Creating a Priceless Experience

At NACAC 2017 we asked the question: “If money were no object, what would you do to increase enrollment?” Multiple enrollment professionals said they would provide free campus visits to prospective students and families as their number one item.

It makes sense that so many would feel this way since the majority of students who visit campus eventually enroll (some universities we work with have cited up to 80 percent of prospects!) This means your odds greatly increase when a student steps foot on campus, meets the team, and gets familiar with the experience awaiting them at your institution.

Perhaps your budget is limited, and while you recognize the value of a great campus visit, planning a priceless experience seems nearly impossible. We’ve put together a checklist of items for your team to consider when planning an unforgettable visit.

Preparation

Weeks of planning and preparation go into pulling off a successful open house event, but some items might still be overlooked. Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure a memorable and smooth open house event:

Communication Flow: Do you have a fluid plan for reaching out to students to push registration and as a follow-up to registering for the event? Does your plan include information regarding the event schedule, lunch details, parking, etc.?

Minute by Minute: Does your team have an internal agenda that shows where each staff member will be throughout the event? This will help your team guide students to their counselors as needed and allow team members to fill in for a counselor who is busy helping a family. Open house events should feel like a well-oiled machine, but there are always unforeseen circumstances that can occur, and having a clear agenda for the whole team to be informed is in your best interest.

Registration Package: Do you send a package via email or mail that includes instructions on where to find the check-in table or reserved parking? We recommend considering this to alleviate stress and family feuds the morning of their arrival, which will help them start the day off right.

Drop-Ins: Of course we always hope to have students register in advance, but a student who makes the drive to campus and shows up the morning of the event still deserves to have a great experience.  Do you have a plan in place for students who show up the morning of the event without registering?

Signage

The best prep in the world will do no good if the student’s first experience on campus is frustrating, if they spend 20 minutes driving around trying to find parking or get lost on campus and have to rush to get to registration on time? Save your prospective student and family the trouble and have everything clearly marked for them.

Parking: Do you have reserved parking for prospective students and families? Is it free parking? Is it near registration or check-in? Has this information been communicated to them prior to the event? Are there arrows showing where to park once they arrive to campus?

Registration: Do you have check-in broken out by alphabetical order? Do you have signage indicating which segment of the alphabet can check in at each registration table? Does it indicate whether that’s by first or last name (while it may be obvious to us, students may get confused)? Clearly communicating the expectations for the morning will make for a smooth start and set the tone for an enjoyable day.

Buildings & Lunch: Do you have buildings clearly marked to help direct any stragglers who aren’t being led by an ambassador? Do ambassadors have different colored lanyards for groups to know how to break out, if applicable? Are there instructions provided on how to navigate the dining hall and where to take trash or return dishes? Again, make it as simple as possible to guide the prospective family through the day to ensure a wonderful experience. Things we take for granted can often feel overwhelming to a prospective student.

Atmosphere

What do students notice when they step foot on campus? Is it welcoming? Lively? Are people excited to meet them? Or is it awkwardly quiet and formal? Decide what tone you want to set for your target audience and work to set that atmosphere well.

Music: Having music playing, even rather softly, sets the mood. It also provides the opportunity to engage with others because it won’t feel as awkward to talk if the room isn’t silent.

Opening Assembly: This sets the mood for the day. Do you have skits and interactive pieces that engage the prospective student and get them talking with other families or picturing themselves as a student on your campus? Do you have the president greeting them? Start the day off with energy and excitement.

Ambassadors: Are your ambassadors well-trained? Are they engaging and relatable? Do they tell stories that share their experience and enable students to see their future with you? One of the worst pieces of feedback from a follow-up evaluation was about how awesome the day was, but that a student is no longer interested because of their experience with an ambassador. Screen and train your ambassadors well.

Success! Now What?

Your preview day was a smashing success, but now what? What do you do to keep those families engaged?

Follow Up:

How you follow up with students after a visit matters. Did you have a great discussion with the family over lunch? If so, make note of it on your list and include something from that discussion to personalize your follow-up.
Do you have any cool photo opportunities like a photo booth so you can send a photo in your follow-up email? Side note: It helps you recall who the student is later on (just be sure you make note of who’s who, or that could get awkward).

Evaluate:

Do you have a debriefing meeting on the calendar? You should be talking with your team about all aspects of the day to see what feedback they received and how to improve the flow of the day after every event.

How do you evaluate the student and family’s perspective? Do you ask them to complete a survey by the end of the day to be entered to win some swag? Do you send a link to a survey in a follow-up email? The best way to ensure you’re meeting the student’s needs and expectations is to ask for their feedback.

Personalization Is Key!

Determine your goals for the event and make sure your planning and atmosphere align with those goals. You don’t have to spend a small fortune or pull out all the stops for your guests. Providing them with a stress-free and enjoyable day on campus with smiles and a touch of personalization is enough to leave them with a positive feeling about their experience with your institution.

