Make Better Use of Your Admissions Data: Strategy #3 Get Creative

We’re posting excerpts from our most recent eBook, Embrace Your Inner Geek: 5 Strategies for Making Better Use of Your Admissions Data. This week, we turn some heritage practices on their heads.

Finding a simple way to leverage data to discover, qualify, and engage the students who will attend your institution can sometimes feel like a pipe dream.


Throw out the dataset rulebook.


Understand your competencies. What dictates how your institution attracts and enrolls prospective students? Most still rely on “soft” data like mission, service region, or strategic vision. Put some data behind your specific competencies—the things you do best. More and more, enrollment offices are turning to new data sources to predict enrollment trends. Instead of talking about what makes your institution great, think about what makes a particular program successful. Instead of talking generally about quality of education, find out where your graduates get jobs, who goes to graduate school, or lands a fellowship. Use specific data points to match competencies with student profiles in messaging at every stage of the admissions cycle.

Redefine “best-fit.” In their work on Big Data’s impact on college admissions and recruitment, Jay Goff and Christopher Shaffer remark that “most U.S. colleges and universities have not primarily recruited students based on their probability of succeeding.” And that’s good news for you. Test scores may be indicative of success, but understanding what makes a student successful at your institution will have a real impact. And the data is already at your fingertips. For undergraduate admissions, ACT exams alone provide over 265 data fields that you can combine with success factors gleaned from your institutional data to create robust student profiles. The ETS® Personal Potential Index serves a similar function for applicants to graduate schools.

Ditch the college fair. Or at least put it to the test. Expensive. Exhausting. And, until now, mandatory. The college fair is a central feature of most college recruiting programs. Are they really worth it? Measuring your return on investment is much easier with tools that you can use on the fly to track attendees. Then take the time to examine the data. Did they apply? Were they desirable applicants? Did they get accepted? Did they enroll? Either you’ll find ways to improve the college fair experience (by reaching out to students one-on-one before they ever arrive to pre-qualify them) or you’ll recoup those costs and engage in strategies that yield better returns.


By turning heritage practices on their heads and letting go of the desire to cast a wide net, you’ll build a stronger, more diverse, and highly qualified applicant pool.

Check out next week’s post on how to “Overshare” your data.