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Enrollment Insights Blog

9 Admissions Yield Strategies for Late-Cycle Recruitment

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Admissions yield starts before the first contact occurs. Affinity is built over time—your brand and name recognition in the community affect the likelihood of a student inquiring or applying. It affects the likelihood of a parent or school counselor recommending your college. It impacts the effectiveness of your digital marketing, whether or not there’s an initial recognition that will make someone pause in their feed, or if they will ignore it entirely. 

With that in mind, brand affinity isn’t the only factor; every interaction—good, bad, or indifferent—impacts whether or not your admissions yield is where you need it to be to achieve your goals. You need to take a broad view of yield and back up to the prospect stage, where you can first directly communicate with the student and their family and can have direct impacts on interactions. As we head into crunch time of recruitment season, it’s always timely to discuss admissions yield strategies for converting:

Students Already in Your Funnel
Converting Stalled Applicants
Converting Uncommited Admits
Recruiting New Prospects and Inquiries

Admission Yield Strategies for Students Already in Your Funnel

1. Prioritize Recent Inquiries with Relevant Outreach

If it’s mid-cycle, prioritize outreach to more recent inquiries and those who have engaged recently. Especially in the spring, a quick response to a new inquiry will be important because of the shortened timeline. They are asking for more information from you in the moment, so responding with relevant information about their interests and getting to know how to help them will keep that interest stoked and moving forward. More than two-thirds of students have said that they are influenced to consider a college by personalized and relevant information, but only 9% said that they are receiving it from colleges. Investing time and resources in sending the same thing to older inquiries and prospects who have not shown recent interest are not likely to be rewarded. 

2. Engage Inquiries with a Different Message

For inquiries that have either not engaged recently, or have only passively been engaging with emails or your website, a simple email or text (if that’s their preference) just asking if they are still interested, not interested, or need more specific information can go a long way to cleaning up your funnel and understanding who you can still move forward with.

If prospects have been in your system for a significant amount of time and not converted to an inquiry or applicant it’s not likely that they suddenly will without something very different catching their eye. If they have been reading emails or going to your website there’s still a chance for trying a short conversion campaign that looks and sounds different from what they have already seen. However, with other spring priorities, it might not make sense to put even more resources into trying to nurture someone who hasn’t engaged over months or years already and focus on your existing students or finding better late inquiries and prospects who are currently actively searching (as we’ll get to in a bit).

Admission Yield Strategies for Converting Stalled Applicants

Stalled applicants come in two flavors: those who have started and have not submitted their application; and those who have submitted an application, but are missing supporting materials. 

(If your campus is unable to track or contact who has started and not submitted you can skip to tip #4)

3. Reach Out to Stalled Applicants

If you regularly check your website analytics to understand where students abandon the application you can solve barriers and improve completion. Regularly, either in an automated way or individually, reaching out to students who have not completed their application will help complete some of those or at least better understand their reasons for not completing the application. The majority of students said that barriers prevented them from completing applications to a college that they wanted to; with cost, length, required supplements, and a confusing application being their top concerns. These are students who are very interested in your college but are turned away because of an issue that very likely can be solved for them.

4. Embrace Momentum with a Fast Follow-Up

Once a student has submitted their application it’s important to quickly follow up with what is needed to complete the application for review. The longer it takes, the less momentum that student will have. Automated processes will save time as long as they’re accurately reflecting what the student has and has not done. If it’s inaccurate you will cause frustration and confusion.

Admission Yield Strategies for Converting Uncommitted Admits

5. Create More Campus Connections for Admitted Students

Personal relationships between admission staff and students ought to be the primary focus at this stage, but shouldn’t be the only relationship they have with your institution. You need stickiness. Stickiness is when students have multiple contacts on campus—this makes it harder for them to not build a strong affinity and can minimize the impact of recruitment staff leaving mid-cycle, which is happening with increasing frequency. 

Connect the students with faculty, staff in areas of interest, coaches, band or choir directors, or current students to help them connect with your community. If they indicate something that matters to them or that they want to experience during college, make sure they have someone to stick to.

