Sizing Up an Enrollment Department

In serving over 100 colleges and universities, we’ve learned that it takes a coordinated effort on three mutually enhancing fronts to create enrollment success:

To help new vice presidents of enrollment succeed in their new consequential roles, we’ve distilled our key learnings and developed the following checklist:

1. Key Strategy Questions

  • What’s our unique position in the marketplace? Uniqueness and distinctiveness make a brand stand out.
  • What’s our institutional brand? In the sea of sameness, brands always win.
  • Which students generate foundational revenue for our college/university? Undergraduate, graduate or online students? Are our marketing budgets allocated proportionately?
  • Enrollment best practices vary for undergraduate, graduate or online students? Are we deploying the appropriate best practices for each?
  • Signature and stalwart programs bring an unfair share of revenue? Are we defending our core revenue while trying to grow the rest?
  • For undergraduate admissions, what’s the breakdown between traditional, non-traditional, online, transfer, Pell and full pay, athletes and international students? Are our marketing budgets allocated proportionately?
  • Given that diverse student populations are growing, what intentionality are we bringing to attract diverse student communities? Do we have the support services to attract and retain diverse students?
  • How much annual endowment income is available to fund student scholarships and improve student experience? How do we compare with our peers?

2. Right-Fit

  • Who thrives here?
  • Who considers the school as their #1 choice school?
  • What percentage of applicants use us as their #1 choice and versus as a safety school?
  • What percentage of our applicants are athletes? Transfers?
  • What percentage of our applicants are referred by alumni and friends of our institution?

3. Key Metrics & KPIs

  • What’s our total marketing budget?
  • What’s our marketing budget as a percentage of overall college revenue? (It should be greater than 10%, but most colleges are investing between 2% to 5% only).
  • What’s the ratio between Digital vs. Traditional in our marketing budget? (Digital now leads traditional).
  • What are our cost-per-lead, cost-per-enroll, yield and melt rates? How do we stack up vis-à-vis competitors?
  • What’s our website lead-generation rate? How do the website leads compare with paid advertising leads? (Websites typically generate three times as many as paid leads).
  • What’s the number of prospective student names we buy annually from ACT/NRCCUA, GRE/GMAT and other sources?
  • How many Google page one rankings do we have? How many of our academic programs are ranked on Google page one? How many thought leadership Google page one rankings do we have?

4. Signature Programs

  • What are our top 5 signature programs?
  • Do the web pages of signature programs look as strong as equivalently priced luxury car pages?
  • What percentage of our enrollment is driven by these signature programs?
  • Are the signature programs ranked on Google page one?

5. New Programs

  • What’s our process for creating new academic programs?
  • Starting new academic programs is a very costly proposition. What budget do we allocate for marketing the new programs? (If you build a new program, “they” will not automatically come.)

6. Enrollment Marketing Tactics

  • Is our website the #1 inquiry and application generation tool? If not, fix it first.
  • What tactics do we deploy? What’s working best? What’s not working as well? How do you plan these initiatives to mutually reinforce each other?
  • What’s our best argument for the specialty of education we offer?
  • What geographies do we consider to be our primary territories?
  • In our paid advertising, do we engage in A/B testing, look-alike marketing, micro-targeting and machine learning?
  • What’s our SEO/Inbound/Content strategy? How many of our programs are ranked on Google page 1? How many thought-leadership rankings do we have? Remember organic rankings are more trusted, clicked more frequently and prospects coming from them convert three times better than paid advertising.
  • What feeders are the most effective ones for generating wholesale applicants and enrolls?
  • What tactics are you deploying to influence ranking and rating agencies? (Rankings matter to prospective students.)
  • For graduate programs, what’s our email marketing strategy? How big is our house list, undergraduate alumni list, and joint marketing lists with friendly organizations?
  • For international students, are we deploying scholarship contests, international SEO and paid advertising, country-specific social media, international websites, international information sessions, WhatsApp and international ambassador programs? Are we prominently featuring our reputation points, international students, faculty and alumni?

7. Boots-On-The-Ground Activities

For undergraduate programs:

  • How many high schools do we visit annually?
  • How many college fairs (virtual or physical) do we attend annually?
  • How many high school principals and teachers do we meet annually?
  • How many college counselors in high school do we meet annually?
  • How many related trade shows do we visit annually?

For graduate programs:

  • How many information sessions and webinars do we hold? Do we invite faculty, students and alumni to these events?
  • What partnerships have we created with undergraduate feeder programs – regionally, nationally and globally?
  • What partnerships have we created with corporate and employer feeders – regionally, nationally and globally? (These are vital for recruiting international students.)
  • Which industry conferences, trade shows and events do we attend? Are prospective students present there?

8. Follow-up & Lead Nurturing

For undergraduate programs:

  • How many counselors/representatives do we have?
  • What are their territories?
  • How many open houses do we hold annually? How are they organized?
  • How many discovery days do we hold annually? How are they organized?
  • What tactics do we deploy? What’s working? and what’s not?
  • What’s the role of program chairs, deans and faculty in follow up and yield?
  • What tactics are we deploying to improve our yield and melt rates?

For graduate programs:

  • Are the program directors, chairs and faculty following up with prospective students?
  • Are we deploying a personalized contact strategy at every stage of the admissions funnel to maximize yield? Are we deploying a personalized contact strategy after accepting students to prevent melt?

9. Retention

For undergraduate programs:

  • What’s our retention rate?
  • Do we have a first-year and second-year student engagement plan?
  • Do we have a student retention committee?
  • What’s the #1 reason for students transferring out of our school?

10. Technology

  • What CRM are we using?
  • What marketing automation technology are we using?
  • What lead attribution software do we use?
  • What A/B testing tool do we use?
  • What brand sentiment tools are we using?
  • What’s our best enrollment marketing tool?

If you are seeking higher education marketing agencies to grow your enrollment, endowment and reputation, view our enrollment marketing capabilities and consider partnering with us.