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Recruiting Intelligence

Not Rocket Science

Global student recruitment, finding student segments domestically and abroad, is simply not rocket science.

We know the processes and don't need another generic report about what students are thinking and how important parents are to the process. If new student mobility trend data of significance emerges (thank you IIE and National Clearinghouse), you can count on us to evaluate it and report on it. But, most of the reports we are seeing right now from marketing agencies (like us) are rehashing everything we already know.

And annoyingly, they are somehow pointing to their nothing new findings as revelatory. Wut?

So, let’s get to work plotting out the work and bringing the successful results we all want.

The Formula: custom research on your differentiators, your strongest recruitment options (countries/regions), and messaging that engages your target audience on the channels they use.

That’s really about it. That’s what we need. Oh, and to do it successfully, that actually requires investment, technology, and expertise.

So...yes, trend analysis because decision making actually did change since 2019 - safety, cost, the value of education overall, visa issues - all much more significant. These factors existed before the pandemic, before the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, and the ever-horrific state of gun violence in the US. Not new info. All of these factors have been on students’ and parents’ minds for a while. Yours too, right?

And yet, international students continue to find value in a US education and the experience of living and studying in the US. And as they make their decisions, all the things we see in the latest reports and infographics about student mobility trends say essentially the same things we’ve seen for more than a decade.

Reputation matters. Rank matters (more in some regions than others). Career connections matter, parent opinions matter, etc., etc., etc. Tedious findings touted as new, ground-breaking, must-have trend analysis.

Read on for a few student influencers that are actually rising to the top of students' decision-making criteria, and more importantly, what all of this means for your institution's recruitment planning. 

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The Rise of Student Retention as Key to Recruitment

From your steeped-in-student-recruitment vantage point, you see quite clearly the symbiotic relationship retention has with your recruitment efforts and resulting yield. It has everything to do with your student services, student success, and all the small-batch interactions you do to ensure your students experience both.

As David Hautanen, Vice President for Enrollment Management at St. Mary’s College of Maryland said so well in a recent Recruiting Intelligence post: "Retention is both a moral and economic imperative." We wholeheartedly agree. And it is as true for students as it is for institutions. 

We can dive into all of this with you at #Nafsa2022 in Denver. Let us know if you’ll be there and want to share a cup of coffee.

As campuses across the globe emerge from their pandemic safety bubbles and return to recruitment as usual (more or less), now is a really good time to rethink your institution’s retention efforts—and the student-first mentality it requires.

The bottom line: it’s your team’s soft skills that matter most and their availability to use them. Read on for our take…

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Text Message Marketing for Universities and High Schools

Surveys from Mongoose (a popular SMS provider) tell us that a full 80% of students want to receive text messages from academic institutions. The caveat: they only want messages that matter. No fluff. We get it. We bet you do, too. And, the return on well-executed texts is more than worth the careful content planning effort.

SMS marketing is proving to be a direct, cost-effective way to recruit and retain students. If your institution hasn’t explored SMS marketing, now is the best time to start. It’s a little like the question, “When is the best time to start exercising?” The answer is always, now!

For those of you in the know, Slate added text messaging in early 2020 as one of their marketing features. There’s a reason for that. Important to note that the feature will not allow you to send messages through WhatsApp at this point.

Read on for the answers to Why do it? How to get started? And, what are the best practices for effective execution? The short answer: spot on content drives results.

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2 Ways to Get Gen Z

It is wonderful to see a number of institutions touting strong, even incredible, increases in applications for their fall 2021 enrollment. And then the crowing over the record number of students actually enrolling. These successes are fabulous, for sure.

Yet, NCES data just released, with about 50% of all institutions reporting, shows the broader, less rosy picture. Most institutions saw average enrollment declines of around 3% (or worse) in various student segments.

Those few who are cheering, and the larger number of enrollment managers furrowing their brows, are evaluating all of this in the context of what happened in fall 2020 when so many institutions saw frightening and dramatic declines. Bigger than the enrollment blips that 2020 and 2021 represent is, of course, the enrollment cliff predicted for 2025/2026. How are institutions preparing for the challenges ahead?

