By Senior Analysts, Mark Rooney and Rachel Smooke
Institutions today have unprecedented access to data. Big data, student data, demographic data, financial aid data, survey data—all meticulously gathered and stored in CRM systems with the promise of unlocking the perfect recruiting strategy. But far too often, enrollment managers aren’t making the most of the data they have. As a result, they miss key opportunities to move their program forward, a dangerous proposition in this competitive environment.
Underutilizing data can often be the result of not knowing the right questions to ask. Without asking the right questions, many enrollment managers find themselves sorting through a glut of information in search of an elusive conclusion. No clear, effective strategy can emerge in that environment.
Findings from Eduventures’ 2014 Prospective Student Survey of over 10,000 high school students suggest that there are three key questions that all enrollment managers need to be asking as they shape their 2015 recruiting strategy. They are:
- Do you know what factor, above all others, drives undergraduate enrollments to your institution?
- Do you understand how enrollment drivers and behaviors differ between key segments, such as white and African-American prospects
- How do prospective students perceive your institution relative to your peers in the areas that matter most?
Here are three examples that demonstrate how answers to these key questions can give admissions offices the direction and information they need to improve their recruiting strategy.
Question 1. What factor, above all others, drives undergraduate enrollments to your institution?
Answer: Career preparation.
In 2014, prospective students consider career preparation to be the mostimportant aspect of an institution whenchoosing where to enroll (Average rating = 6.37). You may recall this data point from a previous Eduventures Wake-Up Call:
In marketing and recruiting efforts, your team likely spends a great deal of effort highlighting your institution’s academic attributes (majors, faculty expertise, honors programs, the student-faculty ratio), not to mention its financial aid, social environment, and affordability. We know from experience that many institutions are not giving career outcomes the attention that students are looking for. This data is crucial for making the case to your institution: we must tell the story of outcomes above all others.
Question 2. How do the enrollment drivers and behaviors differ between key student segments, such as white and African-American prospects?
Answer: African-American students are more driven to enroll at schools that offer “diverse academic opportunities,” and the difference is significant.
More importantly, African-American students, on average, care more about a broader set of academic characteristics than White students. If you wish to recruit these students, you must effectively describe the broad academic landscape at your institution, not simply relying on rankings, leading programs and faculty credentials.
These are just a few of the significant differences highlighted by data on two racial and ethnic groups. When we consider other demographic characteristics such as first generation status, first time in college versus transfer status, income, and gender, it is clear that there is no typical student, and that managers need data to help tailor their outreach accordingly.
Question 3. How do students perceive your institution in the areas that matter most?
Answer: The answer, of course, varies by institution, but one participant in the 2014 Prospective Student Survey learned that their inquiries perceived them to be significantly weaker in affordability compared to other institutions they planned to apply to.
Institution A thought it was perceived as “middle-of-the-pack” in terms of affordability, but this data alerted enrollment managers to a serious perception issue. While the institution would continue to be perceived as expensive, it realized it needed to better communicate the value it provides for the cost, as well as the efforts it would make to find financial aid solutions for prospective students.
Given the increasingly competitive envornment in higher education, colleges that lack the insight provided by asking these questions are finding it difficult to stay ahead of the competition or meet the needs of their students. Built on a foundation of knowing what questions to ask and how to make the results actionable, Eduventures’ Prospective Student Survey delivers essential information for enrollment management teams to:
- Learn the motivations and perceptions of their prospective students.
- Improve their marketing plans by tailoring it to specific students’ preferences.
- Optimize student services to improve students’ experiences during the recruiting process.
To learn more or participate in the 2014 Prospective Student Survey, contact email@example.com.
 Average rating among a sample of N=19,020 on 1 to 7 scale, where 1=Not at all important and 7=Extremely important. Other factors rated include core academics, academic environment, affordability, advanced academic opportunities, diversity of academic opportunities, social environment, physical environment, and flexibility of delivery.