Turning Up the Notch on Personalization to Increase Yield
In a year where admissions and enrollment continues to be uncertain, one element remains clear: the more connected an applicant feels to your institution, the more likely they are to enroll. In a time when in-person yield events are not realistic and even campus visits are unlikely, creating that connection is arguably more important than ever.
In this last month before many students decide which college to attend, there are opportunities to foster and deepen relationships with accepted students. But before you focus primarily on those who are already likely to enroll (those who have given every indication through being in touch, asking questions, etc.), consider the larger group of students who have applied and are not actively showing the same degree of interest. The goal is to convert more of that portion of the applicant pool to enroll, so identify ways to have your team spend time on these prospective students – and on their parents. It is likely that in this pandemic year, parents will have more influence on the selection process given concerns about safety and wellbeing.
So, what can you do? Be sure that every communication sent to accepted students is personalized and provides relevant content. Use information from their application to identify what’s important to them – if they have played a varsity sport in high school but haven’t expressed interest in varsity athletics, touch on club and intramural sports in addition to information about their potential major and student organizations in which they may be interested. If they have been involved in a service organization in high school, let them know about those available at your institution.
But there’s an additional option as well: show them what happens on campus. Invite prospective students to participate in student activities that are happening virtually. For instance, if the programming board is holding a virtual concert, why not invite prospective students to listen in? During this time of year, a lot happens on campus – and for once, much of it is accessible from anywhere – so consider taking advantage of that to highlight what their student experience will be.
Another opportunity is to partner with the alumni engagement office to offer a look into life after graduation. In a society where the value of higher education continues to be questioned, show prospective students and their parents the success of your graduates. Consider a panel discussion with recent alumni talking about their lives and experiences after graduation, and then move prospective students and parents into smaller rooms for an informal chance to speak with them. This creates a more personal experience as part of that event. While this might be a bit more challenging during an in-person yield event, it is possible in a virtual setting.
These are some quick ways to bring an additional level of personalization to your final recruitment activities for the class of 2026. In the end, it’s all about each student finding the institution that is right for them, and by getting them more engaged in life on campus before they arrive, they will already feel a connection to your institution.
Mirko Widenhorn, Ed.D.
Mirko Widenhorn, Ed.D., is senior director of engagement strategy at Anthology. Widenhorn joined the Anthology team in 2013, bringing more than 11 years of higher education experience to the organization. Prior to Anthology, he was the director of alumni relations and annual giving at Wilkes University. Now serving as the senior director of engagement strategy, he works closely with clients on engagement scoring, while also focused on thought leadership for higher education. Widenhorn is a Drew University graduate and completed his Ed.D. in higher education administration at Wilkes University, focusing on whether giving differs based on participation in different types of alumni programming.