Study Points to Need for New Admissions, Enrollment Strategies

The cost of a college or university is the single-most important determinant in a student’s decision to apply to a school, followed by location. Approximately one-third of students want their institution to offer at least some online courses. And nearly half of all incoming college and university students doubt their ability to succeed in school when they enroll.

These are some of the findings of a survey on the experience of prospective U.S.  college students during the admissions and enrollment process. The survey, Student Feedback Informs Admissions and Enrollment Strategies, was performed by education solution provider, Anthology.  

“In doing this survey, we wanted to get feedback directly from applicants and students who had recently gone through the admissions process, said Mirko Widenhorn, Anthology’s senior director of engagement strategy. “We were trying to help identify opportunities for higher education to make small changes during admissions and enrollment to make the process as seamless as possible, to ensure that colleges and universities are meeting students’ needs and to increase the likelihood that students will actually enroll and attend.”

One survey finding that is particularly unsettling to Widenhorn is the high percentage of students who said they were concerned about their ability to succeed when asked about their concerns regarding enrolling at a university of choosing a program of study. “There are opportunities for universities to think about that and look at ways to support students during the application and enrollment process so they do have a sense that they’ll be successful,” he pointed out.

Widenhorn recommends that schools take several measures to help boost student confidence and reduce uncertainty as they apply.

  • Communicate the level of support they will offer students once they’re on campus. Highlight counseling and other supports the school offers, even during the admissions process.
  • Showcase successful graduates. In marketing materials and during the application process, highlight recent graduates who have not only successfully completed the program, but who have gotten good jobs right out of school. Feature graduates who are more typical and have a similar background so prospective students can get a sense that someone similar to them can be successful.
  • Increase outreach. During the admissions process, proactively contact applicants by mail, email or phone to answer questions or provide reassurance. Many universities are already doing a great job of this, but others may need to step up their efforts.
  • Highlight career support. Some universities are infusing career support and encouraging internships into their programs while others are offering job search services. These offerings should be highlighted during the admissions process. Parents of traditionally-aged students will especially recognize the value of a university that supports students’ career trajectories.

The cost of attendance is another major student concern, and of top importance when researching programs. Widenhorn advises schools to feature financial aid information in the applications and enrollment processes.

“Applicants look at the sticker price and think that’s what their families will have to pay, and it’s daunting when you look at a total cost of $60,000 a year,” he offered. “There has to be a significant shift in how universities market themselves and talk about the actual cost of attendance, including discounts and financial aid.”

Interestingly, the Anthology research revealed that application fees can also be a barrier to enrollment. Nearly one-third (32%) of survey respondents said they would be more likely to apply to a school if there were no application fees. 

To read the entire report, and see the complete findings and recommendations, download the white paper here.