With the average student applying to at least eight college programs, it can make or break your enrollment targets if you are able to ‘wow’ accepted students into choosing your school over another.
While some schools are experimenting with new top-of-funnel recruitment media like online virtual tours and augmented reality welcome books, others are trying to spice up their offer to create buzz and engagement later in the game.
Here are six different ways schools have delivered acceptance offers other than the traditional letter.
1. Drone Offers
Earlier this year, Lewis University soared to new heights to catch the attention of students at Romeoville High School in Illinois. Eight students received their acceptance letters not by mail or email, but by drone. The university specializes in aviation management, so the delivery, completed by drones from the Unmanned Aircraft Systems B.S. program, was a strategic PR stunt to raise awareness about the unique program.
"Being the first delivery of this kind in the nation demonstrates how Lewis University is a leader in aviation education from the first moments of your Lewis University experience," Dr. David Livingston, president of Lewis University, said in an interview with Romeoville Patch.
Drones likely won't be the answer for your particular program, however, tapping into an element that makes your program unique in the offer process can be particularly memorable.
2. Hand-Delivered Acceptances
Last year, Wheaton College made headlines for its highly personalized acceptance ‘stunt.’ The school surprised 75 of their top applicants with in-person acceptances, sending teams including the president, admissions personnel, and school mascot to congratulate the students. The story created buzz for the school in local and national publications, but more importantly, they made a direct, human connection with 75 applicants.
"The more we can find ways to engage with them, and help them understand what the Wheaton College experience will be like for them, I definitely think it can impact an outcome," says Dean of Admissions and Student Aid, Grant Gosselin in The Boston Globe.
3. Build Hype With Video
Getting in is a big deal. So why not make a big splash? MIT is most famous for its annual ‘epic’ videos, shared a week before their decision day, March 14 (Pi Day). This year’s video played on the Marvel superhero universe, casting an MIT student to act as a superhero named Riri Williams who builds her own suit of Iron Man armor on MIT’s campus. As the story concludes, applicants are given the date and time decisions will be announced. Come on, how could you not be excited after that?
Similarly, the University of Michigan hired their students to create something more memorable and exciting than their typical ‘talking head’ video included with their email offers. The new video, called “The Letter M,” leverages the school’s fight song and tells a story of growing up ‘Michigan.’ It’s emotional, engaging, and beautifully shot, and was exceptionally well-received by applicants and alumni alike.
4. Play Up Personalization
Another approach to video, instead creating something big to build hype, is to create a hyper-personalized video for each applicant.
If you have a class larger than 20, which most readers do, recording a personalized video for each applicant is challenging to scale. Schools like the University of Waterloo and University of Pittsburgh have both used Vidyard, a video marketing company that creates scalable personalized videos. The videos weave unique details about the student you’re targeting into a video, for example their name or LinkedIn picture.
5. Socialize Offers With Social Media
Just last year, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay was one of the first colleges to extend admissions offers via Snapchat. Admitted students will still be sent a traditional admissions package by mail, but those on Snapchat get advanced notice of their offer.
Accepted students are encouraged to reply with 'excited selfies' to the school.
6. Pick Up The Phone
Technology can serve as an excellent accessory for admissions teams through the entire admissions funnel. However, picking up the phone can be a low-tech but high-impact tactic to connect with admitted students.
Offering personalized phone calls from the admissions office as part of the admissions package creates an additional touch point to answer questions as well as gauge students’ chances of matriculating.
Phone calls don’t need to come from the admissions office. Yale School of Management has worked to integrate students and grads into their admissions process to give applicants a truly honest review of the school.
“Use students, alumni, and faculty as ambassadors. This is something every school likely already does, but thinking about ways to leverage the entire school community and forge connections between it and potential students at appropriate times and in appropriate ways can make a difference,” Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean, Admissions, at Yale School of Management recommends.
“As much as candidates want to speak with us, they want to speak with students and alumni that much more, so making those connections has real value.”
Any other ideas you’ve tried or wanted to try at your school? Let us know in the comments.