We find ourselves, yet again, in the midst of the most stress-filled and anxiety-ridden time of year for enrollment managers around the country. As May 1 looms, many of you are beginning to get a sense whether you will be one of the lucky institutions to meet or exceed your goals, or if all metrics point to the potential “doom and gloom” coming your way. If you are finding yourself aligning more so with the latter—or you are an enrollment manager looking to stack the deck—do know that although the end is near, there is still time over the coming weeks (yes, even after May 1) to salvage the fall 2015 class. So what can you do?
Below are four strategies that have proved to be effective in capturing additional applications, admits, and deposits during a time when all seems lost. These strategies have proven to help push institutions over the top, or at least mitigate a potentially difficult enrollment situation.
1) Do not give up on your search non-responders
Most institutions have a tendency to discard search names that never responded to communications earlier in the recruitment cycle. Although many of these students have most likely moved on and committed to other institutions, there are inevitably some who either, 1) never really began the college search process until late in their senior year, or 2) had their heart set on one institution only to find out they were not accepted or they could not afford the out-of-pocket costs to attend.
Their loss may very well be your gain if played correctly. Go back and dust off these forgotten students, and instead of plugging them back into a late search flow, send them a set of application-generation communications. Make sure that you clearly and succinctly indicate that there still is time to apply, and why they should consider your institution (listing academic, student life, and outcomes advantages that the school offers). These communications can be a set of two or three emails, each with the action item—and link—to apply. In my experience, there is always a group of students within this pool who apply and convert to enrollment.
2) Cultivate your late inquiries and applicants
Admission offices can become so mired in yield communications and strategies that they fail to recognize and attend to inquiries who enter the funnel in the later months of the recruitment cycle. So many admission offices are “all hands on deck” when it comes to yield and financial aid follow-up calls, that very few—if any—are truly giving the proper time to students who sneak in via their self-initiated request for additional information or application.
Just like in our first strategic example, some of these students have either started the college search process late, did not get into (or were unable to afford) their first choice, or had a family issue and/or life change that prompted them to more seriously consider your institution. There is a very real and important reason why a student would inquire initially during March, April, and May (let alone as we enter the summer) of their senior year. They’re available, and you have sparked an interest. It is your responsibility and opportunity to take that interest and nurture them through to deposit. Most institutions see that for those who enter the funnel late, the conversion and yield rates are quite strong. I would recommend taking a look at those inquiries, applicants, and admits who entered the funnel since early to mid-February. Dedicate some time for proactive counselor and student telecounselor outreach in order to more effectively work with these students.