6. Ask the Right Questions to Start Conversations

If the student isn’t making a decision it’s helpful to know why. If you know what’s holding them back you can address the issues and help them either commit or let you know that they’re going somewhere else. 

Here are four example questions you might ask a version of to better understand their blockers:

  • “I know your senior year is busy, but do you have a timeline for when you’ll sit down and make your decision?”
  • “What might stop you from coming here?”
  • “Is there anything that you are looking forward to in college that you don’t think we have here?”
  • “Have you and your family talked about how you plan to pay for college?”

7. Share Relatable Stories

No matter how confident and on top of things a student has seemed throughout the process, all students need reassurance that they’re making the right choice. The problem for enrollment marketers and counselors is that the “right choice” is subjective. Proof points in the form of alumni and current student stories, rankings, and outcomes data can help students put the pieces together for themselves. They need to be able to see themselves on campus and know that they can achieve their goals at your college.

Admissions Yield Strategies for Recruiting New Prospects and Inquiries

If you’re reading this article and thinking “I don’t have enough prospects, inquiries, and applicants to reach my goals,” keep two things in mind: 1. You’re not alone; and 2. There are still admission yield strategies that can work later in the cycle that don’t involve only working with who you already have.

8. Source New Prospects and Inquiries

With window shopping on the rise, it makes a lot of sense to expand your reach and connect with students where and when they’re actively searching for colleges. You can do that with partners such as Niche, better visibility of your inquiry form on every page of your website, optimizing the inquiry form to reduce required fields, or through targeted digital marketing. These will help to make it an easier and faster process for students to move from interest to engaging directly with you.

Hear from current Niche Partners:

When looking for new prospects and inquiries in the spring it can be useful to look at the profile of who has yielded after coming to you late in the cycle in the past. How do they look and behave differently from those who came in earlier? Even better, prioritize who has retained and graduated after first coming to you in the spring and summer. Which of your sources for new students has been performing the best for you in the spring? Those are the wells you should go back to now.

While not an inquiry or a prospect, sourcing new stealth applicants through Direct Admissions is a way to skip directly to the acceptance stage and provide instant feedback about financial aid. Especially later in the cycle, this can be a game-changer for students who may have just started searching or had a change in plans about where they wanted to enroll. 

9. Modify Your Comm Flow for New Spring Names

Put yourself in the shoes of the new student. They’re coming to you later in the year for one of two reasons: they just started their search, or their previous enrollment plans changed. You need to quickly connect with them and understand their situation so that you can speak to what matters most to them as soon as possible. The longer you wait to engage with them, especially in ways that build relationships and speak to what is relevant to them, the less momentum there will be and the less likely you are to earn their enrollment.

Look at your existing comm flow and compress it for students coming in later in the cycle. For example:

  • Start with a timeline or checklist so that they have that support up front. 
  • Follow up with a personal touch to get to know where they are and what they need from you. 
  • Next, in a single or series of communications give them important information about who you are and why they should care to build affinity and excitement. 
  • Add in stickiness by connecting them to students, faculty, and staff in the areas they care most about. 
  • Finish it off with any other important actions you want them to take, but it needs to lean heavily on providing relevance for them in a short period of time.

Financial aid is often even more important for students coming in later in the cycle, so adding in some frontloaded emails and family communications about financial aid and adding you to their FAFSA will help get in front of the tough conversations. Don’t assume that they’re aware of your Net Price Calculator or have used it, share that early on along with scholarship and grant information.

Almost everyone who has been in the profession for a while knows that you aren’t always where you want to be mid-cycle. It might be that leading indicators are showing your class might not come in where it needs to be or just that the top of the funnel is too dry. Whatever the case may be, implementing at least some of these tactics will help improve your admissions yield during the enrollment cycle.

Prior to coming to Niche in 2019 Will served 9 years at Manchester University in roles as an Admissions Counselor, Associate Director for Admissions Operations, Social Media Coordinator, and ultimately as Digital Strategist. Will surfaces tactical insights from user behavior and surveys to help higher ed build recruitment strategies. 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, AMA Higher Ed, 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.