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Six Best Practices for Managing Your Admissions Team

Budget constraints, major shifts in student demographics, higher competition. New challenges are having a notable impact on college enrollment. In fact, Inside Higher Ed reported 63 percent of colleges and universities failed to meet enrollment goals in 2019 – making your role in managing an admissions team is more important than ever.

But recruiting has become much more complex. Most admissions teams are being asked to do more with less, and prospects themselves are coming in with big expectations. This means changes are on the horizon for admissions leaders who are motivated to improve their teams and succeed in the new age of higher education.

We want to help your team not only survive, but thrive during this evolution. To do so, we compiled six best practices that can help you shine as you lead your admissions team.

Six actionable tips for improving your admissions team management

The increased complexities that come with today’s higher ed landscape require admissions teams to shift their traditional way of thinking. Overcoming these barriers requires commitment to planning, team development and data analysis. Consider the following advice when planning out your next moves.

1. Set clear objectives

It’s important to always stay focused on your institutional goals. After all, these are the key metrics your team will be measured on. But once you’ve established those high-level goals, the next step is breaking them down into smaller benchmarks for your admissions team to work toward throughout the year.

Taking into account seasonal ebbs and flows, dissect primary goals into daily and weekly targets. Examples of specific objectives to break out are: outreach, appointments, campus tours, high school visits, etc.

The advantage of this approach is threefold: your team members know what’s expected of them upfront, they can be held accountable for their contributions and everyone can keep a pulse on progress in real time. It can also be rewarding for representatives to see the tangible impact their individual actions have on the institution’s greater enrollment goals.

2. Plan for hitting your goal

Now that you’ve taken a holistic view of your admissions team’s goals, it’s time to zoom in. Establishing your target is only the first step — it takes thoughtful and strategic planning in order to create a game plan to actually hit that target.

One smart place to start is by reviewing the previous year’s performance and fluctuation. Think about when your team was busy and when things were less hectic. These insights should be taken into consideration when you plan pacing and staffing for the coming year.

3. Create a winning culture

Cultivating a positive working environment is imperative in any organization, but it’s especially significant when it comes to your admissions team. Meeting institutional goals relies on ensuring each team member is engaged and motivated to contribute on an individual level. One way to help promote this is by making a point to engage with each team member every day.

Consider starting each day with a 15–20-minute group stand-up meeting. This is an important part of setting the tone for the day. There are a number of approaches you can take. The key is to allow each team member to participate. Additionally, each team member should leave feeling heard, acknowledged and empowered to meet their goals for the day.

Agenda items for stand-up meetings might include:

  • Reviewing activity and progress
  • Updating visual goal board
  • Roleplaying challenging conversations
  • Sharing successes
  • Facilitating fun activities or incentives to bring energy and focus to the team

4. Develop and coach your team

Many managers think of training as it relates to onboarding new staff. But training can and should be ongoing. Not only will it positively impact your team’s performance, but a culture of training and continual learning helps keep employees engaged.

Observe your staff in action and use weekly one-on-ones to review their performance metrics. This will allow you to step in and coach them if there are signs they need improvement or encouragement. Keep in mind that coaching is not just reviewing numbers — it revolves around each staff member's skill development.

Once you and your team member have identified areas of opportunity, consider different ways to address them. You may consider having one team member shadow another, or conduct role playing exercises individually or in a group setting.

5. Nurture your applicants

One of the most overlooked stages in the student recruitment funnel is nurturing — tending to those prospective students who have expressed interest but have not yet completed the enrollment process. It is easier to “hold” an applicant than “chase” a prospective student.

  • Check in with prospects: Be sure to follow up with prospects to find out how they’re doing, using a thoughtful, planned outreach protocol. Ask if they are running into obstacles and offer assistance to help them overcome anything in their way.
  • Send proactive reminders: Outreach should include deadline reminders and be proactive about asking for documents that the prospect may have overlooked.
  • Share relevant resources: Engage each applicant with material that continues to fuel their interest in attending school. Consider sending the prospect blog articles related to their field of interest or updates regarding campus events.

6. Double down on data

We live in a world that revolves around data – it’s all about how you use it. Just as monitoring your daily footsteps can help you meet fitness goals, monitoring admissions activities can help your team meet enrollment goals.

Step one is to identify which key performance indicators (KPIs) are most meaningful for measuring progress toward your goals. Some metrics to consider are:

  • Inquiry-to-contact rate
  • Inquiry-to-interview rate
  • Interview-to-application rate
  • Application-to-accept rate
  • Accept-to-deposit rate
  • Deposit-to-enrollment rate
  • Accept-to-start rate

Once you decide which areas you want to track, step two is establishing a clear and concise reporting protocol. Determine a routine cadence for monitoring and communicating KPIs to your internal team and any necessary stakeholders.

Empower your admissions team

Through strategic planning, team development and metrics tracking, you’ll be able to help your team capitalize on critical points in the recruitment process and position yourselves to meet and exceed enrollment goals.

Consider the advice above when planning your next steps. And if you find yourself in need of guidance, we’d love to discuss further opportunities to enhance your admissions processes. Contact us at info@collegiseducation.com.

Looking for more advice on how to successfully move prospects through the student recruitment funnel? Download our complimentary guide: “Nine Ways to Improve the Student Experience and Grow Enrollment.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in January 2018 and has since been updated.

About the Author

Patrick Green

Patrick Green is a director of enrollment management at Collegis Education. He holds an MBA from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.

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