The ability to collect and interpret data has become critical for higher-ed admissions and strategic enrollment planning

This is what innovation looks like in higher-ed admissions


The ability to collect and interpret data has become critical for higher-ed admissions and strategic enrollment planning

Consider, for example, a digital ad campaign. It’s common practice for a higher-ed admissions team to develop the creative, run the ads, and evaluate the results. In an agile approach, the data team might be brought in from the start to identify goals and design experiments for different ad and audience variations. Creative would be developed accordingly, and admissions would share insights about the ad and messaging performance and with the marketing and enrollment teams, who would use the results to improve their digital ads. 

Personalize the journey

Deciding where to attend college is a huge commitment. Cost, degree type, major, location and post-graduation job placement are all factors that weigh heavily on parents and students in such an unparalleled time.

From a recruitment standpoint, no two students are alike. So why are institutions still marketing that way? With more students following a non-linear path through higher education, managing the journey has become more complicated than ever. An admitted student may choose to return to program discovery and consider a different major or a prospective student might decide to take a gap year after applying to a program.

On top of all this, students are savvy consumers of information and have likely formed an impression about a college long before a campus visit or live event. For higher-ed admissions and enrollment leaders, here is a key, self-assessment question: “Are we demonstrating to students that we understand their needs and connecting with them on a personalized level — on the right channel, at the right moment?”

Students want more than a trifold brochure in the mail and email with their name on it. Personalization is now an expectation in everything we do–and colleges need the insights that will enable them to build better relationships with their students and offer them a better experience. Using AI to personalize the recruitment experience and to make a student feel valued can make all the difference.

Level the process

With colleges and universities confronting increased competition for a shrinking pool of college applicants, the current state of recruitment sophistication in higher ed now varies widely depending on the institution. Elite schools have the luxury of an excessive pool of applicants, many of whom can afford tuition. But what about the rest of the U.S. higher education market?

There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. with public, small private, and community colleges making up the bulk of that number. These institutions are vastly more affordable and represent the promise of a new start or a chance to finish a degree and earn higher wages. Finding and engaging with these prospective students–many of whom do not fit into a traditional, linear, apply-enroll-study-graduate continuum–is the new secret sauce in higher-ed admissions innovation.

The modern, AI-powered admissions office is dramatically shaping student recruitment for more precise and unbiased recruiting and to boost enrollment. For the vast majority of higher-ed students, their socio-economic situations are such that jobs, families, the ability to commute to and from school, let alone paying tuition, are all major, often deterring factors along the path to a certification or a degree. 

Colleges and universities have an incredible opportunity to up their recruitment game and avoid the record melt that occurred in 2020. By articulating and delivering a clear value proposition at the individual student level, come the start of school, a student’s decision to enroll in higher education should feel like less of a leap of faith and more of a commitment to the journey and the promise of a better life outcome.

eSchool Media Contributors