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.

Sweet Tidbits from NACAC 2017

It’s that time of year again when we are reminded to be grateful for all the things we have. For the team at TWG Plus, it has been a tremendous year of change and growth, and we are truly thankful. We attended numerous conferences and were able to foster wonderful new relationships. We’re most thankful for what our colleagues in the higher education industry taught us this year.

While exhibiting at the 2017 National Association for College Admission Counseling Conference in Boston, we posed two questions to our booth visitors:

1. If money were no object, what would you do to increase your enrollment?

2. What do you wish your administration understood about your enrollment challenges?

Both questions sparked great conversations and identified pain points that most enrollment professionals encounter regularly. In this blog, we bring together the recurring themes that emerged during these conversations. We learned quite a bit, and we hope you find comfort knowing that many admissions offices face similar struggles and challenges.

If money were no object …

53% Would provide free tuition and/or full scholarships

In a perfect world, we believe this would be everyone’s intention, but we all know it takes a lot to run a college or university. Although offering full rides may not be realistic, there are many innovative ways to get the word out to your prospects about your institution’s scholarship opportunities. It may not be free tuition, but it is money toward their future! Ask us about ways we can help.

• A customized scholarship calculator can help your prospective students understand the amount of aid they might receive from your institution.

• On-campus financial aid workshops help parents understand the FAFSA process and maximize their aid.

 

16% Would drastically increase high-school visits

Juggling limited budgets and the need for more students can be quite a challenge. By this point, you’ve likely determined your feeder schools and know they’re the priority to visit in that area. However, there are ways to maximize your time and exposure in an area without having to spend hours at a college fair where you may or may not engage with students.

• Utilize your alumni network to have some additional feet on the ground. Your alums are proud of your institution – ask them to help you showcase it by representing you at college fairs near their homes or by being available to speak with prospective students about their experience.

• Bring your campus to your prospective students through targeted social media campaigns. Ask your current students to photograph their experience from their own perspective. Create a custom hashtag to allow them to participate in the conversation and give prospective students an inside look at student life.

 

16% Would improve student services and facilities

Don’t forget – not only will you be providing an education to your prospective students, you will also provide a new community and home for the next few years. How is your institution promoting on-campus resources to help students succeed? What programs and facilities are unique to your institution? How will students feel supported and connected throughout their educational experience?

• Leverage your current students! It’s incredible what some innovative minds can do with a small dorm room. Ask those students for their tried-and-true tips for decorating their dorms and maximizing space. Allow them to lead an on-campus workshop or share their advice on your social media channels or blog. A little creative design can go a long way toward making an aging dorm feel like home.

• Engage your campus community to help beautify the campus. Invite students, faculty, staff, and friends to a day of service. Volunteers could assist with gardening, painting, redecorating, etc.

 

13% Would provide all-expenses-paid trips for prospects and their families to visit campus

It is always fun to dream, and in an ideal world this would be common practice. Even if this isn’t pragmatic, there are other ways you can engage families and provide a great experience for them without absorbing the cost.

Be a friendly face in the crowd. This isn’t news to anyone, but it’s surprising how many opportunities are missed by the admissions team, faculty, staff, and students to be a welcoming and engaging presence while students are on campus. Give them a feeling they won’t soon forget – that’s priceless!

Provide clear signage and directions. Feeling lost is stressful, and if this is your prospect’s first experience on campus, that could leave a negative first impression. Make their first encounters on campus as easy as possible: mark parking, have clear signage to direct students, create a welcome board to address them by name as they arrive in the admissions office, and have ambassadors greet and guide students throughout the day. This may incur a small fee for your office, but it’s well worth the investment for the prospective family to feel valued and at home on your campus.   Give them a reason to engage. Whether it’s personalized attention throughout the day, giveaways or a fun contest- create an experience they’ll be excited to share with their friends. Leave them feeling like a new member of your community by the end of their visit.

2% Would hire a full-service enrollment marketing partner

You’re expected to do it all: enroll a record-breaking class; work with athletics, financial aid, and student life; and recruit the type of students who will stay and ultimately graduate. Let’s be real, sometimes the expectations feel a bit unrealistic.

Partnering with professionals who can help with a comprehensive enrollment marketing approach can make all the difference. This offers your team the breathing room necessary to make personal connections with the best prospects for your institution.

 

If only your administration understood …

30% Admissions is a job unlike any other

You put in endless hours of work recruiting for your fall class. Then once the semester begins, you hit the road for travel season to recruit the next class. Meeting every enrollment benchmark that the administration wants is improbable, which sometimes leaves you questioning if it’s worth it. Oftentimes, you feel like you’re part therapist, part personal assistant, and part life coach!

While we can’t change your administration’s processes to recognize your hard work, know that we appreciate all you do to invest in the next generation!

 

22% This isn’t just business, it’s personal

We get it. You spend hours on end talking with students and their parents, and working on submitting documents. You know your students. They feel it, too, as you receive graduation invitations and thank you notes (with cookies!) from families that you’ve impacted. It’s a lot like a relationship. And if the student chooses another option it feels an awful lot like a break-up. The time invested makes this personal to you, as you see your students as real people, not just consumers. Other departments often just don’t understand all the work that goes into it.

Our team at TWG Plus recognizes your labor of love, because we share your passion for recruiting students. Whether you need a helping hand with your recruitment efforts or just a sympathetic ear to empathize with your road warrior stories, contact us! Educated marketing is our way of life.

 

19% We need to better understand our prospective students

Hitting admissions goals is difficult if you’re not entirely sure who your prospective students are. Where do they come from? Are there any historical trends? You’re expected to know the answers and increase enrollment numbers knowing your prospective student body may change from year to year.

