Embrace your Inner Geek

Five strategies for making better use of your admissions data.

GUEST COLUMN | by Robert Ruiz

CREDIT Liaison enrollment managementAdmissions data is available in abundance, but the tools to harness it aren’t always in place. The most innovative schools are using data to help them think smartly and creatively on how to attract and retain the best students for their programs. If you’re interested in making better use of your admissions data, here are five strategies to consider:

#1: Understand what your students want

No one likes losing a prospective student to a rival institution. Considering what your students want is the first strategy to better utilize your admissions data. A Noel-Levitz study on freshman attitudes found that almost half of college students today say they want career services as soon as their first day on campus. In fact, one-in-five felt confused about which career option was for them.

Being nimble and generous with data helps the institution not only with admissions goals, but overall goals.

Understanding who is enrolling in your institution and what program of study they’re pursuing can help you obtain a better grasp of what students want. By using historical data to build the profile of a successful student, examining how a student performed in key academic disciplines pertinent to the program they’re applying for and surveying the students who ultimately chose not to attend, you can fine tune your marketing approach to reach the right students with the right messages.

#2: Be more responsive

Nearly every department in an institution has an appetite for data from the admissions office. By anticipating and being prepared for stakeholder requests, the admissions office can elevate its profile within an institution and contribute to its overall success. Having data readily available can help schools remain prepped for crucial accreditation processes. Having a good handle on the institution’s data will make the accreditation process less disruptive overall and can put the school in better positioning for state and national surveys.

Data can also help turn benevolent intentions into financial opportunities. Today’s young alumni are looking to give back, and are more-hands on than ever. If a young alumni approaches your school and is ready to fund a new scholarship, be ready with the demographical information to identify best-fit candidates for the new award.

Being nimble and generous with data helps the institution not only with admissions goals, but overall goals.

#3: Get creative

Get creative and use data to measure your specific competencies. Many schools rely on their “soft” data like mission or strategic vision to account for student interest. Instead, understand what makes particular programs great, where students are getting jobs or where they’re attending graduate school. The more specifically you can point to what makes your school great, the easier it will be to understand what will attract students to enroll.

Being creative also means taking a hard look at time-honored recruitment strategies to ensure they’re keeping up with the times. Just because you’ve traditionally done a college fair every year, doesn’t mean it is working. Are the students you’re meeting at college fairs high-quality applicants? Are they applying? Are they enrolling? Use data you’ve collected from applicants at college fairs to determine if the fair has earned a good ROI for your school before you invest in next year’s round of college fairs.

#4: Overshare

Sharing online is a fundamental way that millennials communicate. Gen Z kids are even more adept than their older siblings in using the Internet to communicate and at absorbing information at a fast pace. Make your school more relatable by thinking like a prospective student. One way to do this is to launch an application tracker so students can be more engaged in how the process works on the admissions side. Be prepared to pivot as needed, however, because with the more data you share, the more likely it is your community of students, parents, and administrators will have something to say.  Be prepared to enter into a broader conversation.

#5: Think holistically

A lack of common data can hinder an institution-wide perspective. For universities with numerous programs and admissions departments, develop common standards and processes that support cross-institutional insight. Use a common platform to accommodate admissions data from different programs.

Data management tools can help deepen relationships with applicants, especially at their first meeting and can ultimately lead to higher enrollment and retention rates. First impressions and early communication are crucial to creating a strong relationship with a prospective student. By using admissions data to cultivate a great application experience, higher education institutions will create a smoother admissions process for their programs and students.

Robert Ruiz is VP of client success for Liaison, an admissions management and marketing automation software and services company. Most recently, Robert served 10 years as the Director of Admission at the University of Michigan Medical School. He has a B.A. in Sociology and Spanish and a M.A. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Michigan. For an e-book on the subject discussed in this column, click here.

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