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Enrollment Marketing for Higher Education

Your admissions reps are returning to the office, another travel season in the bag. Time to start working on all those applicants and catching up with admits.

But wait, let’s not move on too quickly before we figure out how you can get the most ROI for all that time on the road.

Building on your investment will require a change in thinking and a bit of strategy.

Stop visiting high schools. Instead, start cultivating high schools (and churches). A cultivation strategy implies ongoing communication with staff and faculty at the high school. More than the one-and-done approach associated with visiting high schools.

In the old model, an admissions rep visits a high school in September, meets the guidance staff, pulls old materials from the offices and replaces with new and then maybe takes a seat in the cafeteria to talk to students as they go by at lunch. The next contact with the high school might be a call in January to get help on securing a transcript. Then the admissions rep calls the high school in August to arrange the annual visit. A bit of a generalization, but does it sound familiar?

To get the most out of your investment in time and travel is to build relationships with the high schools – not just meet and greets with the guidance staff.

Our consultants have given this considerable thought about how it can be integrated into your enrollment marketing efforts. Here’s an outline of how to begin to build a process that supports cultivating high schools including a visit to the high school.

Define Your Objectives:

  • Move beyond “visiting high schools”
  • Broaden the contact base at the high schools
  • Build relationships with more influencers
  • Make more effective use of recruiter’s time

Identify top high schools (feeder schools) and select targeted high schools (schools with student profiles that match your institution but have not become dependable feeder schools). Those that are feeders AND those that should be feeders.

Develop a profile of the high schools:

  • Size overall and for graduation classes
  • Strengths and reputation (top high school in area)
  • Demographics of high school and community
  • Sports programs (include top rivals/league)
  • Calendar of events (Homecoming, plays/musicals/recitals, community service events)
  • Enrolled students and applicants from the high school over last 2-3 years
  • Current applicants/admits
  • Access EPS from College Board (if available)

Build contacts at the high school to include:

  • Principal
  • Vice or Co-Principals
  • Guidance staff including admin assistants
  • Senior class advisor
  • Junior class advisor
  • Band director
  • Choral director
  • Play/musical advisor
  • Key club advisors (science club, community service clubs, Honor Society, etc.)
  • Coaches
  • Alumni employed at high school
  • Key teachers such as English, Science, History

Create a database, shared if possible, to store the information.

Use the database and a to-do list to maintain contacts with the various influencers. The goal is to have a regular communications flow to the high school, keeping the name and brand fresh in the influencer’s minds.

Creating the plan to cultivate high schools can be a lot of work to kick-off. Take this in stages by selecting just a few in each geographic area. Add more schools in the spring and broaden the contact levels at each school. Start with a few communications that will work universally with all high schools.

And, of course, the level of these activities will need to be scaled up or down depending on the size of your institution, number, and experience level of admissions reps, degree that faculty are engaged in recruiting, outreach, and other institution-specific factors.

Where does the staff find the time to do this? From a strategy perspective, the idea is to reduce the amount of time staff spend on the road and re-focus on deeper relationships with schools. Travel time is converted to desk and research time.

Overall, this cultivation model can be integrated into the recruiting and marketing efforts of most admissions offices. As with all new activities, staff will need guidance and parameters to ensure they are successfully adapting and operationalizing this enhanced approach to working with high schools.

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