Many views on the NACAC rule changes that happened in October focus on potential negative outcomes of the vote. One fear is that the previously-held college recruitment standards will become a thing of the past and be replaced by a new “no holds barred” model.
However, I foresee beneficial outcomes resulting from these changes, especially for students at two critical junctures: 1) making an initial admission selection and 2) reconsidering their initial admissions decision and switching to another school after matriculation.
Previously, when prospective students committed to an institution, competitors were required to discontinue recruiting these students. Although meant to protect committed students from being barraged by marketing materials, it also meant that students were not receiving a number of competing admissions offers, some of which may have been attractive, heavily-considered options. While some students remain steadfast in their decision to attend an institution once they commit, others may benefit from still considering other competitive offers in the months leading up to registration.
More time to make selections
U.S. high school students graduating in 2020 have always had technology at their fingertips when researching and determining the best path forward for their post secondary education. They are accustomed to the flood of digital marketing from businesses vying for their attention – including colleges and universities – and are fully capable of distilling the content.
Just as today’s students have come to expect greater flexibility and delivery options for achieving their academic and career goals (e.g., nontraditional terms), the new NACAC rules will enable institutions to connect digitally with students and give them more flexibility and time to decide on the right path.
With the new rules, more students will now be able to continue their fall college searches well into the summer months. Instead of feeling the pressure to make a commitment by the May 1st deadline, they will have a few extra months to find the best-fit school without feeling locked into their decision too early in the process.
Positive impact on retention, right fit
Finding the “right-fit student” is a common institutional mantra, but is it a reality in college admissions recruitment? For institutions, the new rules will improve their ability to recruit and retain optimal students.
Gauging a student’s needs is vital to retention. This is even more important now that institutions can recruit existing college students for transfer. The new NACAC rules enable more time to vet prospective students, increasing the odds that a given matriculated student will be a good fit. This includes exploring all available options before selecting the right match and ultimately increasing the odds for each student to make it to graduation.
What’s more, institutional programming can monitor key success factors such as attendance and at-risk behaviors, as well as utilize early-alert notifications identify students who may be at risk for dropping out or transferring to a different institution, to ultimately help institutions retain more students.
The new rules will likely drive institutions to deploy other initiatives to keep their students happy on campus and thus dissuade them from transferring out. However, there will inevitably be some students who, once on campus, realize their institution is not the best fit for them. Students’ attitudes, interests and life circumstances change, and keeping the lines of communication open between students and alternative institutions can assist these students in finding the “best fit” institution when their initial choice doesn’t work out.
Importance of data analytics
With the new admissions process that the new rules will create, the benefits of data analytics for both institutions and prospective and current students cannot be overstated. By using new types of analytics, institutions can focus their recruitment resources on prospective students who indicate certain interest areas. This can help students by providing them relevant messaging that aligns with their particular needs.
In the same manner, data gathered at the institution level from existing students can be leveraged to create analytical reports that show academically at-risk students or students at risk for transferring out. The use of both predictive and prescriptive analytics is an exciting and necessary opportunity for institutions to optimize their now-expanded recruitment efforts and increase the satisfaction and retention performance for existing students.
The changes in the NACAC rules of ethical college recruitment may seem detrimental to some, but opening up channels of recruitment that were previously off limits or limited to strict deadlines now offers new opportunities that can help students and institutions form stronger partnerships with each other in the end.
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