Every day, enrollment leaders ask themselves:
What untapped resources can we leverage to attract and retain students who will contribute to campus culture and achieve their academic objectives?
The answer might be easier than you think: alumni.
Oftentimes, we consider alumni for one thing—helping our institutions with development. However, they can play a vital role in helping us build our classes. Alumni possess a dynamic blend of experiences, insights, and connections that can serve as a catalyst for transformative change within colleges and universities. As enrollment leaders, recognizing the unique perspective alumni bring to the table can revolutionize how we shape our institutions, building an enrollment pipeline that not only attracts but also nurtures students on their academic journeys.
Your institution’s graduates possess a wealth of experiences and insights. A recent study found that over 50% of alumni are willing to share how their educational journeys impacted their professional, social, and economic lives. When alumni share their stories, they become powerful advocates for your programs. Their authenticity and firsthand experiences offer a level of credibility that resonates with potential students. Similar to seeking guidance from those who have “been there, done that” for advice, prospective students value the wisdom of alumni who have walked the same path.
Social Engagement Opportunities
Imagine the potential of organizing activities that bring together alumni and current students. These events not only foster social engagement but also create opportunities for meaningful interactions. For instance, hosting an event in a city with a high concentration of alumni can facilitate connections with current students from the same area. This not only builds a sense of community but also provides firsthand insights into the institution’s value.
Alumni as Consumers and Advocates
This engagement strategy isn’t limited to undergraduate programs. Even in graduate schools, alumni have a crucial role to play. They can become consumers of the institution’s offerings – from micro-credentials and certificates to a full degree. Their experiences as consumers add an additional layer of authenticity to their advocacy. They can speak to the value of your programs, helping prospective students make more informed decisions. This confirmation from near peers holds tremendous value amongst potential students.
Alumni can also provide a balanced view of their experiences – the successes and the challenges. This transparency prevents prospective students from having unrealistic expectations and prepares them for the journey ahead. Graduates can offer insights into academic, social, and professional hurdles and provide a more comprehensive picture of what to expect. There are times when the academic journey can be challenging and an honest, objective perspective is invaluable.
Bridging Academic and Professional Worlds
Similarly, alumni bridge the gap between academia and the professional world. Faculty members, while experts in their fields, might be removed from the current industry landscape. Alumni, especially recent graduates, can speak to the practical applications of the education they received and offer advice on navigating the transition from academia to the workforce.
Alumni as the Cornerstones of an Enriched Enrollment Pipeline
The untapped potential of alumni in building an enrollment pipeline is immense. Their stories, experiences, and advocacy offer a unique perspective that resonates with prospective students. The power of alumni engagement lies not just in theory but in practice. Different institutions have found innovative ways to engage their alumni effectively. This sharing of best practices among educational institutions amplifies the impact and helps refine engagement strategies over time. I encourage you to reach out to other programs to learn how they are engaging alumni effectively.
Through personal engagement, graduates from your institution can provide insights, guidance, and connections that traditional marketing efforts simply cannot replicate. As educational institutions, it’s time we tap into this valuable resource and empower our alumni to become the advocates and mentors of the next generation.
Dr. Craig Downing is the associate dean for lifelong learning at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and a member of Liaison’s EngineeringCAS Advisory Board. His research explores holistic student behaviors in graduate engineering education in addition to industrial-academic relationships and entrepreneurial ventures. He has worked as a process engineer/consultant for organizations such as Lockheed Martin and NASA.