Every year, higher education marketers across the country run into the same problem: how do I get a good percentage of the students who have shown interest in my school to actually enroll?
To be sure, some melt is expected at every stage of the enrollment funnel. Not all prospects apply, not all applicants get admitted, and not all admits actually enroll. Even Harvard University, traditionally one of the strongest yield schools in the world, only sees 80 percent of admitted students actually enrolling. Across the United States, that number is closer to 30 percent.
Some of that melt is unavoidable. Students apply to multiple schools, and prospects purchased through SAT and ACT list buys inevitably get inundated with mail from your competitors. At the same time, there is always room for improvement.
With the right strategy, you can keep your prospects engaged, and improve the chances that they will eventually enroll at your institution. Here are some ideas you can implement we move into the heat of the fall 2018 admission cycle in order to keep your prospects' attention:
Offer Help, Not Promotion
First, you have to come to terms with a sobering but vital truth: you're not the only one communicating with your prospects. Many high school seniors receive multiple pieces of communication every single day. And all schools tend to promise the same thing: academic excellence, a student-focused atmosphere, and intense school spirit.
The way to help your institution stand out is to be different. Instead of promoting your extracurriculars, offer help that is specific to the ways high schoolers tend to inform themselves about college and start the application process. That could include:
Guides on how to fill out the FAFSA
Advice on how to sift through all those college promotional materials
A quiz on what major may be a good fit
And much more. The goal here is simple: give your prospects a reason to engage with you. The more help you can offer them and their parents, the more likely they will keep coming back to you as a helpful resource.
Get Creative With Campus Visits
Almost every school has recognized just how vital campus visits and open houses are in converting prospects to applicants, and applicants to students. But what if the students you're looking to engage are not interested or unable to come to your school?
In that case, it's time to get creative. A virtual tour, for instance, allows you to showcase your campus, dormitories, and classrooms in an interactive way. You can even add a virtual reality layer to make it seem more interested. Depending on your technical capabilities, you can also live-stream your open houses for any students and parents that couldn't make it.
Connect Prospects With Students
As painful as it may seem, potential college students don't always want to hear from administrators, admissions counselors, or marketing professionals. Instead, they tend to respond much more favorably to someone they can actually relate to - a current student at the institution.
Your admissions office probably already includes a number of current students as tour guides, letter stuffers, and administrative help. What if you can engage these same students for more specific student outreach? A simple text or social media message, designed to offer help and guidance on the college selection process, may be all a prospect needs to stay invested in your school until it comes time to enroll.
On a larger scale, personalized outreach is vital. Glossy brochures may look great to the university president, but they don't tend to differentiate your school from others. Personal outreach from students and faculty, on the other hand, might.
Don't Cut off Communication
Finally, let's end with a simple truth: when you cut off communication, your audience cuts off interest. Most colleges and universities have an established communication plan, which stipulates regular emails and printed pieces to students at specific times. Unfortunately, there might come a time when that communication plan is over.
When that happens, your prospects will continue to receive communication from potential colleges. It just won't come from you. Naturally, other institutions move top of mind, and their chances of enrolling with you decline drastically.
Instead, make sure that all of your prospects (seniors, juniors, sophomores, and transfers) receive continuous communication that is customized to their stage in your recruitment funnel and their individual needs. Any plan needs to go year-round, ensuring that your school's name never quite escapes the mind of potential students.
Losing the majority of your students prior to enrollment can be immensely frustrating. Fortunately, the above tips can help you maximize your resources to minimize melt, and welcome a healthy freshman class in fall 2018.