Key Themes to achieving Enrollment Goals: Getting the Right Start

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This is going to be a very competitive year for colleges and universities.

Many schools will need to work very hard to achieve the enrollment goals they desire. They must hit their targeted enrollment numbers and, at the same time, be certain that every student who enrolls has made the right decision for his or her future.

There are several things we recommend that schools should look at right now to develop the right relationships with students to achieve both goals. First, does the staff in the office have a belief system that produces successful results? Second, what will be the major themes as the recruitment year progresses? And third, how do we build a relationship with the potential students so that we can identify and message to what they are most concerned about?

#1 – Belief System for Success
There is a phrase from the Star Wars Trilogy
that has stayed with me a long time.

[Luke:] I can’t believe it.
[Yoda:] That is why you fail.

This phrase contains the essence of the successful individual or group in any office or group. This simple idea of belief is critical to your success in meeting your enrollment goals. We suggest that your belief system should include:

  • Belief in yourself. You are totally committed to your success and the success of everyone around you. You know that there may be difficulties ahead but you will be able to cope with them.
  • Belief in what you are doing in your career and life. You want to work with student and others in creating the kind of life they want now and in the future.
  • Belief in the people you work with daily. You believe that the people you spend your time with can achieve success for the school and for the students.
  • Belief in your school. You know what the strengths and weaknesses of your school are. You understand the vision and goals of the school and you accept them with no problems. Students who enroll understand this and want what the school has to offer.

These four central beliefs provide the energy and focus to sustain your actions and directions for the year.

#2 – Major Themes “For Now”
Enrollment goals will be achieved by focused actions. If you have not already thought of the themes you want to drive your actions and decisions, here are a few suggestions we think might be relevant to address the global issues facing most schools as the context of higher education changes.

Cost
Potential students and their families or supporters are very sensitive to cost issues. There is a great deal of media noise around how expensive educations is. This includes information about the salaries of faculty and students and media promotion of other options than going to college. Schools will need to prove their value in order to maximize the results for fall. Why should a student spend the time and money to attend your school?

Programs
Students will be very specific about programs. They seem to be focused on getting into fields that will have jobs and provide the kind of lifestyle they view for the future. Traditional areas such as education and health will be popular as well as continued interest in business.

Outcomes
What has happened to the graduates of your school? What positions and salaries are they getting? What will happen to the future graduates of your school?

Quality
Schools will generally have to demonstrate their quality. Quality needs to be shown in all of the relationships you have and in all of the materials used in the enrollment program.

Student Services and Life
The kind of services and lifestyle students have at your institution is important as you try to show the value of your school. While these may not be the most immediate items the student and influentials are interested in, they may eventually make a difference in your results.

What can we do?
The potential student will likely remember the people more than the program. To achieve  this enrollment goal, you must believe in your school, the people at the school, and the ability of the school to make a real difference. Be serious about the importance of your knowledge of the student and the school you represent. Know the programs and the people behind them. Know the faculty, the support people, and some of the students who are currently in the program. Use their names as often as possible.

This advice is true whether you are working with the traditional student or older students who are entering your school for various reasons. These older students may be looking to move to better jobs, new jobs, or just want more education. It is important to remember that these themes can change from year to year.

#3 – Relationships for Success
You develop successful relationships with students in various ways. Consider how you approach each of the following:

  • Campus visits
  • Getting and remaining connected
  • Meetings in schools, homes, and at work
  • Online social groups
  • Off campus programs
  • Phone calls
  • Letters
  • Chats
  • Interactions with faculty, staff, and students (if they believe)

Each student you work with has a pattern of how they like to be contacted that makes a difference in their perception of value to the school.  Finding out this pattern and what is important to them is a major part of successful relationship development.

This type of approach is difficult to put in place because there are so many students and so little time. Consider using a team for the effort. This can be especially effective in doing phone calls, setting up social groups and campus visits.

Considering these themes and acting on them could make a big difference in the results of your efforts. Share these ideas with your campus and produce an effort that everyone can believe in.

Taking it to the next level:
The following questions may help you consider your own situation and improve your approach to attaining your enrollment goals.

  1. What professional development is needed for staff members that will improve their ability to build relationships with students?
  2. Discuss these three themes with your staff. Do they themes align with the themes you have already established for your office to focus your staff members’ actions?
  3. How can you incorporate “product knowledge” that you regularly collect into your relationship building program with students and influentials?
  4. Describe examples of enrollment situations where your relationship with the students and influentials made a difference.

We’d appreciate hearing what you have found as you think through and act on these questions. Feel free to post a follow up note to the blog.

Learn More About the Thought Leadership SEMinar Series

Drs. Ron and Dori Ingersoll have been leaders in Enrollment Management since 1975. They have served as consultants, Vice Presidents of enrollment, and as leaders in training and development of individuals and groups for enrollment and student success. Their latest collaboration was with AACRAO in editing the book: Strategic Enrollment Management: Transforming Higher Education.
Copyright ©2013 Drs Ron & Dori Ingersoll and EMAS Pro
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