Why are some colleges attracting and enrolling more students than others? Are they inherently better? Do they have more experience? Are they working twice as hard as everyone else to achieve enrollment success? The answer to these questions, likely, is no. These institutions aren’t doing anything superhuman, they’re just approaching their craft deliberately.

Just like performance athletes, higher ed faces increasing scrutiny and competition. To compete at their craft and attract new students, colleges and universities are forced to rethink business as usual. Luckily, Anders Ericsson, who has been studying expertise for more than thirty years, co-wrote a book about this very subject. In the book Peak, Ericsson has laid out a clear path to elite performance, just in time to help higher ed up its game.

To excel in today’s increasingly competitive environment, higher education institutions must embrace a new enrollment mindset—a mindset that envisions the goal and knows how to get there. Yet embracing this mindset requires enrollment officers to challenge some underlying assumptions of elite performance, myths about what it takes to rise to the top. For the truth is that success is not attributed to inherent talent, numerous repetitions, or Herculean effort; success is attributed to those who practice deliberately.

Myth #1 – One’s abilities are limited by one’s genetically prescribed characteristics.

All institutions have some form of inherent identity, an institutional DNA so to speak. The rich historical legacy of many colleges and universities can function as a double-edged sword, simultaneously providing the institution a prominent foundation and limiting its practices to what’s always been done. When the default settings come from what’s always been done, or when decisions are justified with the statement “it’s not what we do,” your institutional DNA may be getting in the way of progress.

If “the best way to [progress] is to challenge your brain and body in a new way,” how can your institution’s “brain” and “body” be challenged? Does your vision reconcile the institution’s history with the realities of today’s society? Do you leverage both your faculty’s expertise and emerging trends in the market when planning new programs? Have you found ways to expand your online presence while still acknowledging your campus and brand in your online platform and higher ed advertising? Confront your institutional DNA to determine what contributes to your success and what holds you back.

(Next page: More myths hindering enrollment success)

About the Author:

Danielle Caldwell (http://www.helixeducation.com/resources/author/dcaldwell/) is Content Marketing Manager at Helix Education (http://www.helixeducation.com/). She is a former faculty member and current adjunct professor in Westminster College’s Master of Strategic Communication (MSC) program.


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