Student Success Begins with Admission

As we near the end of 2020 and look ahead to 2021, recruitment in higher education has never been more competitive. The pandemic has upended many of the traditional methods that have been used in college recruitment processes. Yet, schools still need to fill classes and enroll students. 

The role that admission plays with student success is more vital than ever. The costs of recruitment are constant reminders to admission staff that they too play a part in the overall persistence and retention of students.

A student-centric mentality weaves a culture of student success into the fabric of an institution. For a student, the journey begins with admission, but it should end with degree completion and a quality experience. The work of the admission office is fundamentally predicated on student success because if students succeed than so does the institution.

Starting with student success

There is a tremendous amount of responsibility that accompanies the recruitment process. Enrollment leaders must start the process with student success in mind. What are students interested in? What are their absolute priorities? Answering these questions might take time, but they are crucial steps for student-centric recruitment.

Once this information has been collected, the next step is to connect individual student aspirations with institution-wide success.

Additional questions to ask students include:

  • What does success mean for students?
  • Based on their interests, can my institution offer them resources to be successful with their aspirations?
  • How do we make sure that students are defining their own success?

Finding the best fit for a student is important. Success for a student goes beyond the academic experience at an institution. The dimensions of student success, as mentioned in Hobsons’s Holistic Student Success Framework, include academic goals, career aspirations and life preparedness. Student success might generally be in the domain of academic advisors and student affairs staff, but just as importantly, it begins with the admission office via student recruitment.

According to research conducted by Hobsons, students with access to Naviance are more likely to be retained from fall-to-fall compared to their peers who have not had access to Naviance. The college readiness of students who use Naviance was especially measurable. These students, when engaged with by admission offices, were 32.3% more likely to be retained versus those who did not.

When student success starts at the admission and recruitment process, it creates a foundation and tone for retaining students all the way until degree completion.

Aligning Retention and Enrollment Goals

The interconnectedness of recruitment and retention efforts requires collaboration with a variety of campus stakeholders. With student success as the overall goal, the alignment of enrollment targets with retention goals is paramount.

Perhaps the greatest challenge to the alignment of these goals is the overall siloed nature of higher education. Staff who have responsibility for these areas are often fragmented in various campus departments. Ideally, they would come together on a regular basis to discuss the mutuality of their objectives as their work clearly benefits the institution as a whole.

In fact, as one enrollment officer mentioned in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Every institution will need to find a balance of recruitment and retention as we enter the next 10 years. Not all institutions can grow. Some will find greater success flattening new student enrollment and focusing on retention and graduation.”

Connecting Students with Campus Resources

The depth of the recruitment funnel has changed. No longer is it okay to just tell students that resources exist at a campus. Nowadays, students must be put in contact with department chairs, coaches, academic advisors, or other representatives pertaining to a student’s interest.

These connections, ideally occurring at the prospect stage, can then foster a more personalized interest in the institution.

It’s important to consider some guiding questions for this strategy:

  • When do we introduce campus resources into the recruitment cycle?
  • If we were students, when would we want to know how a school is going to support us in reaching our aspirations?
  • Do we share the information with students or directly connect them with the resource?
  • What does the hand-off process to campus partners look like?

The Student-Centric Recruitment Framework

This is the final post in a series of six principles that will assist higher education institutions as they navigate the future of recruitment. The previous blog posts can be found here:

For more student-centric recruitment strategies, download the Student-Centric Recruitment Framework.

Here are links to the other posts in this series:

Topics Student Success and Advising
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