Summer is a glorious time for an undergraduate admissions staff. The sun is shining. The campus is quiet. It’s time to use some of those hard-earned vacation days. But wait, you begin noticing the dreaded “CANCELLED” status next to students who were recently “ENROLLED.” Summer melt begins to plague your favorite season.
Worry not, admissions pro! Here are eight ways for you to maintain those enrollment numbers so that you can spend your vacation stress-free.
1. Remind them about important dates
We have recently worked with clients that sent out personalized calendars listing all of the most important dates from June through the first semester. We have also set up automated email campaigns, postcard campaigns, social media messaging and voicemail reminders for students and their parents. When setting up an email with a date and time of an event, make the content easy for the student to store on his or her phone.
How can you do this? List out the entire date, time and name of the event. Most smartphones will automatically save this content in the calendar upon the tap of a link.
2. Send them a gift for registering
You probably know by now which of your enrolled students are proactive and which ones may require that extra push. Many institutions have a required first-year and transfer orientation program so that students can learn how to access their college portal, receive their student ID cards, meet the academic advisors and create a small network of potential friends for the first day of class. Incentivize them to sign up for orientation by providing useful swag that won’t destroy your marketing budget for the following year. We have seen clients send home quality notepads, hats, socks, cell-phone cases, lanyards and so on. Whether or not the student thinks the swag is awesome or useless is irrelevant. The point is that the free gift may have been the driving force behind them finally registering. Who doesn’t like free stuff?
3. Offer visit dates that are specific to first-year, first-generation students
Based on statistics, the majority of students who “melt” are first-generation students. Their family has no prior knowledge of the college enrollment process. There may be a language barrier, financial hardship and ignorance of student support services. While having a bi-lingual admissions representative is extremely helpful in this circumstance, it is equally as important to build a relationship with these families. This will ensure they are comfortable and confident that they made the right choice for their son or daughter. Offer exclusive summer events that attract these families to campus. Sometimes just realizing that there are other incoming families with similar concerns will make all the difference.
4. Have your orientation leaders take over the social media pages
Before the critical orientation program, most orientation leaders will require proper training so that incoming first-year students have the best experience possible. While these leaders are putting together packets, learning how to give guided group tours, creating fun breakout sessions, and developing their icebreaking abilities, they will likely have a lot of down time. Get them behind your social media posts! Not only will this create more content for your social media channels during the dry season of summer, but it will also help incoming students get to know their orientation leaders before they arrive to campus for the event.
5. Avoid sending home overwhelming to-do lists
Chances are a lot of your incoming families are already feeling anxious about the transition from high school to college. The more tasks and homework you give, the less likely they are to complete it. While it is okay to send one, maybe two emails with a full list, break down the to-dos with dates and achievable steps so that they don’t feel overworked the summer before college. And at the bottom of each email, be sure to add a personal contact so that they know who to ask for help.
6. Highlight move-in days, orientation and first week of freshmen year
Use student testimonials, social media posts, videos, stories and images to show the exciting college transition. Students connect with authenticity, so a simple video shot with an iPhone from a past student might be exactly what they want to see. If possible, begin a “where are they now” campaign to show what current sophomores, juniors and seniors are doing years after their first days of class.
7. Focus on more than just the good times
Acknowledge that your incoming students and their families might also be having a hard time. As marketers, we always try to explain the benefits of a product or solution, but with college enrollment marketing, it is also important to show compassion and care. There is a reason that employees are called “admissions counselors,” not “colleges salesmen.” College is about social, emotion, professional and spiritual growth — so make an effort to talk through the difficult topics with your prospective families.
8. Reach out AFTER Day 1
There is an unspoken hand-off once students officially begin their college careers. They go from prospective students working with the admissions team, to enrolled students working with academic advisors, resident assistants, professors, athletic coaches and extracurricular activity coordinators. This does not mean you have to ignore them once they are on campus. Send a few emails in those first few weeks to check up on them. See how class is going. Offer support. Remind them where the Admissions Office is located. While they may already be “too cool for school” and ignore you, at least you gave it a shot.
There is no real science to summer melt, but with most things, if you put in the extra effort, you will yield better outcomes.