Your New Year’s guide to closing fall enrollment

Leaders should follow this schedule to prepare for fall 2019
By: | Issue: January/February, 2019
January 25, 2019

As we enter a new year, we focus on important actions that marketing, admissions and administration leaders should take leading up to fall 2019. I’ve broken down the tips and tactics into categories of undergraduate, graduate and continuing education.

January-February
Key theme: Concentrate on optimizing campaigns and budgets to yield the best volume at the top of the funnel. This gives admissions teams a better chance at conversion.
Undergraduate: Study historical data on traditional, late and transfer applications so admissions teams can focus their efforts.
Graduate: Evaluate processes for managing traditional “on the ground” candidates versus online or rolling admissions candidates.
Continuing education: Investigate ways to shorten process times for inquiries and applicants. This can help convert applicants while they are focused on self-improvement—before life and work challenges distract them.

Instead of focusing solely on submitted applications, focus on getting applicants to confirm their decision, and ask for their completed documents later.

March-April
Key theme: Focus on getting applicants to confirm their decision, and ask for their completed documents later.
Undergraduate: Tally data on all fronts, from traditional applications and deposits to late submissions and transfers. Evaluating the pipeline now sets expectations for how the remaining months will go, and gives you time to course correct.
Graduate: “Making the decision to return to school is a challenging one for candidates considering graduate school,” says Annarita Meeker, assistant dean and director of graduate accounting programs at Merrimack College in Massachusetts. “Set time in the admissions process to have detailed conversations with candidates, and organize on-campus or web-based events that touch on the issues holding them back.”
Continuing education: If you have rolling admissions, make sure you have processes for migrating candidates from one enrollment window to the next if they haven’t applied. January inquiries and applications can often become summer enrollees.

May-June
Key theme: This is your last chance to get traditional students and transfers. If you can offer incentives, now is the time.
Undergraduate: Create extra touchpoints by creating a regular calendar of virtual and on-campus events. Market these events to candidates who have made inquiries and who have incomplete applications.
Graduate: Find nontraditional touchpoints with prospects—such as hosting evening information sessions at an attractive venue near campus.
Continuing education: Launch a campaign suggesting summer is the perfect time to begin a certificate or degree program. Planting the seed during a less busy season can yield results.

July-August
Key theme: Most colleges are looking at final enrollments and transfers, which is the right idea. But also implementing a parallel campaign that drives January enrollment will build toward continued success.
Undergraduate: “Summer is not too early to work with the upcoming spring admissions funnel,” says Robert Melaragni, vice president of enrollment management at Fisher College in Massachusetts. “For students who take a break after high school or are late in the fall admissions process, a spring start can be the answer.”
Graduate: Find ways to have one-on-one conversations with undecided prospects in person or via video conference. Keep them engaged to help with enrollment now or in January.

Tom Ryan is an enrollment consultant with Schneider PR. He can be reached at [email protected]