We’ve seen an increasing number of institutions re-evaluating the game plan and getting very concerned about whether or not they appeal to Gen Z. It is a valid question. An important question. And here’s the thing: marketing agencies everywhere are making the most of that question in ways that can be highly misleading – the level of exaggeration coming from the marketing world prompts a bit of an eyeroll.

Sure, the decision-making process has differences today, but honestly, it is more the same than it is different. Not saying institutions seeking to attract and enroll students don’t need to adjust. They do.

Note: We recently presented an AIRC-hosted webinar alongside Technion Israel Institute of Technology talking about digital marketing and Gen Z that is now available to subscribers to our Intead Plus library.

Read on for insights on two important avenues for getting Gen Z to think more seriously about your institution. And join us at the AIRC conference in Miami in December where there will be plenty of talk on this topic.

A key idea: re-evaluate the hoops you make applicants jump through.

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The Data That Informs Us Part 3

Today we ask, “Right, what about international”?

Honestly, don’t even think about skipping this post. Long because: worth it.

With schools now publishing their actual fall 2020 international enrollment numbers, the proof is in the pudding for many.

Recent survey data offered up by Inside Higher Ed tell us fewer institutions are planning to recruit international students this cycle. While they might rightfully point to the market turmoil, travel restrictions and the like, the underlying concern for many, from our point of view, is a lack of confidence in what the institution has to offer.

So, where is the opportunity for international? The good news: student desire springs eternal. Below we consider recent SEVIS data and data on India, Nepal and China that point the way forward.

Speaking of the way forward, ever notice that those who anticipate opportunity and plan for it are in a vastly better position to capitalize? The opposite is also true. Fear of the future and planning for scarcity perpetuate the same.

To put it simply, you can’t harvest crops if you don’t plant seeds.

And yet, this perspective shared by an SIO of an important US public university in one of our recent email exchanges: Public universities always have their speed set to “caution”. When universities deal with a complex or unprecedented situation, they switch gears to “Halt”. If they are scared, they engage the public university turbo, a button that reads “Ignore”.

This scenario gives the proactive the opportunity to take tremendous leaps forward. So few take this opportunity.

The past two posts in this three-part series largely focused on the data that points to opportunities for domestic student enrollment growth and what to do next. Now, in Part 3, we speak to yet another student segment everyone is scratching their heads about.

Coming next week, more discussion about the latest research on Gen Z and their preferences to help reduce the head scratching about domestic student enrollment plans. Stay tuned for that.

Now, Part 3, what can we offer to international students to overcome the obstacles to enrollment?

The reality: managing international enrollment in the near term is going to be an uphill climb, especially if your institution was slow to develop a robust and flexible remote learning pathway for students throughout the spring and summer. Your plans now (seed planting) will set you up for future harvests as international students continue to seek education and adventure. They won’t be stopped, even if they are slowed. Know that we’re just a call away if you want help making those plans data driven and successful.

Note: if you’re still struggling with the faculty and student processes and fostering engagement, read our earlier post on global turnkey campuses for a clear path to flexible opportunities. Take steps to salvage the spring enrollment numbers within the next few weeks. We have a plan and examples from the 8 universities that innovated and are now reaping the benefits.

Read on as we dive into the latest international student data and what it means for your 2021 enrollment marketing strategy and beyond.

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The Data That Informs Us Part 2

In last week’s post we shared the findings from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s latest report on summer enrollment numbers.

We also made a prediction — that the typical recession uptick in people trying to upskill will look a little different this time around. Remember that large drop off in summer community college enrollments we saw in the NSCRC data?

Yes, there will be market demand for new skills as the economic effects of the pandemic persist, but with the job market drastically altered by a new reality of virtual work and the decimation of roles (retail, restaurants, tourism) in the service industry, specific programs will have outsized interest in a way that we’ve never seen before.

