by Kenneth McGhee, instructor and community outreach academic advisor at Northern Virginia Community College
Students and families have numerous choices when making a college selection decision. During fall semester college representatives start visiting high school counseling offices, college fairs and college night activities. At many of these events, financial aid information is offered at only one small booth or not at all. Even if college financing information is offered, usually families are more interested in talking to college representatives from well-known institutions. These realities sometimes make it difficult for non-flagship universities and community colleges to receive full consideration.
Also, informal and formal advice is being offered while a high school senior is trying to decide to which schools they want to apply. Unfortunately this may include people advising students to not consider a quality institution like your college that would serve the student well. While many students would be a good fit at this type of institution, how can you attract them to your campus? Following are a few ideas to consider:
1. Review the Awareness of your Institutional Benefits – Partnerships for internships and jobs for college graduates, lower costs, transfer agreements, interaction with faculty actively engaged in a student’s career field are examples of things to make sure are covered in your advertising. While many potential students may be aware of this information others may not. Reviewing this area helps ensure people don't take your school for granted and instead view it at as a first or second choice. This also helps students combat the negative impression from others about your school, which is not a fair assessment.
2. Use Scholarships to Help Students Take a Second Look - At some point in the college selection process costs will play some role when making a final decision. Offering scholarships with a significant dollar value will help students to slow down and give your school more consideration. At their home, they have the very low or no scholarship offer from their more well known institution and your offer for a more affordable college degree. This, mixed with a reminder of what your school has to offer from point number one, will help your school get a real look. Raising scholarship funds to utilize this approach will pay off in numerous ways, short term and long term.
Raising scholarships funds to utilize this approach will pay off in numerous ways, short term and long term.
3. Update High School Counselors about Your Enhancements – High school counselors regularly see two types of students. The first group is high-achieving students who are trying to be accepted to very selective institutions. Many good students in this category will not be accepted or wait listed. The second group of students are trying to figure out the three or four schools they should consider. Updating high school counselors about your enhancement plans allows them to ask students to give your school more consideration and have your college representative invited to a special session to talk to parents and students.
4. Utilize Rolling Admissions to Find Additional Students – Having a rolling admissions process in and of itself will not always be successful. One of the reasons relates to the lack of preparation from students to come to campus. This will usually include the Federal Student Aid process not being started or completed and parents not being sure about how to cover additional college costs. Increasing the scholarships you commit to offering, assisting the family in completing the Federal Student Aid process, and outlining bottom-line costs can help you increase the number of students who enroll at your school during the rolling admissions process.