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Problem Recognition

The concepts in this article will be further discussed in an enroll ml webinar on Tuesday, April 25, at 3:00 (eastern). 


In college admissions, we are surrounded by intellectual heavyweights all across campus.  To a degree, it’s an embarrassment of riches.  However, too often, we don’t tap into the academic theories and research that could help us improve our outcomes.


Enter McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey, which provides an intellectual road map that our potential students and their families are going through.


Indeed, we may have designed a “college search process” – steps and stages we insist they go through.  At the same time, they are going through their own internal processes and deliberations.  We can better understand where our students are if we step out of our linear process of hoops and stages, and instead understand how families are thinking about purchasing a college education.


If you reacted negatively to “purchasing a college education” – good.  it’s just one example of how the process we’ve given families is different than the one they are going through naturally.


Step one – problem recognition 


The first of five steps, problem recognition, is what begins the Consumer Decision Journey McKinsey wrote about.


While this is overly simplistic (this is a blog, after all), essentially, the student and their supporters/family need to identify the need for the student to go to college.


For regional publics (or similarly situated private institutions) – work done here has a direct impact on enrollment.  For institutions with a more national reach, this is unlikely to yield measurable enrollments – but it’s important work nonetheless.


The reason for the distinction is that at this stage, families are not yet looking for college information.  

Translating this concept to college admissions – consider all of the work we do to help our school counseling colleagues “create a college-going culture.”


It’s important work – necessary to our mission.  But there is no reason to believe being successful in those efforts will play to your institution’s benefit.  That’s because the work we do in this area is about growing our potential market.  


Aside from being the first college in front of them when the student recognizes a problem that going to college will solve for them, there’s not much more an institution can do to improve their enrollment results in the fall.


Yet, if we all stop, we’ll all feel the pain.


So the first take-away from McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey: we all need to do our part to increase the pool of future college students.  

In the next few weeks, we’ll continue on the journey, where more tangible action steps exist.

Of course, the enroll ml webinar on April 25 (recording available afterward) will also provide some key takeaways.

Teege Mettille
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