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The Most Critical Decision

The Most Critical Decision

This piece follows “Five Barriers to Yield Improvement” and focuses on the first barrier.

Who a counselor spends their time on today is one of the most critical decisions they will make.

It is critical because once this micro-decision is made, it cannot be undone.  The time spent on that recruitment effort has gone up in smoke; you will never get it back.

After your strategy is set, the range of potential outcomes shrinks a little as the cycle progresses.  At this point, the most effective thing you can do is level up your admissions team so that each day, the range of outcomes closes from the bottom, not the top.

Admissions counselors do not have the tools to identify which students to prioritize on any given day correctly.  When left to their own devices, they often put their time into responding to incoming messages first and fill the rest of their day with mass communications

Experienced admissions directors have come to see the need to step in and guide that process, generating lists, identifying criteria, and juggling nine spreadsheets, all to encourage their admissions counselors to focus on the right students. 

Each day, your counselors need to comb through 100s or 1000s of prospective students to determine who to spend their time on.

The problem is that, in most cases, the admissions directors are also unable to identify the right students to spend time on today.

Don’t get me wrong – the admissions directors’ lists are usually better than what counselors would come up with on their own.  But few of us have the tools necessary to capture students demonstrating engagement behaviors that mimic students who have enrolled in the past.

The ideal scenario is to build a thorough, cutting-edge machine learning model that mines your CRM data from previous years to identify the optimal path to enrollment.  When you’ve done that, you can throw up a flag whenever a student starts to stray off that path.  This allows for just-in-time interventions that pull more students further down the enrollment process and increase yield.

In the absence of that, an admissions director should look at all available markers of interest.  Not just who has or has not visited / submitted a FAFSA / completed their application.  Instead, build a calling list that looks like this:

  • Who was opening emails but suddenly stopped within the last eight days?
  • Which students were on the visit page but have not gone through and scheduled a visit?
  • Are there applicants who said they did not intend to file for aid but have engaged with the financial aid website?

If your counselors focus on the wrong students today, the day is lost. 

Fix that problem, and you can move every student a few steps further down the path to enrollment, and that is how you can start to improve yield within the confines of your strategy.

“… admissions directors are also unable to identify the right students to spend time on today.”

Teege Mettille
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