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 admissions 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.
Key learning: Having a living strategic enrollment plan lays the groundwork for major pivots and day-to-day enrollment hacks.
We asked, and we heard it loud and clear: enrollment leaders and recruitment teams who had committed to a living strategic enrollment plan prior to COVID-19 have since been able to assess existing strategy and processes, adapt enrollment strategies, build upon solid infrastructure, and continue to serve their students and communities—in spite of and because of—the unprecedented change to the status quo of our college and university campuses.
The campuses that are reporting back that they are excelling in their key performance indicators and recruiting goals, are the same ones whose strategic enrollment plans have built in prioritization to not only put budget to adaptive strategy, but also whose plans are flexible and future-focused enough to allow their team to shine and showcase their strengths, moving with great speed and agility to recruit, serve, and retain students.
Additionally, leaders emphasized that enrollment, recruitment, and student-success efforts that have been most successful are those that capitalize on a team’s existing resources in conjunction with courageous risk taking and continued focus on the future. Enrollment teams that were prepared with a courageous plan were ready to move quickly, not hesitating to implement new ideas and take risks grounded in trust.
Adrian Haugabrook of Southern New Hampshire University put it so succinctly: “The pandemic actually acted as an accelerant for strategies and innovations that we had been contemplating or planning.”
Before the pandemic, who hadn’t heard the familiar “joke” of how slowly it takes to make anything happen on a college or university campus? From committees, to approval processes, to budget concerns, almost nothing happens fast. However, many of our timelines have been dramatically altered, along with our environments. How quickly have you witnessed your campus implement changes to recruiting, communication, process, and systems since the pandemic? Certainly with greater speed and agility than before!
Ray Kennelly of Lewis University shared, “Things can change so quickly and we can’t take anything for granted. In a positive way, current events have forced us to really be much more focused on acting now. We can’t dwell and take long ramp ups to new initiatives, strategies, academic programs, clubs. Time is of the essence and if you wait too long it may get to be too late.”
Do you have a strategic enrollment plan that is serving you through change and an uncertain future? One that positions your enrollment team and future students for success, regardless of their environment? The enrollment plans experiencing the most success are the ones seeing the most play; those which are continually re-visited and adapted by innovative enrollment teams, giving them the time and space to pivot, pilot, take risks, try new things, and respond bravely in the face of disruption.
Reflecting on Strategic Enrollment Planning
As you reflect on your own enrollment plan, we invite you to take these questions to your team for discussion:
- Is our enrollment plan informed by and supportive of an institutional strategic plan?
- Are resources dedicated to creating an enrollment plan built upon our institutional strengths?
- Do we have a practice of setting data-informed enrollment goals for new students and retention?
- Are our goals ambitious and achievable?
For more reflection questions, as well as practical enrollment planning strategy guidance, download the 3 Essentials for Strategic Enrollment Planning. Whether you’re an admissions counselor, an enrollment leader, or a university board chair, we know you play a vital role in your institution’s strategy, operations, and decision-making around enrollment. Find out how to maximize your institution’s enrollment. We invite you to take a moment for your institution’s enrollment, talk to your team about next steps, and let us know your feedback, questions, and challenges.
What strategic adjustments are you making to optimize enrollment? Would you like to talk through your reflection questions, assess existing strategies and processes or initiate new ones?
We want to hear from you. Let’s talk about your most urgent questions for boosting enrollment yield and implementing sustainable, future-focused enrollment strategy that benefits your admission team, your campus, and your engagement with prospective students!
Check back soon for the next blog in our Enrollment Leaders Respond series!