3E ENROLLMENT LEADERSHIP INSIGHT SERIES
3 steps to support students throughout their experience and how to communicate with them.
By Susan Dileno, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Ursuline College
Outcomes. ROI. Value. While they’ve always been facets of our enrollment marketing strategies, there’s been a growing pressure to focus on them in more compelling and powerful ways through the recruitment process. As families question the value of college in general or the feasibility of college for their child specifically, it’s a critical consideration.
We know our institution can make a difference for their child’s future. We know it will provide them opportunities they would not have otherwise. We know this can be a transformational experience. This is why we do what we do. Outcomes are what we’re about.
Outcomes are a critical factor in a family’s decision process today and therefore must be a core component of today’s enrollment marketing plans. How can we clearly communicate our experience and value to our prospective students and their families?
1. Share outcome data that resonates.
Obviously, good outcome data is important. Yet getting it can be a common frustration. The information might only be collected at time of graduation, inconsistently by department, or not necessarily in ways that you can translate to a prospective audience.
Families want to know: will this place pay off? Where’s the proof? What could I be doing as a graduate? What might life look like? Amid all of the percentages and bullet lists of employers that they see… how can you make your experience real, make it come to life for them?
It is imperative for you to get good data, and you need more robust data than has been available to you previously.
If your Career Services Office isn’t already doing this, consider hiring a firm to scan social sites against your alumni database. They can return aggregate data that you can slice any way you’d like: by academic program, company, occupation or job title, skills listing, location, and more. They can also share labor department information on job outlook by region.
Data collected includes job titles, occupation, skills that are listed on LinkedIn and other job sites, and percent working in a field related to their major. This can also be an opportunity to highlight data around job and career mobility to showcase tangible paths for liberal arts graduates.
With social aggregated information you can:
- Make outcome data a core component of your email campaigns
- Weave the data into your enrollment-focused social media activities
- Build an interactive page on your website for prospective students to explore their opportunities, in addition to including highlights on program pages
- Have a full agenda item/session on outcomes in your open houses
This can also be a powerful way to illustrate value for cost in conversations about aid packages for families weighing loan options. They can now assess those against real and recent examples of average earnings of graduates.
2. Help them keep working on finding their purpose and career fit.
There’s so much emphasis on fit in finding the right college, yet seemingly less on finding the right career. It’s at least less of a process. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for every student, but better understanding themselves and then their most compatible options will benefit everyone.
We know that in terms of choosing a career, Gen Z in general is not focused solely on salary. They’re seeking a purpose-driven life. How is what I am doing, what I stand for, affecting change or helping people? What do I believe in—that’s what I will do. That drives potential career paths.
And that requires helping the student better understand more about themselves overall. At Ursuline, it’s a program called Career FIT. Students take assessments in their first-semester Ursuline 101 class and work with a career coach. This goes beyond Myer-Briggs to include strength and skills assessments, interest, aptitudes for certain types of work, and identification of value sets in terms of work.
Not only is this a great program for students, but we see:
- It can help with retention. For example, consider a student who enters with a lifelong dream to be a nurse and then comes up against tough challenges in the science curriculum and just isn’t cut out for it. Through a program like this, we can help them identify values, strengths, weaknesses, and channel them into, perhaps, social work.
- This is an approach that really resonates with parents. They value learning about the program through the recruitment process and we have it front and center in our open houses, emails, social ads, and one-on-ones.
- Its value goes beyond traditional-aged first-year students; transfer and adult students are included in the program and find it a beneficial program.
3. Get them ready for life as a successful alum.
Best-positioning a student for success requires more than a degree.
- Professional skills: students can gain resume-ready certifications such as self-management, communicating clearly, problem-solving, and thinking on your feet: the types of skills they will need daily in any modern workplace.
- A tangible plan: students develop a career and life plan within a curricular and co-curricular framework that links their values to their career pursuits. They receive mentoring that provides philosophical guidance and practical assistance. And they participate in a “design your life” retreat in their sophomore year.
We communicate this within our enrollment marketing as well, to help families understand how we guide our students through this process toward career—and life—success.
Of course, outcomes are not just about the job students get; they are about giving them a chance for a better life. Measures like student mobility are important areas on which to focus. It starts with emphasizing a more holistic admissions process and initiatives like Making Caring Common. It continues with enrollment marketing that goes beyond the facts and figures of placement rates and employer lists.
We can provide a transformational experience—and we can provide it to more deserving students—by communicating this more powerfully. It starts with the data and conveying it well: build the messaging that distinguishes your offerings and helps students choose to enroll at your institution. Then—make good on what you promised. Finally, see them graduate as successful alumni—ready to inspire the next generation of new students.