"Field Notes" is a regular Connect column covering practical and philosophical issues facing admissions and registrar professionals. The columns are authored by various AACRAO members. If you have an idea for a column and would like to contribute, please send an email to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Becky Tankersley, M.Ed., Director of Communications, Enrollment Management Georgia Institute of Technology.
In the college admission world, April means one thing: yield season. And, for better or for worse, the yield season of 2021 is not unlike it was in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic first started: full of unknowns, possibilities, and questions.
In a normal (and abnormal!) year, a comprehensive yield plan includes a variety of factors, many of which depend upon your staff size and class goals. Campus tours, virtual tours, webinars, emails, videos, social media posts, and old-fashioned phone calls are some of the most popular tools utilized by admission and enrollment professionals.
However, one of the most effective tools in your toolbelt is how you leverage voices outside of the admission office to tell your institution’s story. Even though staff at many campuses have been in a remote or hybrid environment over the past year, there are still opportunities to collaborate with other offices at your institution to impact yield.
You may be surprised to find that, despite already heavy workloads, staff outside of admission often appreciate being asked to pitch in on your yield efforts and connect with future students. Here are a few examples of how you can collaborate with other offices to lift their voices and share their stories.
Parent and Family Programs
More than three out of four parents say they are “very involved” in the college planning process with their students, according to recent research conducted by Ruffalo Noel Levitz. However, only 54 percent of parents surveyed report they received communications from colleges specifically directed to them. Talk about a missed opportunity! Partner with your institution’s parent and family programs unit, and connect parents of current students to parents of your admitted students. Ask them to consider personal outreach efforts such as a calling or letter-writing campaign. If that is too much, simply ask if parents of current students can write a few paragraphs that you can insert into an email from your own CRM and send out on their behalf. Parents of current students offer a unique perspective on how they have seen their own students grow and change during college (and they remember what it was like to be in the other parents’ shoes!). Ask them to highlight their student’s experience on campus, how their student has grown during their time there, and why they are glad their student chose to attend your school.
Diversity and Inclusion
Show your institution’s support for diversity, inclusion, and access by connecting with your VP or Director of diversity initiatives. This person can write a tailored letter to students, and parents, addressing how your school is prioritizing efforts in this space. Enable them to share their message of diversity and inclusion, and how they will support future students as they join your campus community.
Partner with your campus’s executive leadership team to connect with admitted students. Because these leaders often have limited time in their schedules, use these efforts to connect with a smaller cohort of students in line with your strategic plan (such as students offered merit or need-based scholarships). Coordinate with their office staff to schedule a targeted email, or perhaps a follow-up phone call. Quick Tip: Provide an outline of talking points or draft a script to make it easier for their teams to move quickly.
College Deans and/or School Chairs
Help your admitted students feel welcome in the major they’ve selected by sending a welcome message from their College Dean or School Chair. Let them tell prospective students the story of what makes their program unique, why they hope students will choose their school, and how they look forward to working with the student in the year ahead (bonus points if they can do this in a quick video!).
Ask a student who serves in the Student Government Association or another leadership organization to write a message or make a short video to welcome new students to the campus community. Allow them to share their story and why they’re glad they chose your school. Prospective students like to hear from current students, as this helps them get an idea of whether or not they can see themselves on your campus.
Yield is all about showcasing your institution’s stories to prospective students and families. By collaborating with different departments on campus, you can tell a broader story from multiple perspectives.
While the responsibility of recruitment may fall on admission and communication offices, enrollment and retention are part of everyone’s job. Only time will tell the true impact of the pandemic on yield. Regardless, any connection made between an admitted student and a member of your institution is a win!
Want to get involved? Explore SEM and attend the SEM 2021 Conference.