By: Lawrence Levy, President of Enrollment Rx
Your incoming class is like an ice cream cone…if you don’t constantly monitor it from every angle, it melts.
As anyone in admissions knows, just because a student has been admitted to your institution and accepted your offer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will actually show up on the first day of class. So what strategies are important to consider in avoiding summer melt and increasing enrollment yield? Here are three important questions to consider.
Are We Easy To Work With?
What type of school are you? Are you the kind that requires prospective students to submit information and documentation through multiple systems – even paper – across several disjointed departments? Do prospects readily know “what they need to do next” or are they often confused about missing requirements and frustrated with incomplete information? Do your staff members have a complete picture of each prospect’s enrollment journey at all times, or does your admissions process leave too much to the unknown, with “the left hand not speaking to the right?”
Too many schools are operating with outdated and inefficient processes that make it difficult for prospective students to complete the enrollment journey. That can be especially true for applicants once they become admitted, because their needs are often overlooked by legacy admissions software systems. In the time period between “accepted” and “enrolled,” it is critical to stay connected with applicants in a highly intuitive and engaging way in order to ensure their commitment to enroll at your institution.
Let’s state the obvious…“Digital Natives” are digital native. “Millenials” are too. In fact, most of us, regardless of generation, would be more comfortable filling out information online rather than mailing in paper forms or accessing multiple (dated, horrible) systems in order to complete the enrollment process. Prospective students expect a system that supports a one-stop-shop experience from initial inquiry through enrollment (and beyond).
At The Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business, incoming students previously needed to access multiple different systems to complete their enrollment process. Now that they have been able to streamline that process using the application portal (built on Salesforce Communities), it is a much more engaging and straightforward experience.
To reduce “summer melt” with your admitted student pool, all the necessary requirements and information should be collected digitally through an intuitive and personalized platform. This platform should be simple to use, display contextualized information at the appropriate time in each prospective student’s journey, and provide the appropriate transparency for staff and departments. If your school can’t do that, but your competitor can, guess which school is more likely to enroll the student.
Can We Identify “At-risk” Prospects?
How do you identify an “at-risk” prospect? Frankly, a whole myriad of data points could be evaluated in order to determine “at risk” prospects across various systems. Therefore, the question is: Do you have all the appropriate data from your various campus system in one place so that your institution can accurately track and report on that data, based on an almost limitless combination of criteria, in order to effectively identity at-risk applicants and automate appropriate engagement strategies to mitigate that risk? If you can’t identify the at-risk prospects, how can you possibly engage them in a meaningful way?
Two types of data must be evaluated in order to identify at-risk prospects. Firstly, we have intrinsic data that we have collected (or not) throughout the applicant journey. This could include everything from their housing and medical forms to their meal plan preferences and extracurricular interests. If an incoming student is still missing key enrollment requirements (e.g. financial aid is not in order), it’s probably a red-flag. The second kind of data that must be evaluated is behavioral data. If they are not opening our emails, clicking on our links, or login into the incoming freshman portal, it could be a sign that they won’t be showing up in September.
Unless you have all of the appropriate intrinsic and behavioral data in one central engagement system, your at-risk students will stay at-risk.
“Do You Know Who I Am?”
During the critical time between acceptance and enrollment, it is essential that incoming students continue to feel as though they have made the correct decision to attend. Part of that decision hinges on the connection that incoming students feel with your institution. It is every institution’s job to communicate in such a way that every engagement increases that sense of connection.
It is frankly unforgivable that after collecting a trove of information on each and every applicant, too many institutions continue to treat incoming students like an anonymous number on the yield chart, rather than individuals with their own unique life story.
It is important that post-admit engagement efforts deliver contextualized and dynamic content, so that incoming students are receiving information, images, and messaging that conveys a strong sense of connection by communicating that we know who they are, and we look forward to becoming a part of their life story.
Institutions that maintain this kind of personalized connection with incoming students throughout the enrollment journey are the ones most likely to consistently yield a high start rate and enjoy a great first day of school.
And now that they are officially enrolled, how do we best ensure student success and lifelong support as alumni? Well, that’s for another blog.
For more fun and useful advice on how to recruit and engage students, here are a few resources:
- The Higher Ed Technology Buyer’s Guide
- Download: Recruiting Solution Snapshot
- Central Wyoming College Case Study
About the Author
Lawrence Levy founded Enrollment Rx in 2008 after identifying the growing need to improve upon traditional CRM technologies in the Higher Ed sector. Enrollment Rx’s product suite is built natively on the Salesforce platform.