Make Better Use of Your Admissions Data: Strategy #2 Be More Responsive

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be posting excerpts from our most recent eBook, Embrace Your Inner Geek: 5 Strategies for Making Better Use of Your Admissions Data. Last week, we took a look at how to use data to understand what your students want. This week, we’ll tackle how to manage the data requests that occupy so much of your time.

Strategy #2: Be More Responsive

Data requests today come from all parts of the institution and beyond. And as scrutiny of institutional performance intensifies, the requests will likely keep proliferating.

Action:

Anticipate and prepare for stakeholder requests.

Process:

Stay ahead of accreditation cycles. Identifying and collecting data for the various accreditations your institution participates in should be ongoing. That’s hard advice to put in practice when every month brings a new priority. Capturing that data in a system designed to track and analyze admissions criteria and calculate GPAs can reduce reporting from weeks to hours. And being prepared for an accreditation cycle not only means fewer disruptions for you and your staff, but fewer risks for your institution, which will be better positioned to improve underperforming operations earlier in the cycle and more able to respond to ongoing state and national surveys.

Anticipate cabinet-level requests. Is your institution facing a leadership change? Opening a new campus? Launching a new program? Developing strategic partnerships? Bringing courses online? All of these game-changers can prompt data requests—from a briefing report on institution-wide enrollment trends for the new chief executive to forecasting program enrollment for a new venture. Make sure you’re collecting the right data. The Common Data Set Initiative, designed to help students and their families access timely and accurate data during college searches, is a great resource for understanding what kind of data should be at your fingertips. Then begin benchmarking those metrics against those of peer institutions. Noel-Levitz produces consistent and reliable studies every year.

Be ready for the gift that falls in your lap. Admissions and advancement occupy opposite poles of the student lifecycle, but their paths do cross. Today’s donors, particularly younger alums, are more hands-on than ever before. And when they’re ready to act, they are not inclined to wait. So when a donor wants to fund a new scholarship, be ready with the relevant data. Be able to match students from a particular state, county, or high school. Make sure you’ve captured student interests, be they engineering, soccer, or music.

Help your colleagues improve program quality. A colleague comes to you wanting to understand whether prerequisites for a nursing program are stringent enough. That requires having the right tools to segment your admitted students at a very granular level and the ability to map that historical data against future performance. By taking the guesswork out of decisions around prerequisite criteria, you’ve helped your colleagues create a better program and uncovered a great data point to consider in future enrollment cycles.

Result:

Being nimble—and generous—with your data doesn’t just advance your admissions goals, it helps everyone at your institution work toward common goals—and gives you a leadership role.

Check out next week’s post on how to “Get Creative” with your data.