The Right Way to "Wait" for May 1st
Everyone talks about the waiting game for students, that period between submitting their application and hearing about acceptance. People often forget that once the students’ allotted period of torture concludes, the admission officers’ begins.
You’ve carefully plotted the early acceptance, accepted, waitlisted, and denied students. You’ve done the math, did it again, and had a colleague check it. You’ve sent out the notifications. Now it’s your turn to wait. With Decision Day quickly approaching, you notice that several students you accepted still haven’t confirmed enrollment.
The instinct is to let them have time to mull it over, leave them be, or gently nudge them into finalizing their postsecondary choice. The closer it gets to May 1st, the more nerve wracking the game becomes, but there’s something to be said for patience, right?
The Temperature of the Room
Let’s talk about the situation for a minute here. In 2017, only 34% of schools reached their targets for new student enrollment. To put this into perspective, two years prior, in 2015, that number was 42%. While that still clocks in lower than we’d all like, it shows that there’s a definitive decline in achievement for enrollment goals.
There are a number of factors that all pool into this, though. Students are concerned about drowning in debt, which has decreased the number of applications being received by schools, private, public, and community. The tenuous relationship with other countries has stunted the influx of international students, while image issues plague a number of schools. The social media debacle even plays a role in the equation, since students’ applications are being denied, or admission revoked, due to unacceptable posts.
None of this is within the admission officers control, but it heavily affects what happens on May 1st. Even amidst all of these factors, there are steps admission officers can take to get closer to their enrollment goals: focus on admitted students who you felt were responsive and interested.
What’s stopping them from enrolling?
It’s a simple question, and it’s one you should directly ask those students. Karen Full, a higher education professional, calls it “Feel, Felt, Found”, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Feel for the problem and, once you’ve acknowledged that it’s been felt, you can claim it as found and tackle the issue.
This is a big decision and with only weeks (or days) left to make it, students are feeling the pressure. This is where admissions officers can jump in and play something of a therapist to draw those concerns out and subsequently allay them. They can run the gamut from cost to school size to distance from home, but how can you assist them in the decision if you don’t know what’s staying their hand?
Getting these fence sitters over the top is going to take more than a nudge, it’s going to take some true entrepreneurial muscle, as well as going back to the roots of what you do. This is an investment anywhere between $100,000 and $300,000 dollars. If the students weren’t concerned, it would be more reason to worry.
Adopting a student-centric method that focuses on the students’ goals and how [insert college/university here] can provide the tools they need to achieve those dreams is incredibly important. This also paves the way to discuss contentions that these prospective students may have, giving you the opportunity to acknowledge their feelings and, ultimately, soothe them.
It’s quite possible that you need more tools at your disposal to offer a customized experience for your prospective students, and it’s one of the reasons that collaborating with the digital marketing department is highly encouraged. It can help you hone in on what specific students are really looking for; where they’ve spent the majority of their time on your website, and, ultimately, what they want from you.
Students are boiling over under all of the heat, and they’re more than likely ready to spill everything that’s whizzing around their stressed-out minds. It’s just a matter of asking that simple, direct question, “What’s stopping you from enrolling?”