If you work in enrollment management, it is always tempting to focus all of your work on the next incoming class. Are you getting enough inquiries? How many applications have we received? Will we make our goals next fall?
While these top-of-mind questions are important for the near term—indeed, you may need to focus most of your attention there depending on how things are going—you know the reality is that after you bring in the next class, you will face the same near-term demands all over again. With the next class. The class after that. And the class after that. The near-term-mania never goes away.
Instead of only focusing on the immediate, today’s savvy enrollment managers strive to carve out time where it pays off most: building up strategic, foundational elements of an enrollment program that will pay off for many years to come.
Of course, there are many productive avenues toward this goal, but I am going to share two ways that Noel-Levitz considers to be especially important.
One way to work smarter: look beyond the raw enrollment numbers
Let’s say you want to raise enrollment by 5 percent within three years. You could begin by striving to generate 15 percent more inquiries. Or you could begin by striving to gradually increase the inquiry-to-applicant conversion rate each year by concentrating on inquiries who have a greater chance of enrolling so you end up with the higher number of matriculants you need. The big advantage of the latter approach is that improving conversion rates has a longer-lasting effect, i.e., improving the processes and systems that move these metrics will affect many future years of prospective students.
The same logic works on later-stage metrics, such as the applicant acceptance rate for students who complete their applications, the accepted-to-enrolled yield rate, or retention rates such as the census-day-to-census-day persistence rate from term one to term two. In fact, depending on your situation, improving later-stage metrics may have the potential to produce even greater dividends than reaching the goals for early-stage conversions.