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Episode #32
Filling Seats Podcast | May 2, 2023

8 strategies to prioritize for the next enrollment cycle

In this episode:

We're sharing 8 strategies to prioritize for the next enrollment cycle. You'll also hear from past podcast guests with their perspective.

Find out:

  • How to combat the decline in college-bound students and increase in competition
  • What channels you might be using ineffectively or overlooking
  • All the ways personalization can be utilized to boost enrollment
Lauren Felter

Lauren Felter

University Liaison

Podcast Inst Logos-29

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Host: You're listening to filling seats, the state of enrollment, marketing, and higher ed. Hosted by StudentBridge. In this podcast. You'll learn, what's working to grow shape and sustain enrollment. At colleges and universities directly for marketers thought leaders and ed tech innovators, because anyone can design a brochure, but not anyone can fill seats.


[00:00:27] Host: Welcome to episode 32 of the filling seats podcast.

[00:00:33] Host: In this episode, we're sharing eight strategies to prioritize for the next enrollment cycle. This is a new episode format we're introducing where you'll hear from us. Sharing data and insight. As well as from past podcast guests, with their perspective.

[00:00:49] Host: This is part of some exciting changes happening at student bridge. And we can't wait to share more about them soon. So let's dive in. This episode is being released on May 2nd, 2023. Which is the day after the most stressful day. In any enrollment professionals life.

[00:01:06] Host: Each year. And whether you're celebrating on May 2nd. Or calling through data or continuing last-ditch outreach. You're inevitably beginning to think about the next enrollment cycle.

[00:01:18] Host: With that comes new challenges for enrollment teams.

[00:01:21] Host: Many schools are continuing to experience declining enrollment and increased competition for fewer college bound students. As of spring 2022. There were 1.3 million fewer students in college than in spring 20, 20 and early data from last fall suggests this downward trend is continuing. But this decrease in enrollment is only part of the problem.

[00:01:47] Host: Schools of all types and sizes are facing increased competition with prospective students applying and being admitted to more colleges and universities then in years prior. So to get ahead and stay ahead next year, your team will need to evaluate your existing practices.

[00:02:04] Host: And determine the best ways to increase discoverability, engage with students and their supporters and stand out from your competition.

[00:02:13] Host: So here are the eight strategies that will be critical to your school's successful enrollment efforts in the 20 23 24 cycle. Here we go. Number one, prioritize mobile communication.

[00:02:29] Host: Text messages and emails continue to be a powerful and effective way to communicate with prospective students. The vast majority of gen Z. I own a smartphone and are actively using them for five to 10 hours per day. Texts have an average open rate of 98%, which is more than three times the average open rate for emails.

[00:02:54] Host: And more importantly, students want to receive texts from colleges. Nine out of 10 are open to them during the enrollment process. But that doesn't mean you should be texting as much as you're emailing. Students prefer to receive tax after they've applied or been admitted in some only as much as once per month, depending on the topic, but they are open to receiving email more frequently, like once per week.

[00:03:21] Host: Here's Mary Beth marks from university of the Pacific, talking about email content.

[00:03:26] Mary Beth Marks: It has to be more than just words. They are looking for that storytelling aspect or , that video or picture or, gif something a little bit more interactive than just here's the top three reasons why you should apply, click here to apply.

[00:03:41] Mary Beth Marks: What's in it for me? So, email still is a valid channel, especially for your very highly engaged students.

[00:03:48] Mary Beth Marks: and you can't dismiss it. The challenge is making sure that the content that you're putting in there calls for an action and is what the student wants to digest.

[00:03:59] Host: And here's Noelle Stovall from Jacksonville state university. Talking about the importance of starting a conversation via text message.

[00:04:07] Noelle Stovall: we are giving action items to students where it's not just us like. Throwing information at them, message after message, after message. but asking them questions and saying, here's a little bit of information, even just a reaction to this, do you want the link to learn more information about it?

