How well do you know the needs and interests of students in the markets where you recruit? How do you put that information into action at your institution? The truth is despite best intentions, many institutions end up taking a reactive approach to incorporating student needs and interests into their recruitment strategies and program offerings.

With extra time at home amidst the COVID-19 “stay-at-home” guidelines, I recently watched the Back to the Future trilogy. In Back to the Future II, Marty McFly purchases a sports almanac in 1985 that contains the results of major sporting events from 1955 to 2000. He intended to take the almanac back to 1955 and use it for financial gain by betting on games in which he knew the outcome. Good idea, right?

There is a striking similarity here with understanding student interests and using it to propel your strategy. Instead of trying to predict the future with a patchwork of historical data, what if you had access to data on incoming and future classes so you could make data-informed decisions based on students’ college search preferences? Not exactly a “sports almanac” but as close as reality will allow.

In this blog, we’ll highlight 4 benefits of using a data-informed approach to student recruitment based on student interests and how Intersect can help institutions do just that.

1 - Better understand your applicants

Have you ever wondered what drives students to apply to an institution? If you knew what students were searching for, you could analyze the impact of specific offerings, attributes, and academic programs on a student applying. You could also understand the differences between your applicants and enrollees and use that information to improve outreach and conversion rates.

For example, the data tells you that internships and co-ops is the most common search criteria among students that applied but didn’t enroll at your institution. When looking at enrolled students, internships and co-ops drops to the 5th ranked criteria and having a study abroad program was the top ranked criteria. This type of insight can arm your institution on which programs to leverage in your outreach to students.

2 - Win against your competition

You know who your competitors are, but what are you doing to differentiate yourself? Are there students that are looking for institutions like yours but aren’t currently incorporated into your traditional recruitment strategy?

By analyzing the desired interests of students in your applicant pool in comparison to your competitors, you can potentially uncover offerings for your institution to highlight that you weren’t before. For example, your competitor’s top searched criteria in their applicant pool is your 8th-highest searched criteria. With this insight, you can shift your messaging strategy to highlight the program that your competitor is attracting students with and begin to win against them.

3 - Get ahead of the curve

The student recruitment landscape is changing rapidly. As new trends emerge in relation to student interests, institutions need to be nimble in their approach to keeping their offerings relevant and anticipate what is coming next.

Today, institutions try to predict the future using historical data about the limited population of students they have previously interacted with. This often means admission and other leaders are left to act on incomplete data or instinct to make critical decisions that will decide the fate of their institution. With access to student search preferences, institutions can make data-informed decisions to support adding new offerings, sunsetting existing ones, and understanding the impact of those decisions.

4 - Identify new market opportunities

Identifying and penetrating a new market is a decision filled with complexity and costs. Many institutions make decisions to enter a new market based on instinct without deep knowledge of future classes of students.

Admission leaders can gain insights about students outside of their traditional markets of prospective students with access to their search preferences. For example, an institution traditionally recruits a certain segment of students in Missouri that enroll at a high rate. When analyzing the data, they identify a segment of students with very similar interests in Texas where they don’t currently recruit. This insight provides a powerful tool to help them make a cost-effective, data-informed new market decision.

Never-before-seen student search data

Now more than ever, institutions need to evolve their strategies and offerings based on emerging student needs and interests to navigate the complex recruitment landscape. With the sudden halt in the number of test-taker names available, institutions must uncover student insights to innovate their recruitment efforts.

To help with this complexity, we’re excited to announce the launch of SuperMatch® Insights, our unique student search analytics platform based on over a billion data points from 30 million SuperMatch searches annually—the most robust dataset available for students’ college search preferences. Available to 43% of all U.S. high school students, SuperMatch is the most popular college search tool within Naviance and allows students to select from over 90 fit criteria to find schools that match their interests.

Coming this September, SuperMatch Insights will help institutions make data-informed decisions about their strategies and offerings and propel them into the future. Sign up to learn more about how you can reimagine your recruitment with SuperMatch Insights.

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