Yield management is a critical part of a school’s enrollment strategy, but unlike recruiting and admissions techniques, it’s talked about far less frequently.
Successful yield improvement campaigns are able to create an individualized, immersive experience for prospective students that proves your school isn’t simply the best, but the best for them.
Applicants want to see themselves in your student body and alumni network. Their choice to pursue higher education is personal, based on their hopes and dreams, so making their road to your school as personal as possible can be what sets your school apart.
In spring 2016, Wheaton College’s highly personalized acceptance ‘stunt’ surfaced in the media. 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.
It was a wonderful and creative idea for a small school. But unfortunately, stunts like this are more difficult to scale up for many colleges and universities with thousands of acceptances around the globe.
Video can be one of the most effective ways for schools to connect with a large group of applicants on a deeper level. Earlier this year, we talked about great recruitment videos with the announcement of the Kira Award. Now, let's look at using video in the decision process to celebrate acceptances and improve yield.
We had the pleasure of speaking with the University of Michigan about how they integrated video to score great results.
Case Study: University of Michigan, "The Letter M"
For admitted students, the University of Michigan had traditionally sent an acceptance video to welcome their newly admitted students. In 2012, they wanted to change the conversation in a unique, heartfelt way.
Previously, they had been using a video in their email offers with a faculty member talking to students, which was fine, but there was nothing emotionally compelling about it. With Michigan students at the helm of the project alongside Michigan’s marketing and communications team, they created something memorable.
Betsy Brown, who was then Director of Marketing and Communications for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and her team consulted with a group of Michigan students who were interested in filmmaking, as they would an agency, the school worked with the small creative team to base a video on the raw emotion that is Michigan.
“It was really to give applicants something more tangible with their acceptance,” Brown said. “It’s something you can come back to and share with your family and friends.”
The students completed the project - from ideation and storyboarding to filming and editing - in conjunction with the university to make a video both parties were passionate about. They enlisted a custom arrangement of the school’s “Fight Song,” which is basically the university’s anthem.
“It’s so much a part of the fabric of Michigan,” Brown added.
Response to the video was excellent. At the end of the year it launched, Michigan admitted 15,000 students and had 52,000 video views.
“Part of the reason it resonates so much to our prospective students is that it was made by our students,” says Brown. You could feel the energy of the campus in the video, and that’s something you can’t convey in any other medium.
According to Brown, Michigan’s yield rate has improved by 6 percent (from 39 percent to 45 percent) from 2011 to fall 2015. Out-of-state yield went from 24 percent to 31 percent, and Michigan’s melt (students who enroll but do not arrive in class in the fall) also went down two percent.
“The other important piece is that the quality of our classes has not declined,” Brown added.
Michigan also found is that it served a dual purpose; alumni loved it. Although they considered the idea of locking the video down and having it be exclusive to admitted students, the sharing opportunity was too great to forego.
Brown noted that the video is a great kick-off for their overall yield campaign, which includes a direct mail package with more sentimental Michigan paraphernalia, including a certificate that honors their admission, followed by a kit for parents or guardians, and invitations to on- and off-campus events.
About Betsy Brown:
Betsy Brown is the Director of Integrated Marketing Communications at University of Michigan.