Establishing a Strong Higher Ed Admissions Strategy
The student journey from application to enrollment and, ultimately, graduation is a long one, with setbacks and turn offs along the way that can threaten student retention. In today’s challenging enrollment environment, colleges and universities that miss or mishandle opportunities to connect, engage, and support prospective students along their journey risk losing them to competing programs or personal roadblocks. Given the high-stakes landscape, schools need to nurture students as they move through the admissions and enrollment funnel to convert them from applicants to proud graduates.
At Archer Education, our mission is to help people improve their lives through education by helping our partner schools establish a strong higher ed admissions strategy that attracts students who are the right fit for their programs. Using a finely tuned combination of people, processes, and technology, our admissions and enrollment team helps schools overcome obstacles and create a clear path toward enrollment that benefits students, admissions staff, and faculty.
How Does the Admissions Process Work?
While much is written about how stressful and competitive the college admissions process is for today’s students, higher education professionals know it can be stressful and competitive on the institutional side as well. No school wants to come up short filling its next class. To increase student retention rates and grow online program enrollments, Archer breaks down the admissions journey into actionable stages and creates supports that nurture students along the way.
We respond to initial inquiries from students with an immediate personal introduction. Then we quickly follow up by providing data-driven personalized information — not a one-size-fits-all email approach or auto/predictive dialing. We then set up an advising appointment with prospective students to learn more about their career aspirations and educational goals, as well as any challenges to earning a degree they may face.
Just because a student has applied and been accepted, that doesn’t guarantee they will fill a seat in your next class. The application process is fraught with friction and roadblocks, especially for adult learners who are returning after years away from school. Our student advisers and online learning aids help prospective students identify and overcome obstacles to completing their applications, access information about financial aid and scholarships, and find answers to frequently asked questions. We also send application completion reminders to students, to keep them on track to enroll for their chosen start date.
Enrollment does not guarantee matriculation. “Student melt” — the percentage of students who enroll but fail to show up — is a challenge for colleges and universities trying to calculate the size of their incoming class. To minimize melt, we assist enrolled students with everything from deciding how many credit hours to take, registering for classes, and ordering textbooks to participating in orientation, logging into their classes, and reviewing the syllabuses.
Our job doesn’t end when classes begin. To ensure students succeed and complete their degrees, we build long-term nurturing relationships with them, characterized by frequent tech-enabled check-ins followed up with human connections, for example, with tutoring or study tips for students who may be struggling.
Critical Initial Conversations
One-on-one conversations are a critical element of student retention. They allow us to interact personally with prospective students, and shepherd them along their enrollment journey. That’s why phone calls and interviews (online or in person) are key components of Archer’s higher ed admissions concierge strategy. Indeed, all the work involved in moving a student from application to enrollment is wasted if the student doesn’t feel connected or isn’t the right fit for the program.
Initial conversations with new leads are an opportunity for us to ask and answer questions, determine if students are ready and a good fit for the program they’re interested in, and alleviate the tension prospective students often have about returning to school.
Adult learners, in particular, are likely to have many questions — and reservations — about returning to school. A working nurse and parent looking to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), for example, is going to have concerns about pursuing a degree given their family and work commitments. And people who’ve been out of school for years are apt to be unfamiliar with and intimidated by online learning platforms and tools.
At Archer, we want to understand the tendencies, momentum, and mindset of every prospective student we encounter, so we can empower them with the information they need to make an informed decision.
Post-Enrollment Interventions for Student Retention
Work doesn’t stop when a student signs in for their first online class. Term-to-term retention on the road to graduation is always the goal. To ensure students stay on track to graduate, we’ve identified a set of proactive and reactive triggers (see the image below) and developed responses to them. Our thorough understanding of the student journey allows us to check in with students — typically at vulnerable points, like after their first exam or paper — to offer support or help, if necessary, and keep them from becoming discouraged or dropping out.
When students struggle academically, we reach out to connect them with resources at the school. For example, they may have received a poor grade on a paper because they’re unfamiliar with how to properly reference material they’ve cited using APA Style guidelines. So we’ll work with librarians to teach these students how to properly cite sources and create APA-compliant bibliographies. We’ll also connect students who’ve gotten low test grades with tutoring at their school to help them master their coursework.
If that sounds like a tall order given the number of students and programs we work with, it is. However, our custom-built combination of people, processes, and technology enables us to scale our outreach efforts and stay closely connected to students and our partner schools.
Onward to Graduation
The combination of personal communication and technology that tracks behavior-based triggers allows us to monitor student progress and reach out — proactively and reactively — at critical points along the student journey.
Archer’s Onward Student Engagement Platform is a powerful stand-alone digital tool that provides personalized digital student experiences and multichannel nurturing strategies that improve the student and staff experience and elevate the level of conversation between them. Onward supports the student journey by providing customized surveys and prompts to keep tabs on how students are feeling, as well as helpful resources for success, such as learning aids or how-to guides, at specific stages of the journey. It also summons human support when needed and desired, through calls to action that keep students moving forward.
Onward also results in cost savings and reduces inefficiencies by providing prospective students with the information they need to pivot or opt out of the funnel if the program they’re considering isn’t the right fit for them — before resources are wasted. Our Onward team helps our academic partners differentiate their student experiences and increase their student retention rates.
People, Processes, and Technology Get Results
Higher ed institutions looking to increase their term-to-term online program retention and graduation rates will want to explore Archer’s comprehensive approach to student retention. At Archer, our people, processes, and technology are yielding amazingly favorable results for our academic partners and, more importantly, for their students.
Archer Education partners with dozens of institutions to help them overcome enrollment and retention challenges using one-on-one communication combined with tech-enabled, personalized enrollment management solutions. Contact us to request more information about Archer’s full-funnel engagement strategies and digital student experience technology.