Want More Student Engagement? Ask More Questions!

Ben Boivin
Nov 18, 2019

Surveys and short answer responses are a useful tactic at every stage of the enrollment marketing funnel. By utilizing Liaison’s Enrollment Marketing Platform (EMP™), our clients have created surveys and short answer questions for personalized URL (PURL) pages and sent custom links to those surveys via email, text or print.

We’ve often heard that creating survey topics is one thing, but receiving responses is another story, so this blog post will offer suggestions for how you can manage to do both.

First, what works best at each stage?

As with any enrollment marketing tactic, surveys are not one size fits all. Pay attention to where students are in your funnel as you determine how surveys fit into your outreach.

  • STUDENT SEARCH: With thousands of colleges and universities, how do you break through the clutter via email? By focusing on the concerns of incoming students! We know Generation Z is concerned about affordability, scholarship potential and financial aid (which they incorporate with debt and loans). To begin the conversation, create calls to action and links to the institutional Net Price Calculator (NPC). The NPC can be an initial conversation starter if you use it in the same way banks ask for estimated annual income to make their best offer.
  • INQUIRY AND APPLICANT: You’ve heard it time and time again, “One of the best ways to learn about XYZ institution is to visit us on campus.” You want to create the ideal campus tour, but you need help from visiting prospective students and their families. By sending home brief information session or group tour surveys, it shows that your institution cares about their experience.
  • Send home surveys after annual yield events as well. Keep it fresh in their minds with immediacy. Like an email, they are much more likely to respond if the event took place within 24 hours of the request.
  • ACCEPTED: This will require a bit of work on the part of the admissions counselors responsible for evaluating applications. Create short-answer or multiple-choice questions to add to personalized pages once a student has been accepted. These questions can be based on the student’s extracurricular activates list, and they present an opportunity to create a more personal touchpoint. Many students will be accepted to multiple institutions, and by creating questions based on the submitted application, it will tell the student that they are more than just a number to your institution.
  • ENROLLED & SUMMER YIELD: Send home a short and sweet survey about first-year orientation and financial aid. Make sure first-generation students understand their financial aid award and payment process by creating an additional PURL page. To prevent “summer melt,” ask questions that pertain to the first day of class. One effective strategy is not telling a student who to contact, but asking who they would like to contact them. Scan your campus for a few student ambassadors, student-athletes, professors and department deans who would be willing to field and make calls to incoming students. Community members outside the admissions office might make all the difference in the final decision to show up on the first day. We have heard numerous stories of students deciding to enroll at a university based on an interaction they had with a current student.

How can you make surveys more attractive?

Communication requires two parties. While it may be easy to come up with hundreds of questions to ask future students, it will not be as easy to get the answers you seek. Add the personal to personalized by creating survey completion incentives. Let’s face it; getting something in exchange for your time is always better than not.

Here are nine incentives and best practices that our clients have used:

  1. Specify the time it will take to complete a survey. “Complete This Survey” will not be as effective as “Take Our Two-Minute Survey.”
  2. Offer gift cards to the on-campus coffee shop. Paid online surveys are all the buzz as a get rich quick side hustle. Can’t find it in the Admissions budget? Ask yourself how valuable these responses could be for your enrollment strategy and seek help from other departments on campus.
  3. Grand Prize Winner. “By submitting this survey, you’ll be entered to win a $100 Amazon gift card!”
  4. Not every prize needs a dollar sign. “By submitting this survey, you’ll be entered to win free books for your first semester.”
  5. Waive the application fee. “By visiting us on campus and filling out the survey, we’ll waive your application fee of $XX.”
  6. Get them on campus for a game. In the search and inquiry stage, send home a brief survey and offer tickets to a home game. This can incentivize prospects to not only complete a survey, but to come to campus for an event.
  7. Keep them warm during the winter months. We’ve had clients use the cold weather to their advantage by offering knit hats, gloves or even sweatshirts upon survey completion. This will intrigue the accepted and enrolled students most.
  8. Show them what others are saying. Student testimonials act as incredible social proof. Find some of your favorite answers and display them in the same email or PURL page as the survey request. Prospects may be less hesitant to share their opinions if they see answers from peers.
  9. Short and sweet. Just like a never-ending list of tips and tricks, surveys shouldn’t go on forever. Ask your most important questions and don’t make them scroll too far to hit submit.

As Wayne Gretsky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” While surveys may not be the most exciting thing on a high school student’s mind, the answers can add incredible value to your enrollment strategy. So, take your shot and tell your story through surveys.

Ben Boivin

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Over the last three decades, Liaison has helped over 40,000 programs on more than 1,200 campuses more effectively manage admissions through its Centralized Application Service (CAS™) technology and complementary application processing and support services. The higher education technology leader supports its partner institutions’ total enrollment goals by pairing CAS with its Enrollment Marketing (EM) platform as well as the recently acquired TargetX (CRM) and advanced analytics software Othot.