Spring is upon us and you’re cautiously optimistic that all of the hard recruitment work these past several months will lead to the enrollment of accepted students. At times, it can feel as though your admissions office is a contestant on a reality show competition. Will I be the lone survivor on the island? Will I get picked at the final rose ceremony? Can I stay on tune, move to the next round, and ultimately get that record deal?
You may have read the recent blog post by my colleague Wes Butterfield on “Turning incomplete college applications into completed ones.” By now, you’ve hopefully been successful in developing a solid accepted-student pool. You are now tasked with helping these students navigate the college decision process with the intention of them picking your institution as their top choice. Beyond your work and the efforts of the admission team, there are also multiple influencers who have a stake in this important decision.
According to the 2013 E-Expectations survey of more than 2,000 college-bound high school juniors and seniors, a large majority rated their parents or guardians as influential while scoring high school counselors, friends or relatives, and faculty important as well. Consider these folks the host, the judges, and the voting audience. All can determine the outcome of your enrollment reality show finale and cannot be overlooked.
Additionally, the 2012 Cooperative Institutional Research Program Freshman Survey found that students listed having a good academic reputation, graduating students who get good jobs, and being offered financial assistance as the top three factors influencing their decision to attend a particular school.
So how can you use this information to help drive your yield strategies? Here are a number of ideas for you to consider:
- Mail an oversized postcard with a next-steps checklist (submit your deposit, apply for housing, schedule a phone appointment with your academic advisor, activate your campus email address, RSVP to Orientation, etc.). You may already have something similar on an admitted student website or included this in an acceptance packet, but a visually appealing reminder that mom and dad might see in the mailbox couldn’t hurt.
- Schedule an Admitted Student Day (preferably in March or April) that offers a uniquely different experience from your open house events. Examples include a tour of student services, an “Understanding Your Financial Aid Award Package” session, the opportunity to observe a class, or student and parent panels that focus on the transition from home to campus living. Quick tip: consider closing the event with a warm send-off or dessert reception with the campus president, faculty, staff, current students and alumni (as opposed to an info-heavy topic like how to pay for college). This could be your final round to “wow” the students and parents and leave a positive, lasting impression.
- Introduce a “closing piece” that includes a compilation of photos and quotes from the entire campus community. This should not be a content-heavy, wordy publication. In effect, this is a coffee table piece that shares the experience and shows the emotions of your institution. Although these tend to be expensive, they can often have wide-ranging use across departments that are willing to share production costs.
- Consider emailing a survey to your accepted students through a service like SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics. Allow them to indicate if their decision is pending due to financial aid concerns, lingering questions on an academic program, or other issues. Offer to have a current student get in touch with them. Don’t be afraid to ask when they plan to have a decision or if they need additional time to respond beyond May 1.
- Reinforce the value of attending your campus (new construction, examples of job placements for recent grads, national rankings, recent study abroad trips or volunteer efforts by current students, for example). Consider using overstock of campus newsletters or magazines to send to students and their families, or reprint a featured article that speaks to something that reinforces a value proposition.
- Encourage admitted students to post a picture of themselves on your Twitter or Facebook site with their acceptance letters. Make it a contest for the most creative photo of the week. Ask alumni to post words of encouragement, their best campus memories, and words of advice with the incoming class. Check out LinkedIn university pages as another way to showcase your strong alumni and outcomes to your prospective students and families.
- Create an online landing page accessible only to the admitted students with a short, congratulatory video welcoming the students and their families to the campus community. Bonus points if you can get the campus president and school mascot to make an appearance!
- Add more personalization to your admitted student communications. Personalization is crucial—avoid canned emails, overly scripted phone calls, “Dear Student” salutations, and a one-size-fits-all approach, especially when working with different populations like your out-of-state pool, transfers, and international students. Handwritten notes by faculty, frame-worthy award certificates, and flexible event agendas with multiple session choices will help you stand out from the competition.
- Keep in touch with the counselors at the high schools where you have admitted students. Notify them of upcoming, off-campus yield receptions in their area, send reminders on housing application deadlines, offer to present scholarship certificates at local award nights, keep them updated on exciting campus news that may have occurred since fall recruitment travel, etc. And a thank-you card for helping your admission team throughout the year can also help.
As your amazing race winds down, take a deep breath. You still have to keep your deposits and confirmed students happy and engaged before the credits roll this fall. And let me be the first to congratulate you—your reality show has been renewed for another season!
Do you have any yield strategies you would like to share? Please leave them in the comments, or send me an email.
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