By Ethan Penland, Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
If you can believe it, you have admitted students who are, and have been, ready to say yes to committing to your institution.
I recently dove into our database to see when students are deciding which institution they plan to attend. I took a sample of 1,000 students from a mix of private and public institutions, and I quickly found something that may shock you.
A whopping 46.8% of students said they had either made their mind up BEFORE the spring term or by the end of January.
If you were like me, I expected a much larger portion of responses to be distributed around the March, April, or May months, but that was not the case. So, if that many students are ready to make their decision, why are they not verbally committing or depositing at the same rate?
Two things stand out from the responses we are hearing from students:
- Institutions are not actually asking if students are ready to commit or deposit.
- Institutions haven’t filled in the gaps for the student to feel confident to complete their deposit or confirmation.
Let’s start with ways to provide “the ask” effectively. Before you go and blast out a text or email asking all admitted students if they are ready to commit, take time to create intentional and segmented messaging that adds some level of personalization. Have they toured? Have they completed the FAFSA? Have they received a scholarship? Ultimately, what indicators can you use to not only segment the populations but what points can you reference in your communications to add personalization and recognition for what they have completed or accomplished?
Furthermore, asking should begin with admitted students you’ve fostered a relationship with through intentional and direct outreach. Admissions counselors who have been in ongoing discussions with students can, and are positioned to, begin asking their admitted students if they are ready to commit. Students will not be put off by their counselor asking a genuine question, especially if the counselor has been genuine throughout the recruitment process. The keyword here is “genuine” – if it sounds like you are just shooting for numbers, you likely won’t get the response you’re hoping for.
Now, let’s pivot to the missing ingredient–context. Students, time and time again tell us that they don’t have enough information to feel confident in being able to commit to their decision. No, not more information about your campus events, places to get food on campus, or where they are going to hang out. They need information that walks them through processes and steps that are essential parts to them enrolling at your institution. So, before defaulting to the recruitment tactics of sending more promotional items, countless brag points, and generalized messaging on what students need to do, stop and reflect on where students are left seeking answers and give them the necessary support to walk them through each step. Those hurdles that students are encountering vary from institution to institution, but to give you a place to start, anything related to financial aid is where we see the most confusion–for the admitted student and their families.
I encourage you to evaluate which steps or processes are continuously challenging for students at your institution and provide segmented programming to help overcome that barrier for the student. Yes, you may be able to quickly identify a few examples, but look to your CRM for help. In my last blog, I mentioned why notes and interactions need to be added to your CRM, and one of my reasonings was to be able to recognize trends to help with your communications. In this case, if you are seeing trends of calls, emails, and interactions around certain time periods or certain processes, maybe you have an opportunity to supply context.
A good way to consider this is to think of it as a puzzle. In the puzzle box, you get all of the pieces and then a finished picture of the puzzle for reference. Instead of always directing students to the picture for help, jump in and help put the puzzle together, piece by piece. Putting a puzzle is always going to be easier with help, especially when the help knows where the pieces go. If you do this, you are not only instilling confidence in the student that they have the ability to complete the necessary processes, you are also instilling the perspective that students and families need to feel like they can succeed at your institution. From there, you have opened the door to begin your ask for a commitment from your admitted students.
I can recognize that some are going to feel uncomfortable asking if a student is ready to commit to their institution, but guess what–they want you to ask! They want to feel wanted at your institution, and by asking if they are ready to commit to your institution, they will get to experience that feeling of being wanted and valued that other institutions are not offering.
If you found this article helpful, pass it along to a friend or colleague. If you have questions on how to approach anything discusses above, let’s have that chat! Send a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org with what you want to discuss, and we can set up a time to talk.