This is a hectic time for college bound high school seniors. As they complete their academic work and prepare for the next stage in life, they must weigh the pros and cons of their college acceptances. They have an important decision to make that will affect them for the next several years; Which college or university to attend? And colleges are anxiously waiting for these admitted students to formally enroll. With dropping enrollment rates, colleges need to start looking at new ways to improve the ‘yield’ of admitted to enrolled students.
Admissions Yield Challenges
According to the Inside Higher Education, in 2018, only 38% of colleges met their enrollment goals by May 1, the traditional deposit deadline. Yield is a big part of the problem. Over the last several years colleges and universities in the U.S. have been experiencing dramatic declines in admissions yield metrics.
There are a variety of reasons for this. For starters, students are applying to more schools than ever before using tools like the Common Application, and are also receiving, and declining, more offers of admission. They are also not engaging with colleges on traditional communication channels like telephone and email. It’s harder and harder to communicate with and nurture today’s social media focused “digital age” student prospects.
Accepted students receive emails, admitted student kits in the mail, and phone calls from the college’s admissions team attempting to increase the rate of admitted to enrolled students. But relying on email, print and phone to improve admissions yield is, simply put, old fashioned. Today’s students are glued to their phones 24/7. Digesting social media and using apps in the same way we relied on email and websites 20 years ago. They have a more limited attention span having grown up in a world where everything is on demand -right at their fingertips and in the palm of their hands.
How to Reduce Friction and Improve Admissions Yield
So, what can colleges do to improve yield in the digital age? Given the digital preferences of students’, colleges can learn from the eCommerce industry which has a keen understanding of the consumer buying process and how to eliminate barriers to a successful sale. How? By minimizing “friction” or anything that inhibits the customer buying process. In college recruiting, friction can be present at a lot of the places in the admissions funnel. The one place where it can be a real problem is at student decision time. Where are they depositing? What schools are they visiting either for the first time or one last time? What does their financial aid package look like? How easy is it to put their deposit down to hold a spot in the fall freshman class?
There are a few simple, but effective, take-aways colleges can adopt from the ecommerce model to reduce friction and improve admissions yield.
Provide Information Quickly and Concisely
Traditional websites are going by the wayside and quickly. Even mobile responsive websites can’t compete with mobile apps when it comes to time spent and engagement opportunities. eCommerce pros know that consumers are not willing to drill into dozens of websites, even mobile responsive sites, to learn about a product. Or navigate any cumbersome and overwhelming process – no matter what it is. We’ve all become accustomed to mobile apps, where the experience is smooth, fast and highly personalized. The same ease and speed need to be applied to the student recruiting and admissions process. Pair traditional communications with modern app-based communication to ensure your content is being digested by prospective students.
Offer Digital Communication Options
Colleges rely heavily on traditional communications to engage with students and their families. Most teens are not opening emails, looking at printed materials or answering their phones to some random unknown caller ID. Today’s students communicate through social sites like Instagram and Twitter, messaging apps and texting. Try engaging with student on apps like they are accustomed to, instead of snail mail, email and phone. A modern app experience can deliver information, notifications, and valuable resources in format students are most comfortable with to help increase yield.
Stop Asking for the Same Information
Customers and teens don’t want to waste their time repeatedly filling in personal details on web form, after web form. It’s tedious and is another point of friction that ecommerce pros solve with auto-fill. Apps also provide a great solution allowing students to build a profile and share it when engaging with a college to save them time and help you avoid friction caused by user frustration.
Make it Easy and Affordable to Deposit
In ecommerce, conversion rates of purchases are in the single digits. The bail out rate is extremely high even for people who add products to a “shopping cart”. Why? Because there is a point of friction during the time at which entering credit card information or other payment information takes place. New payment products that provide an instant “loan” or pay over time option have dramatically improved this point of conversion in ecommerce. By reducing the friction, the decision is not only easier to make, but it becomes affordable for those who need it.
For colleges, this scenario mirrors the deposit process used to hold an accepted student spot in the incoming class. Financial award packages play a major role in the decision process, but even something as simple as a deposit can weigh heavily on a decision. And rarely will the full financial aid or scholarship package accompany the acceptance offer. For some families, a $500 (or more) deposit to secure a spot without the full financial aid picture to consider can be a financial burden and decision barrier. What if colleges removed this point of friction by offering a simple “pay over time” solution for those who need it? Providing more payment options for deposits can help facilitate higher conversion rates and increase yield.
Start Improving Your Admissions Yield
Implementing some of these tactics to reduce friction at every step of the college search, application and especially the final decision process can help colleges meet their enrollment goals. If you would like to learn more about how College Interactive is making this a reality, please contact us.