Making Love to the Admissions Staff: Enrollment Management 101 for Web Professionals

How many of us in higher education work in communications offices, marketing offices, of information technology offices and know pretty much nothing about how the students who we are here to support actually *get* here? In this session, Chris d’Orso and Nicole Lentine set out to demystify the role of enrollment management — because as Chris points out, “it’s not just the admissions office anymore” —  for the rest of us.

Starting off with a set of terms and definitions, Chris and Nicole introduced us all to some new vocabulary. Terms such as: stealth applicants  — students who the first time we hear from them is when they apply. Buying names — just what it sounds like; buying lists of names to add more applicants to the top of the “funnel” in the hopes that we end up with more enrolled students at the end. The fast app  — a pre-filled out app to again encourage more students to apply, but can also lead to more incomplete applicants for students who never finish their portion. Double depositing  — students who are accepted to and then send in deposits to more than one school.

Admissions officers and directors are focused on meeting a somewhat magical sounding number called yield. Yield is the total number of admitted students who actually enroll in the school. But it’s not a simple matter of just admitting as many of the top students as they can. Schools may be able to fill their engineering program five times over, for example, but they can’t if they can only take, say, 40 new majors. Admissions officers are always thinking three to five semester ahead, even when most faculty and other administrators are focused on the current semester. They need to know how many current students are already in the pipeline in each program, what support services are available, what is residential life capable of supporting, etc. etc. And they also need to know about any changes to programs, curricula, and offerings so they can explain to 17-year-olds what they next four years of their lives are going to look like.

When asked what single think the web people in the room could do to make the lives of admissions people easier, Nicole said that of course it would be great if there were clear paths to and admissions call to action from the homepage. But more importantly, web designers need to think of every page as a potential homepage for prospective students. Any page in our web presence can be the one they see first.