Keeping Pace With Change for a More Successful Admissions Strategy
If you work on a college campus, you likely know there’s a lot of change happening within departments or offices with no centralized way to learn about those changes. And if you work in admissions, that lack of knowledge can really impact your entire strategy—from the bragging points to your prospects, to the content in your campaigns, to the answers to the millions of questions you receive. So here’s a list of five people you should know on campus to stay up-to-date on all of the moving pieces at your institution. (There are some bonus strategies at the end too!)
1. Institutional Research
This office (commonly called “IR”) does everything data. Find someone who works here and spend time with them. They measure student happiness, opinions, and anything related to the strategic plan, and they probably know all the other micro-data collection happenings on campus. If you want stats, these are your folks. And if you have surveys or data you’d like to collect, you might want to ask them to review your process before you send them (they can ensure you’re asking the right questions to answer your own query). There are several surveys that your IR office is likely using annually that they’ve chosen, but one to know anyway is the NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement), which surveys both first-years and seniors.
2. Housing/Residence Life
Find someone who is working directly with students where they are. This can include residence life, student activities, or student leadership or government. The more this person interacts with students on a daily basis, the better. Ask them what students are interested in or what questions constantly came up at the beginning of the year (hint: you can include these questions in your yield and anit-melt campaigns). Find out how students on your campus actually see the school. And no, the student ambassadors who work in the admissions office don’t replace this person.
3. Academic Affairs
Find someone within the Provost’s office who will know about degree requirement changes or changes in programs. They can provide information on what to promote, what to selectively omit from conversation, and what’s coming next for students.
4. Anything that makes your campus unique
Do you have something on campus that’s rare or unique? Learn more about it! If it’s a specialized major, meet with the professors or attend an open house. If it’s a program (e.g., innovation hub, interesting lab) or a “Center of [fill in the blank],” go see what’s happening. Tour the building, meet with the folks running the program, talk to students, and see how admissions can help them. Learn all the interesting aspects of your campus beyond stats.
5. That one person who knows everything about the institution
You know that person: somehow, no matter what their title or role is, they seem to know everything. Not in a gossipy way, but in a matter-of-fact way. They are your resource hub, they are the knowledge keeper, they are better than Google and can understand your question immediately. Find out who this person is and get to know them. You’ll know the person when everyone keeps referring you to that person. Or it could be persons…maybe there’s someone in the administrative side and someone in the student-facing side. Meet up with them every few months, and especially in the summer when you’re refreshing campaigns and creative.
You don't always need to track people down to stay up-to-date on campus happenings—there are a lot of great online, print, and in-person resources that are already at your fingertips! Be sure to keep these five additional assets in mind.
Get on them. Yes, they will clutter your inbox. You can update settings on listservs (usually) to receive once a week, which I recommend, and you can create rules for your inbox to send those listserv emails directly to a specified folder. Then, at your leisure, you can read the updates. Sign up for everything: different departments’ events and newsletters, the library, administrative offices, international affairs—everything.
2. Meeting notes
If you’re able, find meeting notes for anything that you aren’t invited to but would benefit you anyway. Examples could be trustee meetings, academic affairs, curriculum updates, facilities updates, health and wellness updates, etc.
3. Event calendars
Subscribe to event calendars that will impact any visitors coming to campus. If you know a sports camp or science tournament or convention is happening on campus, you can reschedule or reroute tours before the day of.
4. Open houses
Most offices will have open houses. Sometimes they’re directed at students, and sometimes staff and faculty. Either way—go! See these offices you’ve never been to, pick up the marketing materials, chat, and learn about what others are doing on campus.
Read the factbooks (the in-depth ones, not just the marketing one-pagers). If there’s an interactive dashboard, change the inputs and see how the data changes. These factbooks are replete with data, and you can harness those insights in your communications plans.
Whether your school is large or small, tight-knit or spaced out, you can always learn more about changes on campus. Staying up-to-date on not only the macro-level initiatives but also gathering those stories and micro-level details will make you—in admissions—appear more knowledgeable, better able to personalize content, and more connected to your school. Don’t feel like you need to do everything on this list; pick one or two and build upon that. The important thing is to just start.
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