Storytelling Through Comm Flow

Imagine this: You’re a student standing at a college fair. You likely have some direction, some idea that has caught your attention and an answer just in case the admission counselor asks what you want to study. You approach another table still unsure of what questions to ask or what you need to know about this school.

Suddenly, the admission counselor with a warm smile sticks their hand out, asks how you’re doing and begins a conversation that is casual and engaging. Before you know it, they’ve uncovered the perfect fit by asking the right questions that helped get to know you. It’s perfect. You’re sold. This is the school for you!

But, what if that hadn’t happened? What if, instead, you approached the table and the first question they asked is “Do you have any questions?” You’re pulse quickens, your throat tightens, you feel embarrassed that you don’t know what to ask right on the spot! So you grab some information, walk away, and gradually drop the information elsewhere before heading home feeling like the night was a bust.

Communication. It’s potentially one of the most underrated and underutilized skills. It has the potential to build people up and strengthen a relationship, or leave someone wondering why they even tried.

Have you considered that your admission strategy may be leaving students behind? Every good story has a beginning (inquiry) and an end (enrollment), but no good story only has those two points. Every truly notable story has a middle- that’s the best part! It’s where you discover the depth of the characters, where you get immersed in the story and can’t wait to discover what it’ll be like at the end. With an intriguing middle, you’re sad when the end comes because you just want a little bit more. It’s all about the middle.

What if your communication flow as an institution held the attention of your target audience that way? What if it left students wanting to know more, excited to be a part of the story at your institution?

Too good to be true? No! Not at all. As a matter of fact, it should be the norm!

The middle of your admission funnel should be the best part. It’s where they’re discovering who you are, where they belong in the story, and the anticipation that awaits when they get on campus and get to continue building their legacy as a part of that story.

A solid communication flow reaches beyond catchy emails and a stellar student call center. Rather, it:

  • Builds – it extends year-round and starts as early as their freshman year. It encompasses yield initiatives and multiple channels of communication. Each piece builds upon another to continue telling the story. Don’t forget you can use current students to build on that story too! Strong calls to action play a crucial role in a successfully building initiative, however, don’t forget to be social and engaging too – especially on social media.
  • Is personalized – this doesn’t mean you should make each outreach method completely individualized, but you do want to make it feel personal, special to them. You can also use your budget wisely by establishing which students are most likely to enroll and spending more of your time and resources focused on them.
  • Excites – A term we like to use is “Acceptance Euphoria.” Don’t just let it be an exciting moment for them – celebrate with them! Use their excitement as an organic means of drumming up excitement with other students. Allow them to be your advocate and encourage their excitement – this is a thrilling moment within their own personal stories.

The best part of a communication flow is that it includes your student in telling an incredible story. Play around! Let your team come up with a strategy that works for your institution and conveys who you are in a fun and engaging way. But if along the way you find it feels daunting instead of exciting, TWG Plus is here to help!

And they all lived happily ever after, or so the story goes.

A Road Warrior’s Guide to Engaging Students

Fall travel season will be here soon! You’ve barely finished recruiting the 2017 class and instead of catching your breath, you’re caught in the busyness of gearing up for travel season and the next cycle. The seemingly endless hours spent on the road traveling from visit to visit; engaging parents, students, alumni, and counselors about your institution; long nights entering data and catching up on emails; lots of sandwiches; and extreme amounts of hand sanitizer. But despite the long hours and exhaustion, you know the conversation with any given student could be the one that makes their decision and that makes it worth every long hour.

We’ve pulled together a list of five tips for engaging students on the road. Some tips come from admission teams around the country and others come from our very own team’s prior experience in admissions.

1. Interaction is key

You’re exhausted and another student just walked up to your table, pointed, and asked the dreaded question “what’s this?” Mentally you’re responding with “a university, duh, can’t you read?” But instead, you smile and kindly respond with an explanation of what your college or university is about. You know the variety of dreaded topics we’re talking about: sports, majors, inappropriate or just plain awkward questions. But what some counselors fail to realize is that your attitude may be the only impression a student has of your institution. Plus, other students may be watching to see if they want to approach and learn more about you.  Be kind.

2. Gen Z is all about personalization

This generation has been marketed to their whole lives, and they’re not interested your sales pitch. Most don’t want to walk up to your table to be asked “do you have any questions?” You should engage them. “What are you interested in? What are your long-term goals? What do you enjoy doing in your free time?” Then personalize your response to what they’re interested in knowing about your campus. It takes the pressure off them and makes it feel more like friends getting to know one another. You’ll notice they stay longer and are more willing to fill out an inquiry card or give you their barcode to scan.

To take that a step further, a handshake goes a long way. Let them know you’re willing to reach across the table and view them as another person, not a sale.

