The 5 key stages of college enrollment—and which metrics to track during each

Daily Briefing

The 5 key stages of college enrollment—and which metrics to track during each

Shifting demographics mean that enrollment marketing is more important now than ever before. The college-age population in the United States is predicted to fall by nearly 15% in the next decade, and colleges have already seen more competition for students.

To facilitate discussions on campus about enrollment marketing, we’ve compiled a quick guide to the different stages of the enrollment cycle, including examples of what to do and what to track during each stage. This is not an exhaustive list of metrics and activities, but it should provide a general sense of what enrollment teams focus on during each stage of the enrollment cycle.


Stage 1: Inquiries

Typical goals: Generate interest, build relationships with prospective students and their families, generate a strong pool of inquiries

Example steps: Identify students to target in your outreach, invite students to on- and off-campus events, launch email and direct mail campaigns to students and parents, identify and promote your school’s signature experiences, visit college fairs at high schools

Key metrics: Number of inquiries for each future class, website traffic, number of social media interactions, demographics of social media followers and website visitors

Stage 2: Applications

Typical goals: Increase completed applications overall, increase completed applications from high-priority applicants  

Example steps: Help students understand how to apply, continue to encourage campus visits, remind students to complete their application materials via text message or email, explain college pricing, promote your school’s unique offerings, meet with families, connect prospective students with current students online or through in-person events

Key metrics: Percentage of applications started but not completed (application melt), number of applications completed, demographics of students submitting applications

Stage 3: Admitted Students

Typical goals: Shape the diversity of your incoming class, admit students who are likely to enroll, deliver financial aid offers within a reasonable time, create easy-to-understand financial aid offers

Example steps: Identify which applicants are most likely to enroll, interview students, review applications, encourage admitted students to enroll, remind admitted students of deadlines for paperwork and deposits

Key metrics: Selectivity/acceptance rate (percentage of students accepted out of all who applied), number of admitted students who have completed their FAFSA applications

Stage 4: Deposits / Confirms

Typical goals: Encourage admitted students to confirm their decision by submitting a deposit, confirmation, or the next step to enrollment (such as a housing application)

Example steps: Introduce students to faculty and peers, help them explore your academic programs, host on- and off-campus events for admitted students

Key metrics: Yield rate (the percentage of admitted students who decide to attend)

Stage 5: Enrollment / Matriculation

Typical goals: Shepherd students through the logistics of enrolling and arriving on campus

Example steps: Send text message reminders of important deadlines, help students sign up for their first classes, manage summer orientation or bridge programs, meet with incoming students, answer questions from students and families

Key metrics: Summer melt (percentage of students who submit a deposit but never show up on campus), census report (snapshot of enrollment health and incoming class)

Learn more about the implications of the NACAC vote

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