Persona research or predictive modeling can help narrow down the student who is most likely to enroll in the university based on your institution’s enrollment data and trends. Helping your administration determine who the prospective student is to help them better understand, measure, and retain those students once enrolled and on campus.

 

 

15% The admissions office needs more resources

A recurring theme: you are stretched thin! And depending on your CRM capabilities, team, and time, you may or may not have the data to support your request for more budget. What if there were a team dedicated to tracking engagement through the funnel and providing a final report on the success of your campaign?

TWG Plus provides each client with an end-of-campaign report that analyzes campaign engagement and success so you can use that in your next administrative council or board meeting.

 

14% Students are overwhelmed and need help navigating admissions

Your prospective students are inundated with information, dates, websites, mailers and more.  When it comes to knowing what to do and when, they are simply overwhelmed.

TWG Plus can not only help you qualify your leads and help determine which are most likely to enroll- but can also tailor a communication flow to each student so they know what to do and when, for every step of the process from inquiry to applicant.  This sets the stage for you to step in- saving you time, energy, and budget (and making the process clean and efficient for the students).

The Top 10 Things to Do in Boston During NACAC

Top 10 Things To Do In Boston - NACAC 2017

NACAC is less than a month away, and many attendees are looking to take advantage of the location and get some sightseeing and entertainment in!  We’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 Things for you to do in Boston during NACAC Week.  Enjoy!

  1. Laugh Boston, a comedy club located right near the Convention Center is sure to lift your spirits!
    425 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02210
    (617) 725- 2844
  2. Enjoy the weather in the park at The Lawn on D, also located near the convention center.
    420 D Street, Boston, MA 02210
  3. Take in some history at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, a floating museum with live reenactments, exhibits, and a tea room.  Located a half mile from NACAC headquarters.
    306 Congress St., Boston, MA 02210
  4. America’s favorite past time!  Catch a Baseball game at historic Fenway Park.  Watch the Oakland A’s play the Red Sox on Wednesday, September 13th or Thursday, September 14th.
    4 Yawkey Way Ext, Boston, MA 02215.
    Visit www.mlb.com/redsox for tickets and scheduling information.
  5. Grab a local brew while you take a tour at Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall.
    306 Northern Avenue, Boston, MA 02210
  6. Have dinner on us!  Join the TWG Plus team at Faneuil Hall at 7pm on Friday, September 15th for delicious food and drinks at the Anthem Bar & Grill’s UP Bar.  RSVP here.
    101 South Market Street, Boston, MA 02109
  7. Admire the architecture. Grab a cab or take a nice walk to the Historic Old North Church.
    193 Salem Street, Boston, MA 02113
  8. Commune with the fishes. Visit the 75,000 square foot New England Aquarium on the harbor.
    1 Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110
  9. Get artsy at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where you’ll find collections from Ancient Egypt to Modern Contemporary pieces.
    465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115
  10. Up for a little more history?  The Paul Revere House, opened in 1680, was one of the first historic house museums and contains exhibits and the story of the famed patriot’s ride.
    19 North Square, Boston, MA 02113
    (617) 523-2338 

Making the Most of Your Search Campaign

Your search campaign is one of the most important tools in planning for recruiting and increasing enrollment for your institution.  A successful search campaign will broaden the pool of qualified applicants and drive students to your campus.  But where do you begin? Which practices yield the best results?

We’ve compiled a list of 10 tips to make the most of your search campaign.

1. Know Your Audience

A good search campaign starts with an understanding of who you’re trying to reach.  Start with a solid foundation of market research to bring clarity and focus to your search.  Knowing which students are most likely to apply will concentrate your efforts. Don’t forget to use your enrollment history!

2. Know Yourself

What sets you apart from the rest? Identify your distinctive qualities and develop a message that highlights those strengths when speaking to prospective students.

3. Meet Them Where They Are

Engage your audience where they live and how they live.  Gen Z is actively engaged on social media which means you should be too. Don’t forget to get social with them. Share their excitement about acceptance and fun opportunities for current students.

4. Don’t Forget the Parents

Parents are more involved than ever before, as they may be footing the bill for your student.  Appeal to them in your communications, using their preferred methods.

5. Have a Plan

Gen Z has been marketed to their whole lives. They want to understand who you are as an institution. Tell your story in an inviting and organized way. Each of your communication methods should build the overall picture for the student and give clear and concise calls to action to take the next step.

6. Spice It Up

The same publications year in and year out gets old and becomes ineffective.  Revamp your image using a suite of pubs that speak to your audience. Don’t just stop at travel pieces either, think about the big picture, yield. Do you have a fun acceptance package or enticing communication beyond the initial inquiry and application stages? If not, let us help.

7. Let Your Data Do the Talking

Use a CRM or campaign reporting tool to measure your reach and guide your efforts. Conduct surveys, focus groups and interviews to gain insights of the effectiveness of your campaigns.

8. Create Urgency

Push out countdown messaging to inform and create a sense of hurry in your audience to drive them forward in the enrollment process.  Clearly define your timeline and any key deadlines that are coming up.

9. Don’t Let Your Website Fall Short

You have your communication flow, you have your identified audience, you’re driving them to enroll through targeted, strategic communications.  When they’re ready to bite, ensure that your website is an extension of your campaign.  If it’s not cohesive, if it doesn’t tell the same message, you’ll stop them in their tracks.

10. Partner with a Search Expert

Obviously search goes beyond purchasing names and sending correspondence. A successful search campaign hinges on creating a story and experience the students (and families) are excited to participate in.  This may seem daunting. Collaborate with a trusted search and marketing firm to take the stress from your team, and resolve to hit your enrollment goals this year.

TWG Plus is marketing firm that specializes in Higher Education. The five main umbrellas of services we offer are: search, publications, research, branding, and digital marketing. Contact us for more information. We can’t wait to help you grow your enrollment funnel!

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.