This is part two of a two-part blog post published with the permission of Simmons College
Recap: Simmons College (read part one here)
“The college’s system was handling a growing number of applications and the admissions team was becoming increasingly bogged down with trying to get them to an actionable status. Having to focus on the logistics of application materials limited the meaningful conversations counselors could have with interested students and their families—and lower yield rates showed it. Dolan believed it was time to reconsider how they built and cultivated the college’s inquiry and applicant pools.”
Our story continues…Adapting to a new approach
Telling your campus that you’re experiencing what was ultimately a 27 percent decrease in applications is enough to cause panic, despite the very promising indicator of a rise in campus visits that fall. Dr. Dolan is the first to admit that there was more than a little trepidation on campus as their first early action deadline neared. The raw application numbers didn’t live up to the previous year, and he realized they needed to assess (and report on) different metrics because this was a very different approach. A closer look at the status of the first round of early action applications painted a more promising picture. “Our file completion rate was 97 percent. We had never seen that before.” Without changing its admission standards, Simmons had the same number of offers of acceptance to keep it on track for its yield and enrollment targets. The trend continued through the second early action and regular decision deadlines.
What’s more, with its inquiry pool now qualified, the team could see that the number of prospective students who had a very high interest in Simmons was, in Dr. Dolan’s words, “through the roof.”
Focusing on applicants—not applications
With RNL providing unprecedented intelligence on each prospective student, the counselors were able to focus their own outreach. They could do seemingly simple things that made a tremendous difference. For example, they could reach out to all of their prospective students who hadn’t yet filed financial aid forms and advise them on the process. In the past, the applicant volume prevented being able to achieve that in the tight timeline necessary. “The team became so much more efficient. They had more time to connect with their prospective students and strengthen those relationships. They really understood their students,” said Dolan.
Focusing on the right numbers
Explaining the new approach and its benefit to students is great, but in assessing and projecting enrollment to the campus, it’s still about numbers. It’s just that the numbers they needed to look at were different now. “We needed to educate our community,” Dr. Dolan explains. With the support, insights, and counsel of the RNL team, Simmons rebuilt its metrics to evaluate the applicant pool, including building a 13-point affinity metric. “It was still a bit of a leap of faith,” Dolan admits, “but by March 11 we knew we had it.”