For tuition-dependent colleges, enrolled students hold the keys to their survival and prosperity. Student deposits are moments of truth for Presidents and Vice Presidents of Enrollment when cash coffers are either replenished or not. Last minute surprises arising from low yields can cause a ton of angst. This is why we see successful colleges employ intentional strategies to woo students and increase their admissions yield.
“Admissions yield” is the percentage of students who enroll at a university after being accepted. On average, the most sought after colleges in the nation have yield rate rates ranging from 55%-75%. However, yield rates have been declining across the board with the implementation of platforms like the Common App, which streamline the college application process. Seniors can apply to dozens of colleges with just a few clicks. Parents, too, are able to more easily comparison shop for the best financial package for their children.
Here are 12 strategies that can help colleges improve their admissions yield:
1. Creating Conditions for Prospects to Raise Their Hands First: Prospective students who seek out a college and initiate their interest are far more likely to enroll than the students a college pursues. To make it easy for prospective students to raise their hands first, a college must ensure that their online presence is both visible and high quality. This means ensuring that their website achieves page-one Google rankings for relevant keywords and social media posts are engaging enough to be loved, shared and allow students to picture themselves on the campus. Smart colleges are not shy about revealing and celebrating their culture, school spirit, thought-leadership and outcomes.
2. Ensuring All Marketing Touchpoints Are Right, Tight and Bright: A strong responsive website with persuasive program/experience/about pages, interesting social media channels, a clean Wikipedia page, compelling reviews and favorable ratings all play a part in creating the best brand experience. Most schools in distress don’t have these in order and lack a cohesive message. As an example, when we worked with Saint Leo University, we made sure that a prospect saw a consistent, positive message no matter where they entered the brand.
3. Increasing Face-To-Face Contact and Enhancing the Quality of Interactions: A combination of college visits, alumni outreach, and Admitted Student Days will improve your yield. Students remember a college that reaches out to them in a way that is thorough, personal and compassionate. Colleges are working hard to ensure each point of contact is curated and orchestrated perfectly so it is unforgettable.
4. Offering Early Decision: Preferential consideration for admissions, priority in receiving financial aid, and getting choice housing are among the reasons why some students will choose to apply for early decision to colleges. Colleges which don’t offer early decision or early action application options are missing out on these early commitments and deposits from prospective students.
5. Influencing Parents: Perhaps the most important influencer in the admissions decision is a parent. It is for this reason that colleges are courting parents to make the fateful decision.
6. Building Admitted Student Communities: Creating Facebook groups, custom apps or closed communities are now commonplace; these enable incoming students to create friendships and bonds with their peers before they come to Admitted Student Days and Student Orientation. These communities ease the anxieties that students may feel in their decision and make this often-daunting next step in their journey seem more comfortable and accessible. Almost all colleges are creating platforms for new students to interact with each other.
7. Giving Gifts: Some schools will send t-shirts, hats, pens, calendars, etc. as part of the acceptance package, but this only works if it is done in good taste and not as a high-pressure tactic.
8. Creating Conversations: Between prospective students and current students; between prospective students and faculty; and between prospective students and alumni – a community reaching out to welcome new students creates a sense of belonging before the students even set foot on campus.
9. Deploying Integrated Yield Strategies: A combination of phone calls, personalized letters and responsive emails, yield brochures and online landing pages give students the closing argument for making a commitment that makes good sense. However, the most successful colleges appeal to the heart at this late stage of decision-making process. Take a look at this William Woods University yield page we created, which distills the argument for “Why William Woods?”
10. Sharing Student Voices: We created a yield booklet for North Central College, which is perhaps one of the best “closing” pieces we have ever seen. It was a 100-page coffee-table booklet called iSpeak, which we created with beautiful photographs and quotes from students. No facts were included — just persuasion from the heart. This was made possible only because we had done six years of photoshoots for the client and the client was also committed to building up its own photo libraries for several years. Without these media resources and ongoing student focus groups, producing this successful piece would not have been possible. See the cover and some spreads below:
11. Creating Surprise Experiences: Unexpected yield strategies will outperform expected ones. Park University sent an eyepatch with a hashtag asking accepted students to post a selfie while wearing it. Colleges are thinking of novel, creative ways to endear themselves to prospective students.
12. Creating Microsites That Give 100 Reasons: Here is a nice Wellesley microsite that gives 100 reasons why a prospect should consider enrolling.
If you are a college thinking about improving your admissions yield, we also suggest you keep an eye on the fundamentals i.e. make students and parents feel special and important; treat people with utmost dignity and respect; personalize your communications; build individualized relationships. Know that applicants who live nearby will yield better than those who live further away. Paper apps will yield better than online apps and a nominal application fee increases commitment.
If you would like an admissions marketing services partner who goes beyond best practices to improve college admissions yield, please contact us.