Amidst the NACAC moratorium, COVID-19, and racial injustice, we asked enrollment leaders to reflect on recent recruitment efforts as they look to Fall 2021 and beyond. They shared what surprised them the most, what their teams have learned to move forward, and how life for admission professionals has changed. Key learnings characterize a range of enrollment sizes at independent colleges and universities across the United States and bring rich perspectives from more than 150 cumulative years in enrollment management.
Enrollment leaders confirm the analysis of our annual admitted student research indicating the vast majority of prospective students are considering more than one institution in their college search. Admitted students revealed they had been accepted by an average of five institutions. Preparing admission counselors and campus partners for meaningful conversations with prospective students and arming them with compelling evidence of student success is critical for reinforcing the value proposition and inspiring actions that drive application and yield rates.
How are the messages your institution sends stacking up to others? Do they include outcomes data to demonstrate the value of the education and experience offered by your institution? Here are three practices your admission team can lead your campus through as you work together to meet prospective students where they are and support them on their journey to matriculate at your institution:
1. Communicate more (openly, intentionally, & kindly)
According to our Admitted Student Research, intentional, open communication from admission teams played a critical role in final college decision-making. Among prospective students who matriculated, 8 out of 10 agreed or strongly agreed that the admission team at their college of choice supported them through the college search and selection process amid COVID-19 with clear, meaningful communication. In comparison, less than half of non-matriculants experienced this same connection.
“My admissions counselor was the best part of my college search experience. He was kind, quick to respond, and went over and beyond any university I communicated with. Some of my friends going to other colleges told me they never even heard back from their college admissions counselors when they had questions, especially when COVID got bad. If anything, mine communicated more, making sure I felt safe and prepared to get to campus no matter what happened next.”
-Admitted Student Survey Respondent
Leaders noted an organic increase in parent communication and evening and weekend outreach as COVID progressed. The most successful admission teams built upon this natural momentum and augmented robust communication plans that emphasized bilateral, kind, clear communication. The overwhelming lesson learned is that the extended campus community—including prospective students and families—took advantage of increased opportunities to engage with the campus. All parties and groups reported appreciating clear, open, and transparent dialogue. Admission teams who nurtured their messaging watched the momentum translate to students matriculating as a result.
2. Align In-person, Print, & Digital Communication
Have you ever been searching for information and found that what you have in your email doesn’t align with what you found online, and those messages do not reflect conversations with others? Aligning data and information can be challenging, especially when different groups on the same campus use different systems, have separate budgets, and often have no day-to-day interaction.
Communicating your value proposition requires a collective, campus-wide effort to share a clear and consistent description of the student experience your institution delivers to prospective students, their parents, and other influencers. It is not enough that marketing resources align with enrollment resources. Effective, inclusive, holistic recruitment practices require the entire campus be mobilized. When messaging is consistent and integrated effectively across digital, print, and “real life” settings and conversations, prospective students and parents can find the resources and information they need to form the strongest connections to their future campus community.
“My child’s college of choice has the best admissions team and the best communication. They went above and beyond, reminding us what to submit and when we needed to do what. In fact, we have not met anyone on the whole campus who was rude or unfriendly. This college leads in welcoming families, and ensuring students and families are not just welcomed, and not just included, but that we are actual, integral members of this community.”
-Admitted Student- Parent Survey Respondent
3. Bring in outcomes & evidence to support your value proposition
Enrollment leaders shared that students and their parents expect to learn about the return on their investment in communication with prospective colleges and universities. Once students have an idea of what the academic and student-life experience is on a campus, they want to see evidence that their perception matches reality.
Historical trends from our most recent study indicate graduation rates and career placement continue to be among the top three factors in determining a college’s academic reputation. How does your institution do with proving return on investment? From alumni stories to job placement rates, qualitative and quantitative results go a long way to take thoughts and ideas and make them into reality.
Whether you are following up promptly with new inquiries, paying close attention to recent virtual or in-person campus guests, or guiding admitted students and their families through a final decision, outcomes and evidence support your value proposition. An easy formula to include all the right elements in communication and conversations is to reinforce 1) why they are making a good choice by seeing student outcomes that resonate with them on a personal level and 2) how your institution can help them achieve their goals.
Communicating intentionally, incorporating value proposition and outcomes, and aligning messaging across all channels are all more achievable when supported by a strong strategic plan and strategic enrollment plan. In the area of recruitment, your admission team members each hold the great responsibility of communicating and meeting the goals set out by these foundational documents.
How do you know what evidence best supports your value proposition? Having the right market research can help, specifically admitted-student and admitted-student parent research. Mapped with a comparative analysis of your results against those from other campuses, you can see how your admitted students differ from those at other institutions You can also use the data to derive insights about what is most important to your prospective students and parents.
Is your admissions department at the hub of an interconnected, living admissions strategy? What will it take to get there? With a combination of the right data, resources, and connections, communicating, building community, and recruiting and retaining an increasingly diverse, future-focused student body is possible. We know it takes a campus to recruit and retain a student.
What’s next for your campus community?
Did you know that Credo’s Admitted Student Research (ASR) project delivers comprehensive data and analysis that focus exclusively on admitted students and the factors that inform their institutional selections? Credo’s ASR can help you understand not only the needs of your desired constituency, but also how to interpret data to implement strategic processes to improve your institution’s enrollment and retention success. Your admissions team gets a comparative analysis, data-driven insights for integrating faculty and staff into student recruitment, and timely results when you put data and prioritized recommendations into action.
Contact our enrollment team via the button below to schedule a no-fee 30-minute consultation about ASR—or about “whatever is keeping you up at night” about how grow sustainable enrollment. We can’t wait to hear from you.
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Check back soon for the next blog in our Enrollment Leaders Respond series!