.

In fact, you’re probably already capturing many of these events on video. This is a great way to repurpose your content and use the audio for a podcast. Add value for your listeners by including a private Q&A with the speaker on the podcast after their speech.

#10 Invite alumni to speak on the podcast.

Your goal as a university is to prepare your students for success in their future careers and lives. What better way to display the quality of your institution, than catching up with graduates and alumni who are making a difference in the world today? This could become a helpful, valuable podcast for any professional, and it will help you build relationships and trust with alumni.

5 Examples of universities using podcasts as part of their marketing strategy.

Podcasting can help universities position themselves as thought leaders, build trust with potential students, and highlight their areas of expertise.

Here are five examples of podcasts produced by leading universities and colleges:

  1. If/Then by Stanford Graduate School of Business: This podcast launched early in 2024, and the first season will feature 13 professors discussing their research. It is the perfect way to build the school’s reputation as thought-leaders in business.
  2. Notre Dame Stories by The University of Notre Dame: This podcast highlights different stories from faculty members and students at the university. Some episodes interview professors for their take on international news stories. Other episodes focus on events such as commencement ceremonies. Overall, it helps paint a picture of what life is like on campus.
  3. Educate. Elevate. by The California Community Colleges: This bi-monthly podcast launched at the beginning of 2024 with a very specific goal: to increase Black and African American student enrollment and retention. Its episodes include inspirational conversations with current students and alumni, sharing how they succeeded in college despite facing difficulties and challenges.
  4. BG Ideas by Bowling Green State University: This podcast is produced by the university’s Institute for the Study of Culture and Society (ICS). In each episode, the host interviews BSGU students, staff, faculty, and alumni about the work they are doing to create public good.
  5. Skydeck by Harvard Business School: Last, but not least, this show is an example of how you can leverage the alumni network to build authority. Each episode features interviews with HBS alumni, as they share tips for current students, what a career in their field can look like, and how to navigate life after HBS.

Wrapping it up.

As you can see, the podcasting possibilities are endless.

It’s all a matter of having a clear idea of what your goals are, and picking the right topic and format to help you reach success. Setting up a podcast for your university can help you increase enrollment, build up campus culture, and strengthen relationships with alumni.

And if you have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, but aren’t sure what you need to start your university’s podcast, you can always schedule a discovery call with our team.