Enrollment Consideration Sets - Strategies to Score

As the recruitment cycle resets, enrollment management professionals will continue to strategize on how to create the class for the upcoming year. Counselors will attempt to determine which prospective families are considering their school as part of three “consideration sets.” In general, a consideration set is just what it sounds like: a set of schools a student contemplates before making a final decision. It goes beyond brand awareness. The list has been narrowed down, based upon criteria established by its key stakeholders: the student and parent(s). I would like to discuss three distinct consideration sets where a student must engage.

These are defined as consideration to:

  1. Apply
  2. Deposit
  3. Enroll

Each choice point requires different motivations. With strategic planning, an institution’s goal is to insert itself into each stage of consideration and to facilitate enrollment.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when tackling consideration sets in the recruitment process:

Consideration to Apply
At this point, the family has narrowed down a list of recognizable schools, based upon key factors associated within their specific criteria. Understanding student demographics, institutions with similar offerings (i.e., cross-applications), and application completion rates are the key to pushing students through this stage.

As a search initiative, it is imperative to ensure we meet students “where they are,” in terms of applying. What are barriers slowing down the application process? How can you make the process as easy as possible? What prevents students from completing and submitting their application?

At this stage, it is a great time to think about retargeting search initiatives, based on where students may be “ghosting” the process. You could also focus on a specific group of students to expand, so you can understand how/why they “abandon their cart” at this stage.

Consideration to Deposit
The student has been admitted. The time has come to commit. What yield efforts have been established to get them over the hump?

During this crucial time, it is important to recognize parents are also heavily invested in the decision. Communication plans for both parties should exist to keep each demographic informed. How does your plan differ from other institutions? What engagement initiatives are in place? Motivating students and parents to submit the deposit depend on customer service, transparency about financial options, and outcomes, as well as other factors. Tap into the personality of the institution, and the power of personalized interactions.

Considering to Enroll
They deposited! You won, but now, you must get them to the school. “Summer melt” is the bane of enrollment professionals. You must have a proactive plan to get in front of this problem and win this final consideration set. Everyone wants to be proactive during this stage. However, it becomes tricky, since each deposit carries a unique story. Consider all the possibilities and develop an action plan that evaluates data (quantitative factors) as well as anecdotal factors.

The summer before college is an exciting time. Students are usually more active on social media. What plan has been established to maintain a presence, while promoting online authenticity? What about parents? Has direct mail been abandoned by the time you reach this stage? Why or why not?

Great ideas come from counselors who have “closed the deal” and walked students/parents through this stage. They have first-hand knowledge of last-minute objections and concerns and can offer detailed insight for messaging and tactics.

Last Thoughts
To win the consideration game, it is important to keep the immediate goal in mind within your commFLOW. To win, you also must use CRM data to understand where the inquiry is in your funnel. Linking messaging and communication tactics directly to the contextual decision-making help to achieve the ultimate goal of increasing yield.

One effective tactic for sending the right message at the right time is an IP targeting campaign. Using this form of digital advertising allows you to serve up messaging that is directly tied to the next step you want the student to take. When students click, a successful campaign takes these “hand raisers” to a page on the web that is built to resell your institutions' value, while motivating students to take action now. When you combine IP targeting with other tactics like email marketing, direct mail, and personal touches from counselors, it can give you the edge you need to gain a spot in a future student’s consideration set.

As you can imagine, there is no one-size-fits-all methodology to win. Every student, parent, and institution is different. Enrollment marketing is an ongoing and flexible process. Enrollment professionals must also understand the type of student the institution is attracting, and know how to develop relationships. To win the consideration game, you must do all this and then evaluate data to determine where opportunities for improvement exist and act upon them.