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Student-Centric Enrollment Management for Colleges

by Sirley Carballo · Jul 22, 2022

Enrollment Management Best Practices that Place the Student First

Every year, schools need to attract and recruit prospective students to enroll in upcoming semesters. Not only does this process support each school financially, it also boosts campus and academic life on campuses around the country.

But reaching student enrollment goals isn’t a guarantee anymore, particularly in a post-pandemic higher education climate. Prospective students are looking for flexibility and affordability, and they want to attend schools that align with their values and goals. Although there’s been a general decrease in the number of higher education enrollments in recent years, personalization strategies have the potential to improve and correct that downward trend. 

In this article, we discuss a hot topic in today’s higher education community—enrollment management. Learn how to place each student’s needs first in order to increase enrollment and build better, more positive experiences that contribute to student success.

What is Enrollment Management?

Enrollment Management is a complete framework that schools can use to recruit, enroll, retain, and graduate prospective students. In many ways, enrollment managers benefit from a process that helps institutions navigate the admissions funnel and increase the size and scope of an inquiry pool.

Educause, a nonprofit that assists schools with IT integration and resource management, defines enrollment management as:

A comprehensive process for achieving optimal institutional outcomes for student recruitment, retention, and graduation. For students, emerging models of enrollment management aim to provide a seamless experience for individuals who engage with the institution from application through graduation.”

It’s clear that enrollment management is a goal-oriented, growth-focused strategy for improving student recruitment. For this strategy to truly work, schools have a responsibility to enroll students and keep them at the forefront of any new ideas, concepts, and techniques.

What is Personalization?

Personalization relates to enrollment management in that it makes sure that every enrollment initiative at a given institution is designed with specific students in mind.

Since it would be impossible for schools to predict precisely which students will accept an admissions offer, personalization can be built using the general student or prospect persona.

To define it in simple terms, personalization places college students first—even above admissions data and key metrics. A student-centric approach has many benefits for meeting new enrollment goals, including:

  • Improved student engagement
  • Enhanced software use that enables schools to maximize tech resources
  • Expanded reach of a school’s core message
  • Well-defined recruitment plan
  • Better communication throughout the campus community

Personalization also means meeting students where they are, with messages that are both timely and relevant. In such a competitive and fast-moving higher ed culture, colleges simply can't ignore these priorities if they want to grow and evolve.

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4 Strategies for Creating Student-Centric Experiences

Student-centric experiences begin from the moment when a student interacts with a new college or university.

That initial touchpoint is when students begin to form opinions (whether positive or negative) about the school in question. It is within these early engagements that schools can foster student-first strategies that nurture better relationships with future students.

To help you achieve a student-first approach in your own engagement campaigns, follow these strategies. 

1. Prioritize First Impressions

Incoming college students are likely to receive plenty of new messages from colleges and universities. While you may not think it applies directly to student enrollment, having an appealing and modern brand works wonders to create strong, positive first impressions.

These first impressions should also communicate (whether directly or indirectly) that your school prioritizes and values each student. While it’s important to advertise recruiting details about things like the campus, the strength of academic programs, or faculty members, students are really wondering whether they have a rightful place within that culture. 

From the first moment or touchpoint, communicate the crucial message that student needs are at the top of your school’s initiatives.

2. Be Timely in Your Communications

Schools with more advanced workflows are now automating more enrollment and admissions messaging than ever before. While this is important for better processes, don’t forget to time your enrollment communications and automation according to best practices.

When students complete any step in the enrollment process, send positive confirmations and messaging to let them know you’ve received their information. If they can expect to talk to an actual staff member, let them know what that will look like. You can also incorporate reminders about:

  • Admissions and financial aid deadlines
  • Academic term start dates for new students
  • Class selection and registration deadlines
  • Important reminders (campus events, enrollment requirements, etc.)

Extra courtesy goes a long way in showing students (and their families) that they are top of mind when it comes to the enrollment process.

3. Remove Barriers to Decision-Making

Although some students have a clear idea of where they want to attend, others have multiple options to choose from and need ample time to decide.

As a student-first college or university, your team should always remove barriers to entry that can hold students back.

You can improve the application and decision processes for students by:

  • Investing in user-friendly, high-quality admissions software 
  • Reducing the time and steps needed to submit a completed application
  • Removing frustrating roadblocks for document uploads
  • Decreasing or removing the number of repetitive steps a student must take (for example, re-entering their family or financial information in multiple places)
  • Providing staff full and transparent access to the information required to make admissions decisions

Remember: you can increase a student’s chance of attending your school by making the process seamless. This doesn’t mean ignoring important steps or abandoning required information (as mandated by law), but it does involve investing in modern technology and digital processes that align with a student’s expectations.

4. Stay with Students Through Graduation

It’s easy to invest time, energy, and resources into first-year outreach. While the size and makeup of an incoming freshmen class hold significance, the ability to keep those students coming back each academic year is vital.

Retention is a key factor in student-centric processes. How can you foster positive academic, social, and community experiences that keep students coming back? What are some efforts you can make to reduce frustration, churn, and abandonment?

Students must determine that a college or university has the resources available to walk with them all the way to graduation. Not only does this result in a major achievement for the student, but it also demonstrates that school staff are knowledgeable about how to help students overcome challenges and succeed.

A group of students studying.

Design a Student-First Enrollment Process

Students have many options when it comes to enrolling in the college that’s right for them. If you’re working for an institution that needs to make enrollment improvements, placing each student at the forefront can help you better manage expectations and engage with every prospect in more positive ways.

With many tasks and obligations, it can be tough to remember every detail about individual students. That’s where smart, student-centric software solutions come into play. Not only can you build a verifiable backlog of information about each prospective student, but you can match their interest with personalized resources that increase the chance of enrollment.

Book your Element451 demo today to discover how a student-focused CRM platform can help you meet and scale your admissions goals this year.

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