Aligning Resources Mid-Cycle
Every year in late December, I would lock myself away in my office and pour over as much data as I could. Everything from the shape of the funnel to dollars spent on each trip during the fall. When I would eventually emerge, I’d be ready to share with my team where we would shift time and money for spring recruitment.
Unfortunately, I never had enough data to do it well.
When I say I was watching the shape of the funnel, I mean just that – admits / apps / FAFSAs / visits / deposits.
It was the best I could do at the time – but as a profession, we can all create a much clearer picture than just the metrics we send up to the board.
Let’s take one of the metrics above – FAFSA filing. By the time you realize that FAFSAs are significantly down, you’ve already lost enrollment potential. I’m not suggesting that you can’t get FAFSA numbers back up through herculean efforts, but I am suggesting that there are students who had already decided not to send you their FAFSA and they’ve moved on.
Lost enrollment potential.
Instead, if in that early December isolation chamber, I had been able to monitor the full complexity of enrollment signals, that I was evaluating the time distance between being admitted and replying to an email from a counselor, that web activity was a core part of my understanding of the strength of the applicant pool – I would be able to re-align resources in a more effective and precise way.
The data disadvantage is real – we have self-imposed limits on our understanding of the strength of the applicant pool. It’s self imposed because we’ve decided that the numbers we send up are what we’ll use internally and with our team.
We’ve settled for this.
Our admissions counselors will always be optimistic and hopeful about the possible outcomes – sometimes right until the last minute. Even when they know it’s a bad year, their projections are going to be higher than is likely.
As admissions leaders, it is incumbent on us to step up, bulk up our usage of available data in our CRMs, and set the right course.