In today’s higher education landscape there is more pressure than ever to meet enrollment goals, and admissions directors are feeling the stress. According to the 2015 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College & University Admissions Directors, more than half of admissions directors (51 percent) said they were “very concerned” about meeting enrollment goals for the 2015-16 academic year. The report, sponsored by Hobsons, also found that 58 percent of admissions directors said they did not meet their goals.
To address the issue, many institutions are focusing on making it as easy as possible for students to find their right college match. This includes communicating with prospective students in ways that capture their attention and inspire them to engage.
In my experience, a simple audit of prospective student communications can ensure that they are worth your effort to execute, are engaging, and inspire students to take action. When building your communication plans, consider these three questions:
1. What is your objective?
Why are you sending this message? Is it to spur a student to submit an application? Are you trying to keep the student engaged after he has applied? Do you want to drive campus visits? Whatever the reason, make sure you have one! Establishing your objective first will provide the clarity you need to craft a strong message and a clear call to action.
2. What is your key message?
Based on the objective of your message, what are you trying to communicate to your prospective students? Do you want to outline your admissions process? Share amazing outcomes, such as your high graduation rates? Highlight opportunities for students to get involved on campus? No message should ever be sent without having answered this question. Try to keep it as simple as possible to ensure that your message is clear, concise, and understandable. Think snack-sized content that is both easy to consume and actionable.
3. What is your main call to action (CTA)?
The answer to this final question is mission critical. You have their attention with a well-crafted subject line, swanky branding, beautiful photos, and interesting facts about your campus. But what do you want students to do after reading your message? Most institutions have one of three goals with each recruitment email: getting students to inquire, visit or apply. Ensure that your goal is obvious and your CTA is easily clickable (or “tappable” on a mobile device) so you get the desired results from students.
Answering these three questions will set you on a path to creating intentional, thoughtful, targeted communications that will keep students engaged throughout the admissions process.