Research from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation confirms that technology has transformed how Millennials engage with just about everything. Sharing, for Millennials, is fundamental to how they communicate, establish relationships, and even form identities. A similar study indicates that GenZ kids are cognitively more nimble than their older siblings and can consume large amounts of disconnected information—but keeping their attention is a challenge.
In higher education, the tendency to hold data close is sacrosanct. And at institutional, state, and national levels, frameworks to protect student data continue to be refined. But that worry over the privacy of student data shouldn’t prevent institutions—particularly admissions offices—from finding innovative ways to share the kinds of information that today’s students crave.
Open up the black box and share information about your admissions processes.
Put yourself in their shoes. Unless you’re under 30, inhabiting the mind of a Millennial doesn’t just happen. Understanding who they are and what they want requires data. And even though they are the most researched generational cohort in history, the data that you need should be specific, situational, and up-to-date. One admissions director we spoke to wanted to know when applicants preferred to start their online application forms and was startled to discover that it ranged from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. He changed how online support was being delivered. And he changed his attitude about assuming he knew everything there was to know about the students he was trying to reach.
Launch an Application Tracker. If we can track when our pizzas are being baked, boxed, and delivered, why can’t we share data about the application process? The University of Michigan’s School of Medicine decided to open the doors to its admissions processes by starting small—publishing the dates of key decisions the admissions office would make throughout the enrollment season. That transparency was well received—not just by applicants, but by potential prospects who simply wanted to learn more about the process. UMSM continued to publish how many students applied, how many were interviewed, how many seats were filled, and how many were left. They added demographic data so that anyone at any time could see exactly how admissions went about making their decisions.
Be prepared to make adjustments. Being open with data means taking risks. If you publish just how many women versus men you are admitting, or just how many students you accept from feeder schools, or just how many in-state versus out-of-state candidates you let through the doors, people—students, administrators, policy makers, parents—will have something to say. But is that a bad thing? Being a great institution means being responsive to your stakeholders. Opening the door to a broader conversation about how your admissions processes work could be just the game-changer your institution needs.
Putting your data out there means you are willing to engage. And, bottom line? That’s what today’s students are really looking for.
Check out next week’s post on how to “Think Holistically” with your data.