[00:04:22] Noelle Stovall: Do you, have questions like. About financial aid, or do you have questions about social fit or do you have questions about getting involved? And we give them those options? Cuz sometimes the students are like, I don't know what I have questions about. So we try to help prompt those conversations, which leads to those personalized conversations and getting their questions answered.

[00:04:42] Host: The key takeaway is to use texts and emails strategically and with an intentional frequency. Content like admin announcements, deadline reminders, key marketing messages, authentic student stories, and anything that opens the line for two-way communication. All perform well via text and email text messages can be used for time-sensitive items requiring action. While emails can be used to keep your school top of mind.

[00:05:08] Host: No matter what the content is, the open rate will drop significantly. If the channel is used too often or irrelevant information is being sent.

[00:05:17] Host: Next up number two, personalized communication matters.

[00:05:22] Host: In almost every episode of this podcast, personalization has come up as a topic of discussion. We all know its impact, but we aren't all capable of carrying it out due to limited bandwidth and resources. In a recent survey of high school seniors, only 9% of students felt they received very personalized and relevant outreach from colleges.

[00:05:44] Host: And there was a 15% increase in students saying they felt all college communication looked and sounded alike. Personalization ensures your school stands out. Clearly showcases your unique value and get students more bought in to being part of your community. It also makes them feel valued as individuals, rather than being just a number.

[00:06:07] Host: Here's Bob Johnson, a higher ed consultant talking about personalization.

[00:06:13] Bob Johnson: I still do a fair amount of secret shopping and become inquiries at school. And when you do that, most of those schools will ask you what academic program you're interested in.

[00:06:24] Host: Never send you information

[00:06:26] Bob Johnson: And then never send you information about that early in the process of. and it can be done. this was a project I did a couple of years ago, a regional university.

[00:06:38] Bob Johnson: I inquired as a pre-med student and within the first five emails. I got back an email from the chair of the biology department, telling me about how many pre-med students were majoring in biology and a couple of emails later. This is all within the first six weeks. I got an email from the chair of the pre-med committee at that regional university in Wisconsin that I can guarantee you did not have, uh, you know, gazillion dollars to spend on.

[00:07:09] Bob Johnson: Email communications and things of that sort

[00:07:11] Bob Johnson: it's possible to do it, but very few places do.

[00:07:15] Host: Here are a few ways. Any school can personalize content, no matter the team size budget or technology.

[00:07:22] Host: Include a student's preferred name in emails, texts, mail on web pages and in communication to parents and other family members.

[00:07:31] Host: Send information based on their interests, both from form fills and actions they've taken online. Make it easy for students to connect one-on-one for questions.

[00:07:41] Host: Align messages with where students are in the search and decision making processes.

[00:07:46] Host: And send content that has current student stories who have similar backgrounds, majors, or from the same area.

[00:07:54] Host: That brings us to number three, improve virtual tours. Most enrollment professionals agree that tours are one of the most effective strategies within the entire process.

[00:08:05] Host: But not all students are able to visit campus in person at all, or at a convenient time to take necessary action. Transportation costs, health concerns. Scheduling constraints. And family member commitments can impact a student's ability to visit campus in person.

[00:08:23] Host: For the most recent class of high school seniors half had not yet visited a college or university by this fall.

[00:08:30] Host: No longer can virtual just be a nice to have not having a viable and impressive virtual tour will affect your enrollment.

[00:08:39] Host: Here's drew Granucci from university of Connecticut on their virtual strategy.

[00:08:44] Drew Granucci: Covid forced us to really adapt. And while I am sure that many institutions around the country have found that the in-person experience is more impactful, the virtual experiences still have a role to play and are an important part of this process.

[00:09:04] Drew Granucci: overall

[00:09:05] Drew Granucci: We know these can be more accessible for students and families who may not be able to get to UConn or may just be dipping their toes into their engagement with us and learning more about us initially before putting the resources towards a campus visit.

[00:09:23] Host: To have an effective virtual tour ensure. A distraction, free environment that will keep students engaged long enough to take action. A variety of content, including video user generated content photos. 360 degree images and testimonials. And a way to capture stealth visitor information and harness that data for actionable insights.