In Part 2 of our data-focused series, we turn our focus to one of our favorite topics: non-traditional students. Or more specifically, the pool of 36 million individuals in the US who have some college, but no degree (SCND, as defined by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.)

We wrote the book on this back in 2018. Literally. (Don’t worry, a free copy of our non-traditional student eBook, complete with strategy recommendations and case studies from your peers is available for download below.)

This is an audience of 36 million potential students that is yours for the taking if you’re ready to get to work. And if you know how to recruit them. It gets a bit tricky as they are not all 18 years old and following a standard pathway from high school to college. Hence the term non-traditional. Our point: they are harder to target en masse.

And although their rate of enrollment during the pandemic is not yet clear, we have some predictions on how this is going to play out.

Read on to learn who these students are, what they’re looking for in the COVID-era, and what this means for your marketing.

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The Data That Informs Us Part 1

This just in: undergraduate enrollment at the George Washington University fell nearly 25 percent this year based on preliminary estimates. That decline includes more than 600 upperclass undergrads and more than 900 international students. A budget impact of ~$76 million

This is only the start of the pandemic impact figures from institutions set to roll in over the next few weeks. 

But there's no time to wait around for the bad news. It's time to work with the data we have now

Fortunately, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has preserved a crucial record of the last few months that provide a wealth of indicators of what is to come: summer 2020 enrollment numbers.

Today’s post is the first in a three-part, data-focused series in which we’ll be diving into the latest enrollment trends and early indicators of COVID-19’s impact — plus what these findings mean for your marketing, of course.

The web has been rife with clickbait headlines and data from student sentiment surveys since the early spring, each claiming to predict COVID-era student decision-making in the fall and beyond. Despite our love for data around here, you might have noticed that we haven’t given these surveys much attention on this blog. 

Think: when was the last time you accurately predicted your own thoughts and behavior six months in advance? What about the last time you predicted anything in the evolving economic, health, and employment conditions of the COVID-19 reality?

Chances are, many students don’t even know what they want for tonight’s dinner, much less what decisions they’ll be making in the months ahead. And any of those surveys regarding their stated future COVID-era educational plans from six months ago? Well, we hope you took them with a grain of salt.

So much of the planning we see being done by individuals and institutions is based on hoping that things will improve in 2 weeks, 2 months, 6 months. Hope is SO important to developing vision and inspiring the team, but when it gets down to academic and business planning to execute on the strategic vision, stability is what feeds accurate predictions. We are sorely lacking in stability these days, making predictions far less reliable.

We look for data that can support the work – data that is not based on point in time records of hopeful sentiments.

In the National Student Clearinghouse’s newly released report, which includes data from 7 million students enrolled in May-July summer sessions across 2,300 colleges, we have our first look at concrete, behavioral insights on the enrollment effects of COVID-19 across various degree levels, institution types, and demographic groups. This is the type of data that gets our marketing gears turning.

 Read on for these early enrollment signals and a few hints at what’s to come.

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What Your Students Need Now Part 2

Last week, we put your prospective students’ SOS call on your radar.

Today, we’re going to show you exactly how to answer that call.

(Those of you reading to the end of this post, we can feel your thanks. You're welcome).

From the Naviance data we covered in Part 1 of this series, one thing is clear: your digital strategy and shifts in messaging are crucial right now. With COVID-19 agitating the waters, many students (domestic and international) are lost at sea in the college search and decision-making process. It’s your job to throw them all a life jacket. Metaphor alert: that life jacket is: engaging, informative, customized digital marketing content.

Students will be receptive to your messaging this fall. They want your guidance. Do you know what to say?

With the help of more Naviance data and our own market research, this week’s post is all about the how, where, and what of your digital marketing messaging in this unfamiliar time of COVID-19.

Our goal: helping you create messaging that will guide your prospects through those choppy waters…right to the safe harbor of your institution. Don't worry, we’re done with the ocean metaphors now. 

Read on for the digital tools and key topics your prospects need this fall and how to incorporate them into your admissions and enrollment strategy. 

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