If you struggle with under-enrolled programs year after year, you’re not alone. At both of the institutions where I was an admissions counselor, we consistently struggled to fill seats in programs like History and Anthropology as students increasingly gravitated toward business, health, and STEM fields in search of more tactical training.
Many enrollment leaders don’t grapple with this problem until after applications start rolling in, when numbers become stark. But shaping doesn’t start with applications – it starts with recruitment. Here are two emerging recruitment tactics you can leverage to help fill your enrollment gaps.
Leverage more creative recruitment events
Tactics such as school visits, college fairs, and open houses – are here to stay. But with the pandemic having restricted many of these activities in one way or another, enrollment leaders must get more creative in how they engage with prospective students, especially those who might be interested in your high-priority programs.
Take the school visit, for example. During traditional (in-person) visits, admissions officers typically highlighted multiple, wide-ranging topics in a short period of time. The room would be full of students with diverse interests and for some of them, that visit may have been their only opportunity to engage with your college directly. In this context, by relying solely on in-person events that catered to the masses, enrollment leaders had limited ability to tailor their presentations to the individual students in the room.
Now that your virtual infrastructure has likely expanded, so too has your ability to engage with your prospects in creative, tailored ways. By expanding your recruitment strategy to include both in-person and virtual events, you can speak to a wider variety of topics to more easily catch students’ attention. However, today’s students are bombarded with from across the internet each day and they are considering more institutions than their peers did in previous years.
To cut through the noise, you’ll need to think outside of the box while considering Gen Z’s preferences. For example, based on a 2020 Wisr analysis, we found that student-produced content saw higher levels of engagement than content produced by staff. At the same time, Gen Z craves personalized and digitally robust content with students we surveyed thinking that every college should have a social media presence.
With that in mind, consider enhancing your prospects’ ability to speak directly with current students. That could be through one-on-one “coffee chats” or through a “fireside chat” event that speaks to a larger number of prospects at once. In doing so, they can give your prospects an inside look into what their experience would be like in your high-priority programs and how what they are studying will help further their goals. When staff members create content, consider giving students a firsthand look at what their experience would be like from a different vantage point, such as a mock class with a creative theme (such as a philosophy class that explores what it means to live “the good life”).
Diversify your lead sources to find more right-fit students
As students gravitate away from standardized tests, those list sources are becoming less reliable in helping you connect with right-fit prospects. In turn, it’s becoming increasingly important to capture student interest via platforms that they already use.
Social media is one example of this. By posting creative content that highlights your under-enrolled programs, the platforms’ algorithms can do the heavy lifting to promote that content to the most relevant audiences. The trick is to create content that balances your university’s brand identity with the platforms that you’ve chosen. On Spotify, for example, you could launch a podcast that speaks to current events and how they tie back to themes explored in your under-enrolled programs. On TikTok, however, you’ll resonate with more students by creating more casual videos that contribute to trending conversations.
Cappex is another great tool. Broadly, Cappex helps institutions supplement their traditional list sources by connecting them with prospects from a database of 1.5M+ current high school students. But for under-enrolled programs, Cappex Candidates is where the magic happens. Instead of connecting with students who have actively demonstrated interest in you, Candidates lets you search for right-fit students by their intended major (among other criteria) so that you can connect with prospects who might be interested in your under-enrolled programs – but don’t yet know that you exist.
Shaping your class will always have its challenges. But by connecting the dots between your recruitment tactics and enrollment goals, and leveraging emerging platforms and channels, you can more easily overcome current recruitment challenges to reach your goals.
David is an Associate Director with EAB’s Enrollment Services division. In this role, he works with leaders of undergraduate enrollment programs to share institutional success stories, identify best practices, and transform those insights into a variety of digital and print content, including blog posts, infographics, and webinars.
Prior to joining EAB, David spent seven years in the admissions offices at Elon University and NYU Abu Dhabi, where he designed the campus’ first all-virtual recruitment strategy in the immediate wake of the pandemic.
In his spare time, you can find David cooking, planning his next international adventure, and eagerly awaiting Marvel’s next film.