As an admissions team, you certainly have your work cut out when it comes to hitting the student enrollment target. With so many new age study options, this tech-savvy generation is not easy to get hold off. A look at some statistics will accentuate this even better.
Only 34% of colleges meet enrollment targets and 55% of the admission directors overseeing admissions are very concerned about these set targets. Furthermore, only 50% of public colleges met the enrollment targets in 2016 as detailed in the Huffingtonpost. Another worrying statistic is the fact that 95% of calls placed by colleges to prospects result in no answer. And then, there’s competition to worry about – a 30% rise between 1980 and 2015.
So, you see, everything is actually set up to be quite difficult. You’re most likely working hard for each student, to get closer to your enrollment targets. But the question then remains; What really works? How we can increase student enrollment year after year? Let’s have a look at these ten tips proven to increase enrollment. It is a long post so we have done an infographic for the ones who don’t like to read much. Have a look
1) Harnessing Student Motivation
Choosing a school is a highly emotional decision, and emotion plays a huge role in motivating and encouraging a student to take the first step. Understanding what drives your prospects will empower you to create better marketing messages and admission pitch which resonates with the aspirations of your applicants and promotes action. If the motivation is not decoded properly – everything fails.
Check out this case study which compiled the data from 125,000 prospective students
A study by the University of Rochester also reveals that the motivations behind students seeking higher education have a big effect on not just their grades, but ultimately their ability to stay grounded as enrollees. Adequately motivated applicants have a higher chance of enrolling and remaining in the programs they choose to study in your school.
However, you can be the motivator, inspiring prospects to pick your school over others. One great way to achieve this is through testimonial and success stories. Most universities and colleges that have won with motivation have done it through the success of current or past students who speak the language that students want to hear.
2) Storytelling As A Tool
What’s your story as an institution? In the heat of enrollment targets, one common mistake education teams often make is forgetting that a school is a brand too and must be built like one. Especially when you consider the fact that storytelling in itself is the best form of marketing.
Sharon Aschaiek, when discussing storytelling in Education Marketing, emphasizes the importance of great stories, saying, “Audiences care about stories and characters because they want to see a journey or a struggle to overcome a problem.”
As far as you are concerned, your applicants, or put better, prospects, are your audience and telling them a story may just be all it takes to change everything.
Check out this super creative banner ad by College of creative studies. It is a parody of anti-drug ad campaigns, showing that kids are addicted to art and they can’t help it. They tell a story
3) Online properties: Website & Social Media
But, when you create these stories, the next question would naturally be, where do I tell these stories? This is where social media comes into play. Today’s students rely on their timelines for their news, their motivation, research, and even opinions.
The influence of this medium is so strong, that a study by Social Admissions report shows that one out of every two teens rely on social media in their research for which universities or colleges to apply for. Hence, you need to take your stories to where your audience is. And also remember, applying good social media strategies will only ensure that your prospects are constantly engaged with your school.
Once a student adds your university to their evaluation list, they would often check out your website to find out more. Having a well thought out website, in terms of structure as well as content can help influence the students’ final decision a great deal. The time spent on a university’s website is over more than 116 million hours. We can safely assume, that a huge percentage of these visitors would be candidates looking to learn more about the school.
Your website serves as a virtual campus tour for your prospects. When you design the website to provide answers to their questions, you increase the chances of them choosing your school. This includes a clear navigation pattern, fast loading pages, and mobile responsiveness. It is also important to get your enrollment team’s inputs, as they hold a valuable opinion about student needs and motivation.
4) Reducing Response Time Through Automation
Today’s generation wants instant answers to their queries. Education marketers who don’t adjust to this generation’s communication style may run the risk of being unable to effectively connect with them. The earlier you make the emotional connection the better chance you have because once the applicants have decided they like a particular school, the more difficult it is for them to think in the reverse direction. This is important in creating an emotional bridge between the both of you.