3. Meet your students where they are

On social media! Have a solid communication flow of how you’re going to let students know you’re in their area. Make phone calls or send texts to your inquiry pool letting them know what day you’ll be at their high school. Schedule events at a local coffee shop to hang out with students who have applied. Make an effort to let them know in advance you’ll be visiting near them.

Don’t forget to use Snapchat. That’s where Gen Z is hanging out the most right now. A social media presence is huge, and a company like TWG Plus can help with your image.

4. Take care of your counselors and alumni

These two groups of people are your biggest assets when it comes to getting in front of students. As they share their encounters and experiences with students, you want to be sure that relationship is well nurtured. One of our team members at TWG Plus told a story about how she used to take a tea – “Route 44, unsweet, with two Splenda” as she recalls the story- to an alumna teacher at a school on the way home to visit her parents. She said, to this day she still gets a thanks when they run into one another at homecoming or campus events. That teacher brought groups of students to visit and was her biggest advocate, and the school became one of the top feeder schools in her region, and it all started with going a step further.  Take care of those who interact with future students.

5. Don’t forget to rock your pubs

We know personal interactions with people do the most for your image – especially for smaller schools – but don’t forget that your display also takes effort. Your travel piece, table top banners, and other pieces are all part of your story and they will or will not continue to engage the student and their parents after their encounter with you. Give them materials that are informative and stand out. If you’re needing a refresh, a marketing agency that specializes in Higher Ed publications, such as TWG Plus can help.

Out-of-the-Box Recruitment

Soon, your Fall 2017 class will be moved in and settling into your campus (their new homes). You’ll be giving your team a pat on the back for a job well done just before diving headfirst into the next recruitment cycle and starting all over again. The countless hours spent between travel and file review add up, yet somehow there’s still a margin that leaves you sweating and wondering if you’ll make the goal or set a record-breaking year. The pressure is on!

We’ve got some fun and out-of-the-box ideas to expand your recruitment toolbox and personalize your outreach to incoming students, using your best assets for your benefit.

Engage students, alumni, and counselors with these 6 simple ideas that will make you and your institution top of mind.

Start Younger

Did you know that many universities around the country are already reaching out to junior and even sophomore students? Which means if you’re waiting until a student’s senior year to start reaching out, you’re way behind.

That may not worry you if your inquiry pool is large enough and you’re feeling good about your goals, but if not, Search can be a huge asset to your team. Buying lists that fit within your target markets, creating engaging content, and reaching out to junior and sophomore students is a great way to stay ahead of the curve.

Keep It Comfortable and Casual

Host events in areas with a large population or with feeder schools of your incoming class. Consider hosting a two-hour come-and-go coffee night where families can swing by and ask questions or a sit-down dinner at a local restaurant. Feeling comfortable with you and the environment is a significant factor for them. Keeping it casual makes it easier for them to ask questions and get to know you, so don’t be afraid to meet them where they are.

Another option to connect is to host alumni events or mixers in the area. Whether that’s a sporting event of some sort or a party before fall orientation to send off students, engaging your alumni brings that personalized touch to life. Remember alumni are your biggest advocates!

Take Care of Your Counselors

We’ve heard of admission counselors taking students treats when they come for a visit at their high school. One of our team members noted that when she was in admissions, she applied that strategy to the high school counselors and teachers who had let her present in her region. Needless to say, they never turned down an offer for her to stop by and visit!

Students Love Swag

Even though not all conferences allow giveaways, don’t miss the chance to attract students to you during lunch visits or after presenting at a high school or college. Don’t forget to encourage social media engagement using their newly attained swag.  Giveaways not only go a long way to attract attention, but are also great for brand recognition and become free marketing as the students proudly wear, display or post them.

Engage Their Parents

Millennials had helicopter parents, Gen Z have lawn mower parents – they’re flat out paving the way (or so we hear). Parents are more involved in the admission process than ever before. Some counselors even report hosting full families with grandparents on campus visits because as they say “it takes a village”. So, while it’s great to target the student, don’t forget to show some love to the parents through outreach.

Host Lunch and Learns

As we know, the landscape of admission is changing. While the majority of schools are still appealing mostly to the traditional student, the non-traditional population is an increasing market. Try reaching out to local businesses or alumni around the area to host a lunch and learn. Have guests RSVP in advance and provide food (sandwich boxes are easy and affordable). Use the hour to talk about programs relevant to their field and experiences. Tip: they likely have students who will soon be searching for a college too, so it’s a win, win.

Don’t get left behind, have fun while engaging students, alumni, counselors, and your community in new ways. Fall travel season will be here before you know it and there will be a whole new cycle to test out these methods on. Remember to think outside the box, explore new opportunities to meet those around you where they are, and don’t forget to let your best resources help you.

Please contact TWG Plus for more tips on successful recruiting, and other ways we can help you hit your enrollment goals.