5 Ways to Improve Your Yield This Spring

Estimated read time – 4 minutes

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To adapt Tennyson, “In the spring admission staffs’ fancy lightly turns to thoughts of yield.” It’s the time of year that most of your applications are already in, or all of them if you have an early deadline. Now it’s time to make sure students understand your culture and opportunities so that they can find the institution that best fits them. In order to prime your counselors for easier conversations and a better yield, here are the five things that, if they aren’t already, need to be a part of your communication (comm) flows and conversations.

Lay out the next steps early and often. 

Too often counselors fall into the trap of saying “We just told them that a few weeks ago.” While the process is familiar to you, remember that students are juggling many priorities: school, extracurriculars, jobs, social lives, and the admission and enrollment processes for multiple schools. They might just forget that you have a different process than the other schools they are looking at, so remind them and help them stay on track to enroll. 

Rather than lots of emails, think about a magnet or print piece with their acceptance packet to help them check off milestones with dates. Nudge prospective students along with a text or a call from a current student to change things up. Have a faculty member send a postcard about upcoming placement tests or portfolio needs. 

Address student (and parent!) anxieties. 

If you have been in the profession you will know the most common anxieties already: will I make friends, am I ready, how can I pay, etc. It’s also helpful to do some surveys of students during and after enrollment to find new and emerging concerns. Don’t forget parents too in your addressing of the concerns, they will have different issues. Safety, mentorship, food, and other typical parental concerns come up often and should be addressed long before they need to be voiced. In a well-designed comm flow, you are answering family questions before they need to take the initiative to ask. This service strategy creates a stronger sense of security in their decision and frees them up to think about bigger questions, such as “how do I deposit?”.

Reiterate differentiators, but make sure they actually differentiate you.

Families need to know what makes you different than the institution down the street. Do you even know? Spend time getting to know your peers and competitors to understand how they talk about themselves so that you’re not using the same language. One thing learned from secret shopping has been that too many places say the same things, to varying degrees of accuracy. 

If you say that you’re a “top liberal arts college with small class sizes and caring faculty,” you’re joining 1,000’s of other colleges in the same space. Nobody wants to say that they’re an average college with mediocre faculty, but think about other proof points and experiences you can point to in order to make your messaging standout. And if your average class size is 35 and your undergraduate classes are taught by TAs, don’t claim small classes and involved faculty. Instead, focus on the opportunities that size brings.

You can use your reviews and student survey results on your Niche profile to learn more about what students and recent alumni really think, so that you can make sure you’re accurate. Here are two women’s colleges with similar costs and enrollments. It might be tempting for their staff to talk about themselves similarly, in fact, they do. But the students paint different pictures of life on campus, which should be listened to and included in your communications with prospective students.

Connect accepted students to each other and to the campus experience.

Yield events, or accepted student visit days, are common now across campuses, and they’re a great way to connect students to each other and build their sense of belonging. Make sure these days have time built in to explore and make friendships. Students shouldn’t just be there to check a box. The day should allow them to picture themselves on campus as a student, which will help create a sense of loss if they decide not to enroll. They should get to spend time with current students, ideally spending the night or at least shadowing, and see what the campus experience is really like.

Don’t forget that not everyone will be able to travel to campus either. Private online networks or Telegram (or similar app) groups are great ways to allow students to connect virtually. Consider live streaming events so they can engage with each other as well as the experience on campus.

Remarket to your accepted students with engaging content and student stories.

Keep in front of your accepted students using relevant ads and content about student life through remarketing campaigns. Take your existing student lists and build remarketing audiences for search, display, and social. Make short-form student videos about their life segmented to majors, interests, regions, or high school to make it more meaningful. Never assume that just because the student is accepted and the emails are being sent that you are connecting with them.

With traditional student populations decreasing for the foreseeable future it’s even more important to yield and retain the accepted students that you do have. It’s not possible to rely on increasing numbers of applications to overcome low yield and retention rates anymore. Use these tips to start conversations in your office and make this spring a great time for your families and staff!

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Will Patch

In addition to the Enrollment Insights blog, webinars, and podcast; Will is a frequent conference speaker and podcast guest. He has presented at NACAC, AACRAO-SEM, Indiana ACAC, CASE V, EduWeb, and EMA. Will's work has been featured in Forbes, Inside Higher Ed, CNBC, CNN, the LA Times, and The New York Times among other outlets.

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