[00:09:49] Host: And now number four. Allow the campus visit to be personalized.

[00:09:54] Host: We've already talked about the importance of personalized communication, but personalization is also important for campus visits. In order for a visit to be effective. Students need to get a feel for campus, see themselves fitting in and get all their questions answered, but that can't possibly be done with the same script and walking path for every single visitor.

[00:10:18] Host: Every student who visit, wants to know very detailed information about their program, their interests, where they're going to live, where they will eat, who they will be friends with. Just to name a few. Here's Cassie Montgomery from Amarillo college on the importance of respecting students' time during the campus visit.

[00:10:37] Cassie Montgomery: they are gifting us with their day. Time is precious. So when someone brings me their time, I need to capitalize on it as much as possible.

[00:10:45] Cassie Montgomery: I think that we've learned that in the consumer industry, people don't like commercials. And so you don't want to be a commercial. You don't want to be salesy. You want to build a relationship with them. You want to give them an experience.

[00:10:59] Host: Deploying a customizable virtual and self guided tour solution that accompanies your existing guided campus tour is an incredibly effective way for students to get a robust experience, that's both structured and personalized. A few things to look for in a virtual and self guided tour solution are the ability to personalize based on academic or personal interests. How much time the student has available on campus and additional needs like admissions or financial aid info.

[00:11:31] Host: which brings us to number five. Showcase authenticity through students' stories. Students crave authentic content because it provides a trustworthy view of what it's really like to be a student at your school.

[00:11:46] Host: 70% of high school seniors wanted to hear from current students during the recruitment process, this type of content can be done through both video production and user generated content. Often schools worry about the oversight and approvals needed to publish content created by current students. But here's Lindsey Nyquist from Fort Lewis college talking about authentic student created content.

[00:12:11] Lindsay Nyquist: When I hear other institutions talking about how they work with students, it seems like it's often still really locked down. Like they'll let a student make a piece of content, but then it has to get vetted by three different people before it can go live.

[00:12:24] Lindsay Nyquist: We're a little more free with that, and I think that leads to better content and more authentic content, which is what this generation wants to see.

[00:12:32] Host: Here are a few ideas for authentic content that drives enrollment. Testimonials from current students day in the life videos to highlight what it's like to be a student at your college or university user generated content where students share about a favorite location on campus, student interviews about why they chose your school over other options.

[00:12:54] Host: Messages from alumni focused on how their experiences helped them after graduation. And user generated content from social media, with the creators permission, of course. And now for number six, create a memorable admin moment.

[00:13:10] Host: With increased competition for students not ensuring a positive and memorable accepted student experience can be a costly mistake. And it all starts with that initial notification. Students are often accepted to multiple institutions. That means how and how quickly you let them know they're in, is super important.

[00:13:31] Host: When you're looking to stand out from your competitors. Historically schools have relied on mailing, a letter or packet to get the word out, which makes students wait unnecessarily long to get the news. And sometimes it can feel impersonal. Not to mention the snail mail can be costly. And at times unreliable.

[00:13:49] Host: Reaching students quickly, ideally via text message is key to getting ahead. And creating a lasting positive impression.

[00:13:58] Host: But this moment is about more than just an exchange of information. It's a moment of celebration. And an opportunity to make students and their families feel welcome and excited about joining your community. Here are five musts for impactful acceptance announcements. Congratulate students for their accomplishment.

[00:14:17] Host: Welcome them to your community. Make it easy for them to share the good news with friends and family. Highlight must know, information focusing most on what's relevant to them right now. And last provide clear, actionable, next steps.

[00:14:33] Host: Next up number seven, leverage social media. It's no surprise to anyone listening that all prospective students from gen Z to adult learners. Use social media and that this use will continue to grow. But the enrollment marketer question has been do students once you hear from us on social media and the answer is yes. 78% of high school juniors said that social media was anywhere from somewhat to extremely influential in their college search process.

