By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
5 minute read
In the majority of my recent conversations with college admission and enrollment management leaders, I’ve been getting told that admit numbers are up over last year.
As you enter the home stretch with this next class of students, your admitted student events will play a critical role in helping you achieve (or miss) that all important enrollment goal.
So, how will yours be different, unique, or better than your competitors?
I ask because more and more I’m hearing students describe these events just like they describe most campus visits – they all look and sound very similar. Admitted students sit through a bunch of sessions and talks, they hear from a student panel or two, they meet one or more representatives from other offices, they get a bite to eat and tour campus if they’d like, and then they go home and try to process what was a whirlwind of a day.
That leads me to my first piece of advice. Your admitted student events need to contain less information and more opportunities for engagement and connections.
If students are listening more than engaging at your events, I encourage you to go back to the drawing board and identify ways for them to connect throughout the day with current students, other admitted students, and other staff members.
Here are a handful of additional things to consider as well as some tips and strategies that will help you deliver a more enjoyable and impactful student-centered experience:
- What happens in the first 20-30 minutes? The start of your event sets the tone for the rest of the day. What kind of initial feeling is your school creating from the time a student/family parks their vehicle, to when they check-in, to when your opening speaker finishes? Is everything organized, clear, and smooth? What’s the energy level and overall vibe like? And is your opening speaker authentic, engaging, and relatable, or does it feel like he/she is reciting a script and essentially vomiting information? Consider having a recent graduate or well-known alum begin the day by sharing their story from how they made their college decision to how they got where they currently are in their professional career. Connect the dots for the audience and get them to visualize.
- Admitted and committed/deposited students, now what? While the majority of attendees haven’t made a final decision yet, you’re going to have some students who have already committed/deposited. How are you leveraging that group to influence students who are undecided? Consider breaking off into smaller groups at some point and doing an interactive activity that gives undecided and committed students the opportunity to get introduced and chat a little.
- What’s your fun component? A carnival type party with various activities and competitions, food trucks, a DJ, are just few possibilities. How about an interactive family feud type event or a match game like NACAC does at the national conference every year? Everybody loves free swag! Whatever you come up with, make it low pressure and enjoyable.
- Give them options. Building off the last point, because students are at different stages and they don’t all have the same interests, why not give them options to self-select different sessions and discover what they want? It will make your event feel more personal.
- The same sessions as every other school? Student panels are great, but what makes yours different, unique, or better than your competitors? I encourage you to get creative and come up with a different spin on your sessions. Why not have a group of first-year students talk about how they made their college decision (or got past fear of making the wrong decision), or what those first few weeks of school were like (both the good and the challenging parts). What about a separate session with relatable and relevant content for out-of-state students or first-generation students? And if you have a decent size commuter or transfer population, don’t forget those groups either.
- Involve your current students more than any other group. Both admitted and committed students crave interaction with your current students more than they do any other staff member on your campus. Again, how are you creating opportunities for authentic connections that don’t feel forced?
- What about parents and other family members? How are you going to make this influencer group feel valued? They have different fears, concerns, and needs that you can help address and alleviate. Consider doing a parent panel that contains parents who represent different groups of students. Or, provide sessions that talk about things like safety and the all-important financial aid/paying for college discussion, as well as tips on helping your child with their decision, and/or letting go.
- Celebrate when they decide! When a student feels ready to take the final step and select your school, do they know where to go during your event? More importantly, how are you celebrating this monumental decision? Some schools have those students ring a bell, sign a banner or wall, or get something that’s branded. Regardless of what you do, make sure you celebrate the student. Furthermore, make sure other students, parents, and families see/hear these celebrations.
- Document the day. Not every admitted or committed/deposited student will be able to attend these events. How are you capturing the connections and other exciting and impactful moments throughout the day and then sharing those after the fact (on social media or in a personalized email or text) with students who were unable to attend? This is a massive opportunity that most schools aren’t leveraging. Doing so can also motivate this group to attend a future event.
I recognize a lot of time and effort goes into organizing and executing these events. If your data is similar to most schools, though, you understand the ROI and impact of a successful, student-centered event that is fun, helpful, and feels personal.
If you’d like to talk more about something I said in this article, or if you want to bounce an admitted student event idea off me, feel free to email me at email@example.com
And if you found this article helpful, forward it to someone else on your campus who could also benefit from reading it.