Administrators at most colleges are in a state of perpetual concern over the performance of their schools. Is our tuition enough to fund the school's programs? Is it too high to attract enough students? Do our programs entice the level of student we want? Do we need more programs? Are the ones we have good enough? Is our location acceptable, or do we need something special to offset being in a relatively small area? Have we marketed all of these aspects of our school appropriately?
These are all reasonable concerns, but ones which miss the mark. In truth, when colleges outperform their rivals, it's often due to one consistently undervalued factor: their admissions staff. With that in mind, let's discuss where an admissions staff is likely to fall short, and what can be done about those issues.
What is the Main Role of an Admissions Staff?
First, we must remember that your admissions staff is responsible for one thing above all else: contact with prospective students. This includes answering incoming calls, responding to voicemails in a timely fashion, and dealing with students face-to-face during on-campus visits or during recruiting drives. There are other aspects to the job, of course, such as helping prospective students with the financial assistance process, but none of those occur without contacting the student.
Believe it or not, most colleges fail at this critical task. Over eighty percent of colleges fail to convert, or even connect with, more than four percent of prospective student inquiries. Four percent. One in twenty-five. Suffice to say, there is far more room for improvement here than most administrators realize.
How Can an Admissions Staff Improve?
Fortunately, if maintaining an acceptable level of contact is an issue—whether there are too many messages that go unanswered, or staff loses contact with students who are undecided—the answer is often found in staffing numbers. Staying in touch with students on a basic level is not difficult; almost anyone with an entry-level admissions job can send a template-based query email to a student who has inquired about the school, promoting the college and asking if they're still interested in attending. Some contact needs to be made by counselors or other experienced staff, whose available time can fluctuate depending on how busy they are, but that should only affect contact rates at the margins.
Therefore, apart from situations where employees are flat-out shirking their duties, if insufficient contact is made with prospective students, there are two straightforward solutions: more staff, and better training. You may benefit from one, the other, or both.
Increasing Staff Size
A larger staff is the short-term solution, and depending on how quickly you need to turn around the problem, it can be correct. Of course, given budgetary constraints, a larger staff can be a hard sell to whoever controls the purse strings. It shouldn't be; more contact means more students, and more students mean more tuition that can be used, in part, to pay the extra employees. But that's frequently not how administration makes decisions.
College Admissions Training for Entry-Level Employees
Training, on the other hand, is both easier to sell to the decision-makers and a better long-term strategy. True entry-level employees will have a limited set of responsibilities, and finalizing a student's admission will almost always fall to a full-time counselor, but there are any number of intermediate steps that a well-trained staff member can fulfill. For example, much of dealing with a prospective student involves information gathering that nearly anyone can do it, as long as they're cognizant of the resources at hand.
Consider the purely data-based questions incoming students ask. "What financial aid packages are available? What is the graduation rate in the College of Medicine, or Engineering? What dean or other staff member in a major is available for specific questions?" These are often questions without answers easily found on Google, but which should certainly be available to school employees. Yet far too many colleges have staff that pass on anything they don't immediately know to the highest level, leaving counselors overworked and prospective students under-served. Given better admissions training, a currently under-performing staff could accommodate far more students than is currently the case.
College Admissions Training for Admissions Counselors
Then there are the admissions counselors, the backbone of your staff. When a counselor is doing their job well, they aren't just answering basic questions and helping students with paperwork. The counselor is gauging interest based on the contacts they've made, making good determinations on which students are most likely to attend, and deciding how much contact they need to be swayed into joining the school. Perhaps the counselor adds a personal touch to those contacts, tracking birthdays and sending cards to make sure prospects feel remembered.
Of course, there are core issues with which counselors need to grapple constantly. Financial aid is the obvious one. Rising tuition at all schools makes assistance programs the number one priority for many students; here is just one example of one article listing a handful of financial aid questions your counselors may be asked. The job is more than just dealing with students; the financial aid landscape changes every year, as do laws relevant to other college issues, and rules instituted by the college itself. The rest of your staff has the luxury to pass questions on to the counselors; the counselors need to know all of these things, or know where to find the answers quickly. That means applying resources to admissions training and investment, or losing out to the colleges who do.
Contact Engine to Improve Your Admissions Management
Some schools can fix their problems with minor tweaks to how their admissions staff handles business. Many more, however, have deeper, intrinsic issues that need experienced help to fix. That's where Engine comes in. Our expertise is in developing proper staffing models, recruiting talent in the positions where you need it, and instituting regimented training programs through an established learning platform.
Furthermore, our business is focused on helping educational institutions meet the challenges of modern-day student recruitment. We know staffing, we know millennial students, and we know the best college recruiting tips and methods available. If your admissions department needs help, your admissions department needs us. Contact us today to find out how we can improve admissions management at your school.