[00:15:05] Host: Students are using social media to conduct their initial search narrow down where they want to apply and make their final decision.

[00:15:13] Host: A common concern about adopting social media as a strategy is that it's yet another thing to do on top of direct marketing tours, reading applications, recruitment, travel, and everything else your team is doing. Here's Chelsea Holly from Spelman college

[00:15:29] Host: talking about how her lien team executes their strategy on social.

[00:15:34] Chelsea Holley: I've run into a lot of folks who still aren't maximizing social. And I think it feels like a big and scary thing,

[00:15:41] Chelsea Holley: especially if you don't have a full-time staff member dedicated to it. for the most part, we are running a full social media content plan out of the Office of Admissions. We have two full-time staff that are leads on that project. And we also employ a number of student workers that

[00:15:57] Chelsea Holley: do video content, host Instagram lives, do a day-in-the-life.

[00:16:01] Chelsea Holley: I think that is really a missed opportunity if we're not speaking to our students in that space.

[00:16:07] Host: A few low lift ways to put out regular content on social are day in the life videos created by ambassadors or other trusted student representatives. Live Q and a, or ask me anythings via Instagram stories. And Facebook lives for parents and family members on applying financial aid, the housing process.

[00:16:27] Host: And more.

[00:16:28] Host: If your perspective, students are already going to social channels to search for your school. Don't you want to be actively contributing to the content that they're seeing.

[00:16:36] Host: And last, but not least, especially if you're a parent. Number eight. Engaged family members through the entire process. It's no shock that parents and family members play a role in the research application and decision making processes of going to college. 99% of parents said they are anywhere from very, to somewhat involved in the college planning process.

[00:17:02] Host: But for many schools, communicating to parents can be an afterthought or a few and far between strategy instead of a constant. Here's Laura Rudolph from Transylvania university. Talking about the importance of communicating with parents and family members.

[00:17:18] Laura Rudolph: We always want to empower the student be the person who's filling out the application, being able to call us and email us directly, and empowering them to start learning how to be an adult. But it would be remiss of us to think that the parent is not involved every single step of the way and is still not making those things happen behind the scenes.

[00:17:38] Laura Rudolph: So communication is an area for parents that we've put significantly more time and resources in the past few years than we have prior. So whether it's letting them know that a deadline is coming up in two days or that the student has gone 60 days and hasn't completed their application, we're gonna let that parent know and we see it work.

[00:17:54] Laura Rudolph: We send them emails, we send them texts. They have a parent and family webpage on our website. So we really see the parent as an extension of the student, and we need to recruit them just like we recruit their student.

[00:18:03] Laura Rudolph: On a generational level, they are more apt to see their parent as a friend previous generations of us. We've looked at what these generations want and we've changed how to talk to them. And we've changed what content that we present to them.

[00:18:17] Host: Here are the types of communication. Parents said they wanted to receive from schools. Info from parents of current students, graduation, statistics, and outcomes. Admission requirements and deadlines, student life info, academic program info, campus, visit opportunities and information about scholarships. Communicating with parents directly can help them feel welcome. Highlight important information, establish a trusting relationship, reassure them through the process and get them on your side.

[00:18:48] Host: It also helps to ensure that students and their families are on the same page.

[00:18:53] Host: If you're ready to jumpstart your success for the next enrollment cycle, or if anything, in this episode piqued your interest. Visit student to schedule a meeting with one of our team members. If you're attending any upcoming conferences the summer or fall. We'd love to see you at CIVSA RNL NACAC or high ed web. Just to name a few.

[00:19:16] Host: This is the Filling Seats podcast, hosted by StudentBridge, Data discussed in this episode, came from the national student clearing house niche. The center for generational kinetics. RNL NACAC. Inside higher ed Yieldify Gartner Salesforce. Stackla M stoner, the pew research center and EAB.

[00:19:37] Host: If you enjoyed this episode, leave a rating and review and don't forget to subscribe. For more information about the podcast or to let us know, you'd like to be a guest visit Thanks for listening!