Is Enrollment Management Still Fighting a Two Front Battle for Students?

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Building with two doors.

Estimated read time – 5 minutes

It’s hard to believe, but four years ago I wrote an article about winning the two front battle in admissions: In-Person and Traditional vs Anonymous and Digital. The world has changed a lot since 2015, and technologies and pressure in enrollment management have made things very different. There are even more misleading articles about the value of college; so in addition to needing strategies to drive inquiries, visits, applications, and brand awareness, there is a need to combat articles claiming that $100,000 in debt is the norm and that college isn’t worth it. There are a lot of fires to put out and shiny objects to distract you out there right now. How do you stay focused?

Let’s take a look at the 3 points that I made back in that article and see how they have held up:

“It’s better to have no voice than a voice that poorly represents you.”

This is even more true now than it was four years ago. If you’re going to spend time and resources on social media and a website, you should make sure it’s not an afterthought. Build your content calendar with multiple audiences in mind and solicit content from others across campus. If you have one institutional social media account, make sure to help support it with admissions content. If you have separate social for admissions, be sure to congratulate and share in student excitement. I guarantee they’re posting on Twitter and Instagram, go be a positive presence! Share deadlines and glimpses into student life in a fun way that they will want to see and share. Don’t lose authenticity trying to be “on fleek,” but don’t sound like Ben Stein cold reading a cue card either. (Confession: I would never say “on fleek” in real life, it was there to make a point.)

“Content quality should take precedence over quantity.”

I will agree, but with the caveat that if your definition of quality means that you’re only posting once per week, then you need to reevaluate your standards, or what you’re trying to do. Quality doesn’t always mean the same thing on every platform either. Value is always going to be quality, making content that tells no story or shares no information is not of value. It likely means you’re chasing a trending hashtag. If you’re doing video content be sure to have a minimal level of video quality, and be sure people can stand to listen to it. Photos should feel authentic and not like stock photos. Give a sense of place to your photos and take advantage of user generated content. Print pieces should provide depth and be visually appealing and well designed, not just a bunch of talking points from your emails smashed on a card. Calls and texts should be conversational and build relationships, not just duplicate your emails.

“Social media is a dialogue, not a monologue.”

If you have ever heard me speak at a conference you know that this is a hill I will die on. If your social feed reads like someone standing on a street corner with a megaphone, then you have a monologue. You need content that engages and starts conversations. You also need to employ social listening to find those talking about and around you to engage with them. If it’s positive, champion it. If it’s negative, help them find solutions and know you hear them.


I am a fan of symmetry, so I will also add three more this time:

Consider personalized video, but not at the cost of proven tactics.

Personalized video is one of the hottest new trends. It’s what texting was a few years ago. And just like texting, if implemented in a thoughtful and coordinated way, it can be really powerful. Personalized video is the use of short-form video content that can be shared directly to students and speaks to them. They can be shot on a phone and used in email, text, or on social media. This is a tactic that can be tested, so long as you have the people and the time. Pulling counselors off of what works and away from their core responsibilities spreads them thinner and can lead to weaker relationships. It can be helpful to have a planned admissions “skunkworks” with a committee who can explore and test new tactics without pulling attention away from their primary role.

Personalize and coordinate all aspects of your communication flows.

Look at the information you have on students. You can build quite a picture of them. Now, combine that with the conversations counselors are having with students and you can speak directly to their needs, fears, and aspirations. No communication flow has any excuse to be generic anymore, and yet after doing some secret shopping last year, that is just what I found is the norm. Every email, every text, every call, every letter should be personalized to that student. Invest the time in your comm flows and reap the rewards next fall.

Learn how to track and measure the impact of your efforts.

Preferably you have an analyst on staff (or are the analyst on staff), but if not, then you need to be able to measure your efforts and share results with others. If you’re able to build dashboards, you will have others across campus who can give input and notice trends that might not be apparent at first. Measuring ROI is easy for conversion based tactics; such as event registrations, application drives, and yield events. For awareness campaigns you can either do surveys (usually expensive) or measure lift in different activities. There’s too much entailed with lift for here, but there is another blog post that covers that.

Where is your institution struggling? Is the breadth of digital avenues overwhelming and exhausting? Is it difficult to justify and measure the impact of your offline efforts? Or do you have the most trouble making the two tactics feel coherent? Let’s continue the conversation on LinkedIn or Twitter!

Will Patch

Will Patch is the Enrollment Marketing Leader at Niche and helps clients with their enrollment strategies and digital outreach. He also shares insights and research on the Enrollment Insights blog and through webinars and a monthly newsletter. Prior to coming to Niche in the summer of 2019, he served Manchester University for 9 years in roles including Digital Strategist, Social Media Coordinator, and Associate Director for Admissions Operations. Outside of Niche, Will also coordinates the #EMChat community on Twitter, with weekly chats Thursdays at 9:00 PM Eastern.
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