Let’s face it, the landscape of graduate admissions is really tough.
Admissions teams need to be all things to all people: marketers, sales people, coaches, data analysts, and academic experts.
Pressures come from all directions: senior leadership on yield, finance on enrolment figures, students on decisions, and team-members on schedules.
With all of this it’s hard to hard think about how to innovate. However, with some focus on a few key areas, admissions teams can move the needle.
Let’s recap on some trends we’re seeing in the market that are driving the need for innovation:
It’s a Buyer's Market
The good news is that graduate enrolment is expected to increase to 3.5MM by 2024. At the same time schools are expanding into niche specialty masters programs and students have more choice that ever before. The average MBA applicant applies to more than 7 schools and reputation alone isn’t enough to capture their spot.
Historically, Baby Boomers and Generation X pursued graduate education (and really all post-secondary) as a means to expand their world view. Today, Millennials' number one motivation in pursuing post-secondary education is to get a job.
Unfortunately, there is a disconnect. According to a Gallup study, roughly 96% of academic leaders believe they are doing a great job at preparing students for the job market, while only 12% of business leaders believe schools are doing a great job. The emergence of MOOCs, online learning, and specialized degrees has pushed schools to really evaluate their ability to produce outcomes for students that matter.
Impactful International Students
Many schools have seen the positive influence of international student enrolment yet few schools have developed targeted recruitment strategies not only by region of the world, but also by student backgrounds. WES has explored four categories of students based on their financial capacity as well as the quality of their academic experience. There is no doubt that having international students adds an essential depth of insight to classroom discussions, but it also requires that the right students are admitted and are set up for success.
With these three trends in mind, there are 3 tactical things schools can do to help move their needle forward:
Tactic 1: Tell a Great Story
Looking at your marketing, are you providing an ingredient list? (e.g. here is how many programs we have, here is what we are looking for, here are are our graduates). Are you sharing the potential your program offers? Have you told a remarkable story? And by remarkable, I don’t mean earth-shattering unique, but simply a story that is worthy of a remark.
Wellesley College has launched the Wellesley 100, which shares 100 remarkable and memorable stories about their college and campus. My favourite was #76: their tradition of cheering on the Boston Marathoners who run through their beautiful 500 acre campus each year. These stories individually don’t work for everyone, but they drive a wedge of inspiration into an applicant.
Tactic 2: Create a single-view of the applicant
Every admissions team wants more and better data. It takes vision and time to get there, but the results are powerful. Connecting marketing activities to application activities to offer activities to acceptance activities and, finally to student performance creates a powerful data view of your ecosystem. This integration is not easy and there are great software platforms that will help enable this.
As a first step, schools can create an applicant experience map where they track the interaction points where their applicants connect with the school.
Tactic 3: Get Personal
Students don’t want to be a number, they want to feel special and part of an elite community. Students make decisions based on details, small gestures such as a phone call upon acceptance from an admissions leader, the Dean, faculty members, current students or alumni goes a very long way. At first, these activities may seem burdensome, but if you could increase your yield by 5 to 10% on a simple activity, would you not agree it’s worthwhile?
Many of our clients have used Kira to execute these tactics - they use our digital assessment platform to tell a great story, track their applicant interactions (no matter where they are in the world), and get personal with their applicants in follow-up activities.
This post was a recap of the keynote I gave at the 2015 NYGAP conference in Buffalo NY.