However, to make the whole process faster, autoresponder or automated follow-up feature of your enrollment system or CRM offers you the best chance at making the first connection, from delegating inquiries to the appropriate team members to following up, prioritization, reminders, scheduling, and sending responses. Check out how automated enrollment system can reduce the response time
5) Dynamic Engagement Strategies
Your applicants come from different walks of life and with different perspectives. With this in mind, your engagement strategy needs to be flexible in approach. Millennials have grown up in a digital world, where everyone is trying to sell to them. They are pretty smart at judging the intent behind the messages sent their way. Among so much noise, they look for something that is personal to them and can add value to their lives.
Marketing automation and engagement platform solve this problem by personalizing at scale. First, it fetches the background information of the prospect and then it tracks their activities and behavior based on that it sets the series of engaging messages which can be completely different, but equally relevant for two different prospects.
6) Leverage On Technology
The use of technology is becoming increasingly more decisive. Marketing and admission teams don’t just utilize it—they rely on it. And, with the availability of technology that does the hard work of automating, analyzing and sampling, recruiting teams can inform their strategy more effectively than ever before.
While generally a positive trend also holds its challenges—especially for the not-so-techy schools who do not have the resources or the time to implement a CRM or a marketing automation system due to integration and training challenges. The good news is the technology is getting intuitive with plug and play model which is a real deal for schools who don’t want to heavily invest in infrastructure.
In recent times, we’ve had enrollment teams use chatbots, enrollment notifications, and autoresponders to serve the applicants better. Technology also helps to widen the reach of our marketing and engagement efforts. Think social media channels like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, mobile apps, etc. Technology, when combined with marketing creates magic.
7) Mobile Application Process
Mobile device usage is on the rise and it’s only growing, especially among the younger crowd. Imagine opening a poorly designed irresponsive website on your phone where you need to constantly zoom in and out. Forget applying for inquiry, anyone would just abandon the website simply out of frustration. Wouldn’t you?
The easy application would mean being able to apply from any device, at any time, without ruining the user experience. Having a mobile responsive application process and form will only bode well for your university and have a direct impact on your application rates.
8) Do More With Analytics
There was a time when enrollment marketing was wholly measured by the success or failure it endured. Now, marketing has much more clarity. Not only is their data, but there are also metrics by which it can be measured. You can analyze what the best sources for lead generation, where the applicants are dropping out, which message they like, what causes them to take action.
These reports ensure that you’re putting your resources in the right direction and on the right target audience so that mistakes can be quickly corrected and proper decisions can be made.
But these cannot be achieved without the help of a mechanism that has been built to perform these duties. I refer to an enrollment system with strong reporting and dashboard utilities. Not only do you gather information about your prospects, but you’re also able to analyze the performance and the happenings of your admission reps, campuses, and courses.
9) Improve Your Visibility With SEO
67% of prospects use search engines as the initial source of getting information about prospective schools. To increase your school’s visibility online (unless you are an ivy league), you need to invest in search engine optimization for your website and all content therein. Every single page needs to be designed with the intent to rank on search engines, and not just your homepage. While discovering schools, prospects usually search for terms such as “Best art programs” or “Business courses” instead of the name of the school.
Identify a bucket of keywords or phrases that your school offers and that your candidates would be interested. There is a myriad of tools that let you know what your target audience is searching for. Use this data to your advantage, so that when prospects “Google” you, your school appears on top.
10) Hype Your Graduates
People don’t trust what you say. They trust what other people say about you. Student testimonials, successful case studies, awards, recognition are some of the examples of trust elements which add credibility to your brand. Showing prospects what you’ve done with previous students and what they’re achieving in the employment market can do a lot in convincing applicants that your school is the right one for them. Applicants are attracted to real stories and culture. Check out this great example by Georgetown University who use this acceptance story in their marketing campaigns
Technology At The Centre Of Student Enrollment
Enrolling students has never been tougher. And the reality is that it will continue to be tough. Hence, the need to move on from traditional means of enrollment, which ultimately slow down the whole process of admissions. The simple solution to this lies in the automation of enrollment process viz-a-viz technology, especially when it is readily available to your team for an ultimate turnaround in student enrollment