Location: Blacksburg, VA
With multiple campus locations across the state, Virginia Tech is a leading comprehensive, land-grant institution offering 110 bachelor’s degree programs through nine colleges. In 2017, a new vice-provost for enrollment management identified salient
issues within the admissions operation and wanted a neutral, outside expert to help assess and document the current state of the operation as well as provide a path for moving forward to address any needed changes. AACRAO Consulting was called in
to assist Virginia Tech in this endeavor.
Up to this point, the admissions department at Virginia Tech had been operating in an isolated fashion, cut off not only from other critical functions of the university but also from itself. Staff within admissions were attempting to do their jobs with a lack of information and clarity, minimal access to concrete data to measure their effectiveness, inefficient processes, and outdated technology.
The new leadership knew that addressing these challenges would require a fresh perspective from an outside, neutral source with first-hand knowledge in admissions best practices. The university was also looking for an expert who could work quickly to assess the situation and provide actionable recommendations that would generate immediate results. That expert was AACRAO Consulting.
AACRAO Consultants conducted two on-site visits at Virginia Tech, during which they completed a full operational review of the admissions department. This included carefully evaluating documents, data, staff roles and structure, communications, technologies, processes and practices. During their on-site visits, AACRAO Consultants spoke with members of the admissions team to understand their perspectives on the challenges they faced as well as identify the sources of communication and process breakdowns.
Taking their findings into account, AACRAO Consulting developed and presented a report with detailed recommendations that ranged from basic improvements to more substantial institutional changes. The report also called out best practices, particularly for adopting and transitioning to more current technology to better support the admissions team in their work. AACRAO Consulting additionally addressed more sensitive issues around university culture and how culture, intentional or unconsciously, can impact an institution’s ability to reach a more diverse student population.
Virginia Tech implemented 100 percent of AACRAO Consulting’s recommendations, including the adoption of an updated CRM platform. Now the university leads the state in using the latest admissions technology to streamline student communications, track and leverage admissions data, and improve recruitment and yield efforts. The admissions team has also been able to unify a number of processes, eliminating redundancies and driving efficiencies.
The improvements they’ve implemented have helped close major gaps in the university’s admissions processes and expedite response rates for prospective and admitted students. Virginia Tech followed up their initial engagement with a second AACRAO Consulting collaboration to develop the university’s holistic admissions approach.
In 2019, Virginia Tech succeeded in putting all the recommended changes in place, and is now experiencing significant growth. In 2018, the university processed 32,000 applications — a record number. In 2019, they set out to achieve a 400-student increase over 2018 numbers for freshmen enrollments, and a 240-student increase for transfer students. In fact, the university exceeded its enrollment goal by nearly 1,000 students.
Thanks to the changes Virginia Tech implemented around diversity and culture in the admissions office and to the transformational changes to the admissions process, the university also saw a 27 percent increase in African-American students; a 49 percent increase in Hispanic and Latinx students; a 48 percent increase in first-generation students; a 60 percent increase in international students; and a 100 percent increase in veteran students. Newly admitted students now represent 49 different states and 64 countries, 34 of which are new to Virginia Tech.