In this era of expanded test-optional policies, college application behaviors are more varied, making deposit decisions even less predictable for enrollment leaders. Students who graduated high school in 2021, especially first-generation and lower-income students, enrolled in college at a much lower rate than previous years. So, to increase your yield rate this year, it will be critical to address the unique needs of underserved students.
Before becoming the Partner Success and Engagement Manager at College Greenlight, I spent 10 years as a college access advisor and advised more than 500 first-generation and lower-income students in Chicago. During this time, I found that incremental decisions around academic, cultural, and financial fit all played a role in students’ ultimate choice of school – and personal connections significantly influenced the outcome.
Tapping into counselor relationships, familial support, and peer influencers is key to increasing yield among first-generation and lower-income students. Here are some tips for how to do this well.
Why you need a unique yield strategy for high-potential, underrepresented students
High-potential students, especially first-generation or underrepresented students, are highly sought after by colleges that are dedicated to increasing access. In today’s competitive landscape, these students have increasingly more admissions and employment options—making them harder to yield.
Despite your team’s best efforts to woo these students, some won’t engage with your office at all and others will miss important enrollment milestones throughout the summer. This may not be due to a lack of interest in your college, but rather due to the fact that students from communities with lower college-going rates are less familiar with the college admissions process. As a result, they are less likely to pay attention to inbound communications or applicant portals after decision release. They are more likely to tap into their existing networks of support for answers. Thus, it's important to account for and prioritize these support networks when considering your yield strategy.
Empower counselors to help students complete important enrollment milestones
When counselors advise students about where to apply and, ultimately, where to enroll, they know which “fit” factors will guide the student's final decision. They help shape family opinions about where students should enroll by including parents and guardians in developing an initial college list. This guidance is especially helpful for parents of first-generation college students who want to be involved in their students’ decisions but may not know how.
Make sure counselors understand the required steps to enroll at your institution and ask them to help get admitted students to take those next steps!
These are a few ways to communicate important yield updates to counselors:
- Send counselor communications to both CBO and school-based counselors
- Share a digest of admitted student events with counselors
- Copy the student’s counselor on admitted student event communications (especially funded visit programs)
- Create a copy of your admitted student checklist for counselors
Tell newly admitted students how you’ll support them financially
As economic conditions continue to change during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to prepare your financial aid team for a high volume of re-evaluations and questions about the verification process. You can consider CBO counselors part of your team, too. They are just as invested in helping your future students receive a complete financial aid package and understand the cost of attendance at your institution. Even though FERPA might limit sharing specifics about award letters, informing counselors when award letters, appeals, and verification documents become available helps them have important financial aid conversations with students. You can also make your financial aid communications more clear to help students know where to get support when completing financial aid requirements.
Make it clear early in the process that you want to eliminate as many financial barriers as possible for lower-income students. If you have an enrollment or housing deposit waiver available for Pell-eligible students, let them know as soon as they’re admitted. Will students under a particular EFC threshold receive a refund with their fall bill? Does your institution provide startup grants or travel stipends for out-of-state students? Tell students and their families what to expect financially before May 1 to help them make a decision sooner. When the financial steps to enrolling at your institution are clear, students have more confidence in your pledge to provide affordable education.
Personal connections improve yield outcomes and student belonging
Many college access organizations strongly encourage their students to visit campuses where they’re admitted prior to submitting an enrollment deposit. However, virtual events can be influential when designed with specific populations in mind. For example, try hosting family-centered events instead of separating parents from students. It’s a unique opportunity to distinguish yourself as a supportive institution for first-generation students whose families want to support their child’s path to college even if the process is new to them.
Connections with current students also make a tremendous impact on enrollment decisions. They help admitted students feel connected to campus and to peers they can relate to, setting an early foundation for feelings of belongingness once students arrive to your campus. Some CBOs will create their own student-to-student connections at institutions that aren’t already providing those opportunities.
Leverage more CBO partnerships to help yield underrepresented students this year by directly asking counselors which academic, social, and financial factors matter most to their students. Don’t miss the opportunity to enroll high potential students by limiting your “yield strategy” to admitted student events.
Ready to find out more?
Learn more yield-influencing strategies from our panel of CBO counselors.