Students are filling out more applications than ever, and they have more schools than ever to choose from. To make the most of your marketing and recruiting efforts, you need to understand why students are making the decision to enroll (or not to enroll) in your institution.
Based on data from our Survey of Admitted Students, Eduventures identified four factors that have the strongest influence on enrollment decisions:
- Perceived Value of Your Institution
- Student Conversations With Key Influencers
- Student Research and Information Gathering
- Communication Timing Throughout the Application Process
Perceived Value of Your Institution
We know that students and parents rate the overall value of an institution as the #1 factor when selecting a school. Students and parents consider two variables when assessing a school’s overall value: cost and benefit.
Most colleges and universities address value by focusing on cost and financial aid. But in reality, schools need to examine both sides of the value equation to maximize their overall value, as perceived by students and families. From our data, we know that 24% of alumni who graduated in the last ten years think the cost of their education exceeded its value.
Given the current scrutiny surrounding the value of a college degree, schools need to think strategically about their value proposition, making sure it promotes the specific kind of value their students are looking for in a potential college or university.
If we look at what students are really evaluating schools on, beyond the concept of overall value, career preparation has continued to grow in importance, followed closely by academics and affordability. Therefore, your value proposition should address the following:
- How you help prepare your students for the workforce.
- Your core areas of academic strength.
- Scholarship and financial aid opportunities.
Student Conversations With Key Influencers
There are a number of people who influence a student’s college decision. Common influencers include parents, current students, and admissions counselors—but their degree of impact on students varies from school to school. It is important to know your institution’s strongest influencers, so you can create a communication strategy that incorporates them into the outreach process. For example, if professors are one of your strongest influencers, make sure they are sharing your strategic value messages when they have conversations with prospective students. If parents are your strongest influencers, make sure you have the appropriate communication channels set up with your parent target markets. Below is an example of one school’s admitted and non-admitted student responses regarding key influencers.
Student Research and Information Gathering
It is important to know what sources students are using to research your institution. Examples of sources include your school’s website, Google searches, college fairs, and communication with your admissions department. You should know how frequently students are using each source and at what stage in the search process. This is particularly useful information to gather about your own sources, such as your website, or the communication that your admissions staff is having with prospective students. This information helps you determine the effectiveness of your existing communication channels, as well as what additional third-party channels you should invest (or disinvest) in.
In the chart below, you can see the different sources we ask students to evaluate. In this instance, the “college website” and “communication with admissions staff” are the most useful sources of information in students’ college search process. However, non-enrolling students identified these channels as weaker than other sources, leading to an opportunity to evaluate the website more closely in an effort to increase the effectiveness of this tool.
Communication Timing Throughout the Application Process
Different types of communication will resonate better with students, depending on where they are in the search and application process. For example, knowing the time of year your students typically make their final enrollment decisions can help inform a timeline around yield activity and outreach strategy. The graph below shows the decision-making timeline for a particular institution. In this case, both enrolling and non-enrolling students make their final decisions about where to enroll very early on. The timeline around outreach would be very different for a school whose students make their decisions in late winter or spring.
Understanding how each of these components affects the behavior and decision-making of your students is vital to recruitment success. Your admitted students have a unique perspective, which provides extremely valuable insight to guide your recruitment strategy.