All over the US, marketing and recruitment teams are facing one of the toughest challenges of every cycle. The summer melt. Two million students enroll in college immediately following their high school graduation, but one in five high school students who intend to go to college never reach campus in the fall. And the effect is felt disproportionately by community colleges, who can see melt rates as high as 40%.
And there might be more storm clouds on the horizon.
The National Association for College Admission Counseling may soon remove several rules from its code of conduct. The changes would remove from the Code of Ethics and Professional Practice several measures that currently prevent colleges from offering incentives to students after they’ve accepted an offer from another institution.
The changes, if adopted, could cause a big headache for admissions teams - who are already up against the fierce competition to keep students committed throughout the summer while recruiting all year round.
This is a big issue - and each college will have its strategies and resources - but here are some quick wins (that don’t require whole new budgets for incentives) to implement now so that you’re ahead of the game in 2020, keeping that summer melt at bay.
1. Inspire FOMO
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean your campus goes to sleep, right? Most colleges and universities still have a tonne of activity going on and stories that you can share on your social channels. Connecting your prospective students with your existing tribes on campus is a powerful strategy for keeping them excited and engaged. Share your sports teams’ successes, fraternity or sorority fundraisers, or even research developments.
Struggling for content? We know that students love brands that align with global causes, and most institutions have all sorts of initiatives that you can use in your comms. International cultural days are great opportunities to share how inclusive, aware, and liberal your institution may be - all attributes that resonate with the student audience.
Get these dates in your diary for summer 2020 and start building content now:
International Day of Friendship 30th July
International Youth Day 12th August
World Humanitarian Day 19th August
World Suicide Prevention Day 10th September
International Day of Democracy 15th September
2. Trust your audience to make your content for you
Great things can happen when you trust your student audience to take the reigns and create your content for you. Just take a look at what happened in the UK when Rapper Dave trusted a festival-goer in his audience to sing along with him on stage at Glastonbury. Students value authenticity and seeing your current students creating and publishing content over the summer will be really engaging. So start identifying your micro-influencers and campus celebrities now (this might not be as hard as you think) and building a summer content calendar. Whether it’s existing students sharing YouTube videos of their top saving tips and easy as pie recipes, or an Instagram takeover of what’s a must when packing for a new dorm room, this is a really effective way of building and maintaining that connection between your new intake of freshers and your institution all throughout the summer days.
An added benefit is that you might unlock a whole new audience via their following that will also aid with your next recruitment cycle.
3. Make things more personal
Going to university or college for the first time can be a scary process: Leaving behind the relative comfort and support network at high school, in exchange for a huge institution where no one knows your name. That’s where personalization comes in. Personalization can increase conversion by 8x, and it can be as simple as making sure all your summer comms start by using someone's name.
Advanced personalization strategies can be time-consuming, and with thousands of prospective students coming to your institution in the fall, you might be worried about how to keep on top of your comms. That’s where automation comes in. Using marketing and CRM systems (ideally something specialist for the sector like Akero) can save a massive amount of time. And pre-built workflows mean that your students receive personalized comms based on their unique recruitment journey, helping them move seamlessly through the funnel in time for fall and ultimately enrolment.
4. Be the experts that students expect you to be
Students are coming to you because you’re a bank of knowledge, right? And if summer is the peak time for them to need support, and they’re not getting it from high school, make sure you’re giving it to them.
Building content hubs around the key concerns that students have on finance, accommodation, pastoral support, and making new connections will reap dividends in nine months. And do it now, because it will take at least six to nine months for Google to pick up your content and present your site on page one.
You can then send out emails and comms that are specific to the right time of the student’s decision journey. When it’s time to start picking accommodation or applying for scholarships and bursaries, you can point them in the direction of the relevant content hub, building that relationship and trust between students and yourselves at a very stressful and formative time.
And remember what we said about personalization? You will typically have three audiences - prospective students, parents, and high school counselors. Create a personal journey that presents similar information tailored to each audience. How parents can support their children through college applications, how high school personnel can help with mental health struggles, all accessible through your college’s site. By becoming an authority, you’ll not only be nurturing your prospective students but also supporting some of your biggest in-market influencers; high-school counselors and parents.
Summer melt can be a challenge, but it can also be a valuable opportunity to reach out to and build trust with your prospective students, ensuring that they feel welcome on campus when September rolls around.
If you’re worried about summer melt and want to find out how to keep your prospective students engaged with and committed to your institution, get in touch.
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