By Ethan Penland, Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
While everyone is looking forward to the start of May, admissions and enrollment leaders tend to have a different perspective about this time of year. I remember those worrisome feelings and thoughts as I would run my enrollment report in Slate first thing in the morning during those days and weeks leading up to the May 1st deadline.
During this point in the recruitment process, we see many using the same common tactics–one last push towards getting as many students to deposit through cold calls, sending generic and heavy-selling emails, and trying gimmicky giveaways and raffles. What also is interesting about this time of year is how much time and energy is spent to make all of these tactics happen in such a short amount of time. It would be something if this type of urgency and energy is spent at other points of the recruitment process, huh? I digress.
For those who are in this position, trying to make a last-ditch effort to have a handful more students deposit before the deadline, you need to create engagement.
This is not an earth-shattering concept, nor is it a new foreign approach to the recruitment process. But what it is is an abandoned tactic during this time of the year. It is a proven and successful practice that is tossed out of the window and replaced with mass marketing and outreach.
Here are some tips to successfully warrant returns on your efforts of adding in engagement as you approach the May 1st deadline:
- Stop with the one-sided messaging. I secret shop a lot of schools, and I receive a lot of emails. Every message I’m receiving right now as a prospective student that is encouraging me to take action has one thing in common: they talk at me and not with me. Read your emails and ask yourself if they sound one-sided instead of conversational and engaging. To do this, simply add a direct and intentional question at the bottom of your emails that tie back into the topic of the message. For example, if your email topic is about encouraging students to deposit to be able to register for the classes they need for their schedule, consider adding in a question like, “This is a big step to take, so is there anything preventing you from being able to register? How can I help, if so?” The idea is to invite them to engage with you so that you have the opportunity to get them to the point of taking action confidently.
- Break down your outreach. Consider how great anglers approach fishing. They don’t just go out into an arbitrary part of a lake, cast out just any type of bait to catch just any type of fish, and they sure do not keep repeatedly cast all day in the same spot. They are intentional with the way they fish. Creating engagement with prospective students is very similar to fishing. Simply casting a wide net doesn’t always bring back the most prospects. Look at your student populations, and send out segmented, strategic, and intentional outreach, based on actions they have previously taken.
- Don’t spam students with cold calls. Before you get that urge to have your whole team start calling, stop. Students tell us in every survey we conduct that they do not want to be cold-called. To make those phone calls productive, let them know you are planning to call ahead of time. Students, in general, do not like you calling, but they have a higher tolerance when you let them know you are going to call ahead of time, and why. Phone calls are extremely valuable for engagement with students, but without letting them know ahead of the call, there’s a good chance you will be wasting your efforts and time.
- Showcase the value of engagement. This could be the most important tip I can provide you with today. You have to display to the student why engaging with you is of value to them. This is easier to display for students you have built rapport with, but for those you haven’t, you need to be expressive of why you want to have a dialogue with them and what they can gain from chatting with you. Explain to them how you will be a resource.
The May 1st deadline is a challenge for many enrollment leaders, but it is also a challenge for students. They’re making a huge decision for their future. This is not easy for them to navigate, and it especially isn’t easy if we don’t give them the opportunity to engage with us to help make that decision easier.
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