For Marquette University, freshman enrollment increased for fall 2016 by 163 students despite a 39 percent decrease in submitted applications. The difference? A stronger applicant pool. Marquette achieved a major boost by searching for the right students thanks to a shift in campus culture and data-driven strategies that targeted students who were more likely to enroll—not just fill out another application.
Better qualified pool of applicants a key to enrollment gain
In her first year as interim dean of admissions at this four-year private institution, Jean Burke saw the need for a change in student search and application generation. While Marquette’s application numbers had increased over the years through its search program, yield was not increasing. The university desired to reach more of the right applicants—those who would proceed to enroll after applying.
The quest to build a more qualified applicant pool and a more focused search program came with a challenge: Could the university trust the analytics from Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL) which showed, counterintuitively, that yield would increase with a decrease in the number of applications?
To conduct a more intentional search based on using analytics to reach a more specific audience, the university’s leaders took a leap of faith. Why? Because getting more of the right applications was the goal—not getting more applications overall. Also, the staff realized that having a smaller search pool would make it possible to spend more time and resources on students who were more likely to enroll.
“Our staff was so excited to hear that we were going to make this change,” Burke said. “It was a risk, but I felt that it was a calculated risk.”
To set the wheels in motion, Burke built a team to work with Ruffalo Noel Levitz to implement the new strategy.