College Admissions Professionals Weigh-In.
Growing Enrollment Concerns in the US.
Reaching enrollment goals has long been a challenge for admissions teams, with Spring 2022 marking the fifth straight semester of enrollment declines. With the looming 2025 admission cliff projecting a 15% decrease in applicants over the next three years, along with the lasting effects of the pandemic, it’s no surprise that over 90% of enrollment professionals are concerned about meeting their student enrollment goals.
While it’s no easy feat, we’ve witnessed admissions experts persevere and achieve success by implementing data-backed, holistic enrollment strategies. One noteworthy example is our partners at SLU-Madrid, who increased their fall 2021 enrollment by 93% and welcomed their largest incoming class in decades by doing just that.
The Importance of Engaging Newly Admitted Students.
Engagement plays a critical role in driving student yield and eliminating melt. Heidi Buffington, Director of Admissions at SLU-Madrid, and her colleague, Cat Gaa, Admissions Communications Coordinator, joined Raftr in our latest webinar and offered some valuable engagement tips and best practices that helped them not only reach their 2021 enrollment goals but surpass them.
Discover the six challenges of engaging admitted students – as discussed in the webinar: “Surpassing Enrollment Goals: How a Holistic Admissions Strategy Increased Enrollment by 93% at SLU-Madrid,” along with the steps that SLU-Madrid’s admissions experts took to overcome them.
Challenge #1: Coordinating admissions cycles to send the right message to the right student at the right time.
As an Admissions Communications Coordinator at an international campus, SLU-Madrid’s Cat Gaa identifies students applying at different cycles as one of their biggest challenges. Their team must stay on top of when information is distributed and which prospects receive it.
Solution #1: Leverage a student management platform to create, maintain and track cohorts & subgroups of admits.
To help ensure they get the right message, to the right audience, at the right time, the team at SLU-Madrid utilizes Raftr’s admissions solution, YieldRaiser. It allows admissions teams to add, organize and manage subgroups each cycle as needed. While helping to disseminate informative guides and resources, track students (as well as parents and family!) sentiments, and pin important announcements and deadlines, to provide members with correct, real-time updates.
Challenge #2: Helping prospective students develop an early sense of belonging on campus to boost enrollment and remain competitive.
Heidi Buffington, Director of Admissions at SLU-Madrid, shared the importance of encouraging admitted students to feel like they belong to the SLU-Madrid Community. Their goal was to introduce these students to one another so they could meet, talk amongst themselves, and form connections, motivating them to enroll.
Solution #2: Encourage prospective students to enroll by understanding what matters most to them and developing the best strategies to offer personalized support.
Strong engagement means students are more likely to enroll and less likely to melt over the summer. By giving prospective students a space to meet their future classmates ahead of time, admins can empower students to share information and resources amongst themselves, all while encouraging them to form long-lasting connections by socializing with one another. With a digital community, admissions teams like SLU-Madrid’s can gain valuable insights into each admits journey. For example, admins can tap into what students are asking for, track the time of year when specific questions are asked, and use this information to provide relevant, targeted resources for admits in the future. Admins cut down the time spent on requests for support in the process, gain insight into withdrawals, and can utilize these findings to be proactive and adjust strategies and communications for the following year.
Challenge #3: A decrease in campus tours to demonstrate the benefits of enrolling in your university.
Campus tours can truly make all the difference, and historically, they’re one of the highest converting admissions strategies. But, due to the long-lasting effects of the pandemic, there’s less incline to travel for campus tours, which could impact the number of students visiting campus and ultimately choosing to enroll.
Solution #3: Put your best foot forward with a digital look and feel, so that admits can immerse themselves in your campus community.
During the webinar, the SLU-Madrid team described how Raftr gave students the ability to roam the campus digitally and get a look and feel of the culture of the campus and the city. Give admits and their families access to discover the best of what your campus community has to offer no matter where they are.
Challenge #4: Identifying prospective students on the verge of melting, who may not know how (or are too scared) to reach out or send inquiries.
Buffington spoke about a current SLU-Madrid student who shared her experience as a former admit. According to the student, she was so shy and nervous to reach out to upperclassmen and their professional team that she kept quiet and avoided asking her questions.
Solution #4: Empower students by providing them with multiple resource channels so they can choose how to best find answers, allowing them to remain connected in a way that suits them best.
It can be a daunting time for new students navigating their college transition. Provide prospects with different outlets to ask their questions and offer multiple opportunities for outreach so that they can choose what’s most comfortable for them. For example:
- Direct messaging gives students the ability to message in a 1:1 format
- Incognito chat allows them to ask questions anonymously
- AMA (Ask Me Anything) channel helps them easily discern the dedicated place to drop in their questions
You can also incorporate polls and surveys to gauge broader questions and topics to engage the wider community and see what the majority want to discover and hone in. And don’t forget to include a FAQ page to cover the essential questions. If more than one student is asking, there’s a likelihood that these are the questions that several students are looking for answers to and are too nervous to ask.
Challenge #5: Relying on social media as the central admitted students’ engagement hub.
While our partners at SLU-Madrid shared that social media and Facebook Groups were convenient for students, there were challenges with decreasing engagement, along with student moderators receiving complicated questions, all while having to think of ways to foster community and keep students informed in this capacity.
Solution #5: Create a private, designated digital space that your admins have complete control over and regain ownership of your community & data.
Hosting a dedicated admitted students community filters out the distractions and noise so that your team is in the driver’s seat when it comes to branding, safety and moderation, and membership management. Download reports and gather insights from the engagement happening around your community to help inform and enhance your efforts throughout your admissions cycles.
Challenge #6: Trying to engage more students with a lean (but mighty!) team and few resources to spare.
Across Higher Ed, teams are understaffed, time is stretched thin, and resources are minimal. Your admissions team wants to fulfill and surpass enrollment goals, but what are ways to be resourceful and effectively plan and manage your current operations?
Solution #6: Empower student leaders to take on more responsibility, and leverage automation tools, while still maintaining complete admin oversight.
At SLU-Madrid, they shared several ideas that worked for their team to help maximize their efficiency:
- Recruiting student workers to support team initiatives, leveraging their skills and interests, and giving them opportunities to own their tasks for growth and experience.
- Scheduling posts ahead of time will enable you to prioritize and plan for the future and save administrative time.
- Utilizing an admitted student survey supports discovery and distinguishing what matters most to prospective students
- Administering polls is an easy way to get students to participate and get started.
- Strategizing topics based on the cycle (e.g., academics, housing, and safety) and planning your content strategy around specific themes that’ll resonate most at each part of the cycle