Four key questions when building your class

Every campus is different, but there are still essential strategies that can be applied to building an incoming class.

According to Dr. Brent Gage, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management, University of Iowa, building a class requires both science, such as quantitative analytics, and the art of relationship-building.

Whatever the unique goals of your institution, include these four questions in your analysis.

1. How are you creating your pool? Are you building a pool of prospects that matches your institutional goals and also speaks to students who are a good fit for your institution? Deploy analytic strategies and data acquired through the search process to find students who will be the right fit.

“Who are the students who come to your institution and do really well?” Gage said. “What are their characteristics? What do they have in common, and where are there more students like that?”

2. What are your communication strategies? It’s more important than ever to have targeted, segmented communication strategies.

“Students are interested in your institution for different reasons,” Gage said. “You need to tailor your information to those students in a way that’s important to them.”

3. How responsive is your execution plan? Once you have data-informed strategies in place, you need to be able to make changes as the communications process unfolds.

“If you’re trying things and not getting to your desired outcomes, how do you shift midstream?” Gage said. “You need to be able to learn from what you’re doing so you’re in a state of continual improvement. That might mean anything from managing staff to communicating with parents or counselors to addressing larger issues around how students are moving through the enrollment process.”

4. How transparent is your assessment process? Not only must you look critically at what you’re doing, but you must also strategically communicate that with the campus community.

“They’re your partners in the process and need to be aware of what is being done, why, and how, and where their roles are important,” Gage said.

From idea to implementation

“Whether you’re a small private college in New England or a large public institution in New Mexico, considering these questions can help you develop a systematic approach to meet your goals,” Gage said. “There isn’t a specific recipe for success, so you need to ask ‘how do I use the tools at my disposal to address the issues at my institution?’”

Gage, who also consults with AACRAO Consulting, has significant experience visiting diverse campuses and helping enrollment managers take a step back and look at their strategic mission, goals of specific programs, and finding solutions to meet an institution’s specific needs.

Gage and Dr. Boyd Bradshaw, Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Chief Enrollment Officer, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), who also works as a senior associate consultant with Ruffalo Noel Levitz, are leading the half-day workshop “The Art and Science of Building Your Class” in advance of this fall’s AACRAO SEM Conference. The workshop will give people training and tools to address these questions.

“Anyone who comes to the workshop will be ready to continue the dialogue when they return to their campus,” said Bradshaw. “Often, people have ideas of things they should be doing but don’t understand how to implement them. We’ll help move people from idea to implementation.”

In addition to the above questions, workshop participants will learn who to involve and how to involve them, as well as get a picture of how admissions work is integrated into the larger enrollment management picture.

“We’re not just talking about admissions in isolation,” Bradshaw said. “We’ll discuss what role admissions plays in the overall structure of strategic enrollment management, and how it impacts other things across campus. The workshop will really help people build on their current knowledge of admissions to understand the complexities and challenges and share best practices.”

Register now for the Oct. 29 workshop, “The Art and Science of Building your Class” in Phoenix, AZ.

And learn more about the other exciting content at the AACRAO SEM Conference, Oct. 29-Nov. 1, including:

The SEM Institute

The Senior Leadership Forum

Inspiring plenary speakers and much more.