In higher education, admissions is key to a school’s success. By building a robust and engaged student body, your school can help students achieve success in their chosen area of study and professional lives. Creating that community takes a lot of work and collaboration. Behind the scenes, your small admissions staff and faculty may need help keeping information accurate and organized. Rethinking the admissions lifecycle can help improve the entire process. The most effective admissions process involves planning, coordination and follow up, and documenting it all along the way.
At a time when students are rethinking what they want out of a post-secondary education, a reevaluation of admissions is a smart move. Consider these findings from a survey conducted among high school students:
- 38 percent of seniors say they are considering a college closer to home
- 89 percent of seniors said they are very concerned about paying for college
To stand apart from the competition and win over prospective students, schools can deploy a three-step process to boost admissions, leveraging data every step of the way.
For many schools, recruiting the next group of students is essential to success. Marketing ranges from hosting in-person events and virtual open houses to digital and social media campaigns. It’s a good strategy to emphasize the quality of engagements over quantity. For example, a student is likely to be more responsive when they receive a personal email emphasizing their interests than an inbox full of generic messages.
To find interested students, your school needs to generate leads.The best idea is to meet students where they are (yes, that may include TikTok and Instagram). With today’s students, digital media and social media are important channels to target potential students: 69 percent of high school seniors say they’re relying more on college search sites, student reviews, and social media to review and make college decisions, while 71% report using virtual tours and online events.
Specifically, schools can generate leads by utilizing:
- Online forms
- Mass communications that can be personalized
- Digital tours and meet-and-greets
- Using marketing automation software (i.e. Hubspot, Salesforce, Zapier)
- Social media posts and videos
- Emails from current students and alumni
- Texts, emails and phone calls
Another useful tool is to analyze your institution’s web activity and see where prospective students are spending the most time. Your marketing team can use that information to customize outreach assets and to create a roster for follow ups.
If you don’t have a good system for capturing and reporting leads, all that hard work could be lost. You don’t want to lose these potential students! Student enrollment software helps your team to communicate with prospects by email, phone and text, and stores all their information and engagement with your outreach efforts in one centralized location for easy follow-up.
Once your school has identified qualified candidates, it’s time to develop these relationships. College recruiting is all about capturing the interest of prospective students and getting them enrolled. It’s important to identify students who fit well with a school’s programs and community. In an ideal scenario, all of your students earn their degree and find gainful employment in their chosen fields. If schools recruit the best fit students, it increases the likelihood they’ll make it to graduation.
An integrated student information system can be a huge asset to recruiting. Through your school’s student management software, your team can contact prospects via email, text and phone, and record that outreach in the customer relationship management (CRM) system. The system can also assign team members to specific leads and responsibilities, and schedule campus visits, information sessions and interviews. To keep prospective students on track, the admissions module can send out reminders through text and email to nudge students and parents toward action.
A student information system can also create more personalized outreach to prospective students. For example, when a student visits a club page or a program specific page for your school, that’s an opportunity to create customized marketing. A customized email can introduce that student to your school, its offerings and suggest ways to obtain more information. This is an excellent way to keep your school top-of-mind or to re-engage with a student.
To maximize your school’s admissions efforts, your team should focus on working quickly and efficiently to direct personalized communications to qualified – and interested – prospects.
Marketing communication shouldn’t stop with prospective students. Parents and caregivers are instrumental in the higher education decision-making and financial aid process. It’s smart to engage this cohort by email, social media and direct mail to educate them on a school’s value proposition, financial aid options and programs of study.
Once students know about your school, schools need to shift them from prospect to applicant to enrolled student. The easier that this process can be for prospective students, the better. For instance, students should be able to access a dashboard that shows their application progress, missing and completed forms, deadlines, make deposits and payments, and allows them to download and upload documents.
Ideally, an advanced student information system for higher ed will contain an application hub that centralizes admissions documents, personal information and financial aid forms. That makes the process convenient for students and helps monitor a student’s application status and overall volume. Finally, the hub allows schools to easily communicate important information to applicants – including missing forms, deadlines and any needed follow-ups.
At every point during the three stages of the admissions process, teams need to work in concert to meet deadlines, make sure information flows to the right departments and foster communication. A process-oriented approach to admissions can help small teams stay organized and create a seamless workflow.
To keep all key stakeholders on the same page, McKinsey recommends having a group representing admissions, enrollment, financial aid, marketing and analytics meet frequently throughout the year to coordinate their activities, including weekly during the fall and winter and as often as daily during crunch-times for planning in spring.
The Challenges of Integrating Third-Party Customer Relationship Management Tools
If your school wants to use a third-party CRM or billing tool, rather than an all-in-one solution, then it’s important for it to integrate with your student information system. That way, you can have closed-loop reporting. However, if you opt for a third-party app, consider these guidelines:
Marketing CRM: Ideally, a third-party CRM would be used for marketing purposes, and then your team would use the student information system for recruiting and application processing. That way, the marketing functions can seamlessly integrate with the advanced steps of admissions and other key functions, including financial aid, billing and registration.
CRM for Higher Ed: It’s important to have a CRM that is designed for higher education that can process your student data and is built for the needs of a college or career school. Most third-party CRMs don’t have application management hubs built for higher ed. A generic or retrofit CRM designed for sales may lack the functionality that your school needs and may not be able to handle your applicants’ needs.
For instance, a robust student information system will automatically process a student’s document requirements based on criteria including program, veteran’s status or international student status. It can also track application status and send out automated alerts about document submissions and completions.
Integrate at the Top of the Funnel: If you opt for third-party software, it’s best to use it earlier in the admissions funnel, rather than in the later stages. That’s because it can be difficult for software to integrate with your student information system later in the funnel. If the systems don’t communicate well, you could lose critical information or students might experience glitches in documents and submitting their application, as well as missing financial aid information and payments.
How an Integrated Student Information System Supports Admissions Teams
Even the most experienced admissions team needs support. Integrated student information software can help the admissions process run more smoothly, minimize errors and improve efficiency.
Boost Marketing Efforts: Your recruiting team could hit it out of the park, attracting scores of interested students, but if their information isn’t stored properly in a CRM, those valuable contacts could be lost. A student information system helps the marketing team track their efforts and then hand that information on to admissions to maintain and manage. If no one follows up, they may never walk your campus.
Enhance Recruiting: Today’s prospective students are digitally savvy, so your school needs to connect wherever they are, including social media, email, text and online ads. Your website and social presence are critical. Combined with events and traditional outreach, that’s a lot to coordinate and manage. A modern student information system can help organize your recruiting efforts, and data can be used to measure the successes of recruitment efforts.
Improve the Application Experience: When interested students go to apply to your school, it should be easy and intuitive. If they find your application process disorganized or cumbersome, they are likely to abandon the application. A modern student information system includes an admissions module with document management, forms, dashboards and application management. To keep students on track, a student information system can be programmed to send notifications via email and text.
An integrated student information system helps transform your admissions process into a smooth and efficient operation that sails from prospecting to enrollment. When your admissions team can leverage analytics and data collected on prospects, it increases the chances a student will apply, enroll and graduate. Having admissions data stored in one central location helps your key stakeholders stay up to date and informed every step of that student journey.
By creating a well-coordinated admissions process, your teams can work smarter and faster, bring in high-quality candidates and set them on a path to success.
Ready to see how Campus Cafe’s admissions module can boost your school’s enrollment? Contact us today for a free demo.