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3 things you can do to bolster your enrollment strategy in the new year

January 22, 2020

The new year is a natural time for reflection and presents a good opportunity to take a moment and evaluate your current enrollment strategy and performance. You may decide to stay the course; alternatively, you may identify tweaks to inflect your yield this year or make note of improvements you’d like to implement in future years.

As you take the pulse of your current strategy, keep in mind the following guiding principles to help direct your efforts.

1. Focus on executing your existing enrollment plans first

The spring semester is generally not the time to reevaluate your enrollment strategy at a high level. The greatest opportunity for inflecting performance in the winter and spring months is to ensure you’re successfully executing on your existing strategy. For example:

Are you deploying your communication plan effectively?

Have you contacted the number of prospective students you planned to?

Are communications being distributed at predetermined intervals?

Are you staying in communication with prospects as they move through the funnel and facilitating application completion?

Ask yourself: what part of our strategy am I most worried about and how well are we executing on it right now? If there is room for improvement, start there. Discuss your workplan, troubleshoot challenges with staff, and don’t be afraid to lead the division through a change if needed.

2. Get creative to appeal to prospective students


Once you’ve tackled the lowest hanging fruit—auditing execution of your current strategy—additional actions to inflect performance will require more flexibility and sometimes thinking outside the box.

For example, colleges and universities often focus on campus visits as a measure of interest, as well as a powerful inflection point in the enrollment funnel. But, first-generation, low-income students are less likely to visit. There’s also a growing number of prospective students who are applying to an increasing number of schools—and they can’t tour every school on their list.

While still encouraging visits from those who can, smart schools are finding new ways to engage prospective students in meaningful ways. Try connecting prospective students with a current student via phone or WhatsApp to help them make a human connection and feel like your school understands their needs and specific situation. Also be sure your website has a virtual tour option, so those that can’t visit in person can have the same immersive view of the school.

3. Use financial aid touchpoints to engage prospects

The financial aid process can feel overwhelming and too often becomes a barrier to students enrolling. However, it’s also full of touchpoints that colleges and universities can leverage to support students and keep them engaged with the enrollment process.

Take advantage of these opportunities to get in front of students and families—and make sure that none of their interactions with your school become negative experiences that discourage them from persisting through to enrollment.

Easy wins in financial aid communications
Acknowledge receipt of the ISIR to students
Take advantage of natural opportunities to connect with students. Acknowledging receipt of the ISIR, and other important documents they will submit, gives a sense of momentum and keeps them engaged in the process.
Provide families with a timeline
Make students and families feel like a priority, and help them avoid the frustration of not knowing what’s going on and where they are in the process. Communicate clearly what families can expect from you and when, and then strive to consistently meet those expectations.
Use the Gunning-Fog Index to audit the communications that families receive
Ensure financial aid messages are written in plain English (not “financial aid-ese”) and eliminate jargon students won’t understand.

Most importantly, take steps to ensure that every interaction students and families have with your institution—whatever the message being delivered—is a positive one.

Much of this can be accomplished by investing in active listening training for frontline aid personnel and anyone who has contact with students and families. Recognizing it’s difficult to discuss finances and there will be things counselors can’t change, having good listening skills and making families feel heard can still go a long way.

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