Whether you’re new to our world or an old friend, it’s no secret that student recruitment and enrollment is one of our passions. As it pertains to private schools specifically, we’ve written about the ways to improve recruitment/enrollment efforts and laid out 5 techniques to go about doing so.
In an effort to do a deeper dive that isn’t afforded to us by one post, we’re currently focusing on further exploring each of the techniques we addressed in the original blog. This post speaks to the technique of accessibility to campus and necessary staff, why it’s important, and ways you can make this accessibility real and feasible for your target potential students (and for faculty and staff as well).
As you read more, understand that when we talk about accessibility it’s meant multiple ways. First, in the literal sense of making sure the school and important offices are open as well as those important people that potential students and their parents want to speak with are available. It is also meant in a figurative sense where the perception of your campus is that of an open one, accessible in one way or another to all those who see fit to reach out or inquire.
Clearly defining your process of communications is going to be key in obtaining and projecting accessibility. There are two fronts when it comes to this.
The first is internal, meaning the process for engagement from the time a prospective student or parent expresses interest until the time that person is no longer a prospect and is enrolled paying tuition to attend. Mapping each and every step, what it looks like, and who’s the person in charge of each part will make it replicable and scaleable which cuts down on the inconsistencies in experiences that students often talk about privately after the fact. These types of conversations do damage to the brand and have far-reaching consequences in the social network age that we currently live on, where sharing of information can be instantaneous.
The second front in defining your process is external and can be extremely helpful in projecting an accessible environment. If prospects and parents know exactly how to communicate with you and the steps to take to get the flow of information going in both directions, that’s very encouraging to a prospect.
It’s very important to make this outward communications process “frictionless” for the potential student and their parents. This means: Make It Easy. Use traditional platforms (like email and telephone) and also use non-traditional methods for communications (for schools, anyway) of social media and chat platforms like What’s App and Facebook Messenger. If you’re able to have multiple ways prospects can reach out, you’ll start reaping the benefits on a basic level in having prospects not leak through your funnel as you try and convert from prospects to leads to to clients.
This is somewhat of a continuation of the last point. Those internal communication lines are going to be extremely important, especially with larger schools who have multiple points of contact that prospects will be in touch with during the course of their journey. You want to make sure that the experience is consistent across the board and that in simple terms the right hand knows what the left is doing.
Intra-communication tools like a customer relationship manager (CRM) that all stakeholders internally have access to will help tremendously. If prospects are receiving inconsistent or repeat messaging that is an automatic turn off and will long term cause enrollment targets to suffer.
You want a system in place that anyone internally in the process can log into see what the last action taken with a contact was and have automation triggers depending on the actions of that prospect. Not only will this make the prospective student more comfortable and build confidence in them and their parents that they’re making the right choice, it can also save your enrollment and admission folks a lot of time, energy, and money usually spent in reaching out to people. This will also put them in the best position to succeed and transition that prospect to student.
What we’re laying out here may be appealing to you but daunting for a lot of schools who have been around for long time. There’s a way of doing things that no one questions how the process, or lack thereof, came about and if anyone’s ever going to change it. It just is what it is. There’s also been hesitation in the past -- in large capital investments by school -- to purchase and implement communication tools that are often times complicated. Additionally, people never use the full force of the tool, leading to waste and inconsistencies as well as the challenges in training necessary stakeholders on something new.
Advances in technology have made these old worries almost all disappear. With most platforms being SAAS (Software as a Service) or cloud-based, the heavy lifting of implementation is all but gone. You can use as much, or as little, of these platforms as you see fit and scale as you grow.
Most platforms also come with some level of automation. What this means is that you can set up a pre-planned response on your behalf that can either make it seem like they’re communicating with a live person or let the prospect know exactly how long they could expect a response from a live person directly in admissions and recruitment. Leveraging technology to your advantage will help the perception of your accessibility in the prospect's mind.
The urgency behind providing an accessible atmosphere when trying to recruit and enroll students comes in part form the fierce competition for a prospect. You want to be able to separate yourself and giving a prospect open access is a great way of doing so. The other driving force is that this is simply what prospects have come to expect. We live in a world where round the clock unfettered access is the rule, not the exception.
As an institution you have to realize this expectation is now extended to you. Prospects now live in world where in a search engine, you don’t even have to finish typing what you’re searching for before it pops up. When you message a person or company, they respond immediately. You want to watch your favorite show, no problem -- pull out your phone and do it now. Buy something online and receive suggestions for the next 6 months of similar or complementary products you should purchase.
Bottom line is, people have evolved to expect unfettered immediate access and answers to their questions. Private schools, in the context of recruitment and enrollment, are not exempt from this expectation. And let’s face it, the early bird gets the worm. If you can get that prospect access and answers faster than the competition, the likelihood of them enrolling and paying tuition significantly increases.
When interacting with prospects, sometimes the appeal is literal accessibility. Highlight office hours, key staff members, link calendars to book meetings or tours, transportation options, and any remote/online learning that’s offered.
Accessibility to campus and staff is a key element to improving private school student recruitment. Literal accessibility, leveraging technology, improving communications systems (internally and externally), and meeting those expectations of your prospective students and families in the context of accessibility has become an imperative part of this process.
Can you think of other reasons providing accessibility is important? Please reach out and let us know via the comment section below. We find our readers to be well-versed on these subjects and always appreciate their input.