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After the Admissions Storm: How Did You Do?

By September 2, 2019

It’s the calm after the storm. Time to reflect – on your enrolment targets, your applicant experience and a whole lot more…

Group of Recruitment & Admission employees meeting

If you’re involved with recruiting students for a higher education institution, you’ve probably spent the last few weeks working flat out to enrol the right candidates on the right programmes, and set this new academic year for success with a diverse and talented cohort.

Now is the time to pause and take stock of this year’s efforts. What went well? What went badly? What lessons can you learn?

In today’s incredibly competitive student marketplace you need to assess your performance across a broad range of factors. And here’s a checklist of 15 questions to help you do just that – and identify areas where you can do even better next year. 

Give yourself a point for every ‘yes’! Ready?

1. Did you meet your enrolment goals? 

It’s hard to overstate the importance of getting those students through the door. For today’s institutions, the revenue that they bring – either directly, through student fees, or indirectly, from government subventions – has become crucial to survival and success.

Hitting your enrolment targets also makes it easier to organise your cohort and allocate resources. Furthermore, it sets you in good stead when national authorities evaluate the relative “attractiveness” of your school.

(If you’re not able to simply and thoroughly check your performance against your admissions targets, know that it doesn’t have to be that way and technology can help you there).

2. Did you connect with your applicants on mobile, social and SMS? 

We’ve all come to expect a certain level of customer experience in the digital age – service based on who we are and how we like to be communicated with.

Students, of course, are no different. They expect you to meet them where they are.

Need inspiration? Learn how Cornell University is embracing mobile to create an online community for student onboarding and student services.

3. Are you sending more personalised communications than generic ones? 

When you sent out your marketing emails to prospective students, did you just address them by their name? Or did you promote courses and content you know they’re most likely to be excited about?

For example, when the London School of Economics (LSE) emails prospective students about the public events they can expect during a typical year at the university, it tailors the events featured towards their interests.

The result has been a leap in engagement. Open rates have leapt from 25% to over 40%, while click throughs have risen from 2.9% (the industry average) to 11-23% depending on the department.

4. Did you track each and every applicant interaction? 

Capturing every touchpoint is the only way to really get to know your prospective students. Harvard Kennedy School even tracks prospect browsing activity on its website to enhance its view of applicants.

5. Were your applicants satisfied with their experience? 

Happy applicants make engaged students and more successful graduates. The challenge here is to make sure you can capture this feedback easily and turn it into concrete actions. 

If you’ve already surveyed your applicants about their experience with your institution, brilliant. Just make sure this feedback doesn’t stand still and is considered alongside other activities and feeds next year recruitment and admission strategy.

Smiling student working with laptop and making notes

6. Were you able to score prospective students? 

Scoring prospective students can help a school focus its efforts on the students who are the best fit for each programme and build a carefully balanced cohort.

The recruitment team at ESSEC Business School scores prospective students’ likelihood of enrolling based on their demographic profile, their activity and their interests. The business school uses designed journeys and contact forms to gather information about its applicants, then real-time prospect scoring to target the most promising leads with tailored communications.

7. Are you accurately predicting (and minimising) applicant drop-off? 

When you’re measuring engagement in real-time, you can start taking targeted, timely action to maximise enrolment.

University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business uses applicant engagement with emails and online content to predict who will show up in its classrooms come August. As a result, it’s able to reach out to students who look likely to melt away over the summer and give them the extra attention they need.

8. Was the applicant information you captured available to everyone who needed it – in real time? 

Putting data at everyone’s fingertips is the key to seamless, engaging applicant experiences.

It’s the difference between asking an applicant to repeat themselves every time they get in touch, and knowing exactly who they are – and what they’re likely to be calling about – as soon as you pick up the phone.

The secret to improving the response time and the service your applicants receive is to create a single source of truth for student data across academic and administrative teams involved in the recruitment and admissions process. 

“Having all of the information about a constituent in one place has transformed the way we communicate.” David Burge, Executive Director, Admission Services, Arizona State University

9. Is all your applicant data being securely stored and processed?

How many different systems at your institution holds applicant information? On average higher education institutions use 35 systems to manage the student journey! 

When you have multiple, disconnected systems, maintaining rigorous data governance is all but impossible.

10. Is this data accessible to your applicants? 

Since the advent of GDPR, you also need to be able to make that data available to students within a calendar month. Failing to do so could cost your university money.

Community portals can help – empowering students to manage their own information, with any changes being instantly reflected in your CRM platform.

11. Can you see what worked? And what can be improved? 

Or, to put it another way: are you making great use of data analytics?

Monitoring your conversion rates will help you see what is working and prove the impact of your marketing, recruitment and admissions efforts. 

Ideally, your data analytics won’t just be numbers on a stale spreadsheets. They’ll be  dynamic metrics that tell a story and that you can drill into and explore. When you can quickly consolidate all relevant data into clear, highly visual reports, keeping every stakeholder in the loop suddenly becomes a whole lot easier.

Artificial Intelligence (like Einstein) can help you spot data patterns quickly, and identify, for example, the applicants most likely to complete their studies.

“What gets me the most excited about Einstein is that it can help me look at data so that I can ask questions and find out things I don’t already know.” Nathan Baker, Taylor University

Colleagues Writing On Transparent Wipe Board

12. Are your recruiters spending their time recruiting? 

Digital, automated processes help student recruiters spend time on the things that matter. LSE has made registration at its Offer-Holder Days as simple as scanning a QR code – with the attendance information going straight into the university’s CRM.

13. Do you empower your team to work on mobile? 

From running open days to attending industry events, data collection and marketing can be a time-consuming process. Empowering your team with digital, mobile registration tools – and the power to update student records, anytime, anywhere – can make life much easier, while improving prospect experiences.

“Know you don’t need to go at it alone. Partner with the right technology vendors to extend your available resources.” Carol Thomas, Vice President of Information Technology, New England College

14. Is your team… OK? 

Did your team survive the storm? With its morale intact? Some of you may have hired temps to bolster your team during the recruitment period, others will have weathered it with no extra assistance. Whatever approach you took, now is the time to review engagement and motivation, and see how technology can help reduce burnout, and transform the employee experience. 

15. Does the rest of the university know what your team accomplished? 

If not, it’s time to shout about it. And not just to get the credit – and perhaps the budget you deserve, but to help every department plan more effectively the coming year. Which will lead to better student experiences, and more advocates for your institution, and ultimately, more students in years to come!

How did you do?

More than 10 points

Well hey, congratulations! Track us down on Twitter, and tell us about your proudest achievement this year! #HigherEdRockstar


5-10 points

You’re doing a lot of stuff right. Well done! You might want to check out our Recruitment & Admission Masterclass for a little extra inspiration


5 points or fewer

The good news is you’ve plenty of room for improvement. Check out our Higher Ed Recruitment & Admissions buyers guide that will give you all the red flags to consider, features to ask for and tips from peers when choosing a solution for your team!