Last week, I had the opportunity to spend the day at Otterbein University with over 30 leaders in enrollment and marketing across 13 member institutions of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio (AICUO). I was honored to moderate a forum on the topic of Admission and Enrollment: New Strategies Used to Meet or Exceed Fall 2021 Goals. Later in the day, I attended an admissions and enrollment roundtable. I was energized by the robust discussions with leaders in admissions and enrollment from various independent institutions across the state of Ohio. 

As I reflect on my time, I observed a few key themes from these sessions:

Senior leadership must recognize that “normal” has changed

Admissions teams were challenged this past fall as they worked to return to “normal” and begin travel as pandemic restrictions began to ease — but over the last few years, “normal”changed. Balancing travel along with virtual meetings, virtual college fairs, and virtual events presents a unique challenge. Nearly all travel was shelved during the pandemic and institutions still were able to meet enrollment goals — so why the hard press right back into travel? For many, it is senior leadership, alumni, and even high school guidance counselors who are pushing for travel. Enrollment leaders now know that not all travel is necessary, and can focus on high-value travel to feeder high schools and specific college fairs and events. Now, it is incumbent upon senior leadership to recognize this. This then allows for the necessary continued balance on VIRTUAL engagement alongside your in-person experiences.

The relationship between admissions and marketing makes all the difference 

Institutions with strong, collaborative relationships across admissions and marketing emerged even stronger from the past year and half. 

Student ambassadors’ representation should extend beyond the tour 

Student ambassadors are some of the best representatives for your institution. They are studying, learning, and growing there. We all know that students are the best ambassadors for on campus tours, but they can do so much more. Virtual panel discussions on various topics, live chat with current students, engagement on social media — the authenticity of your current students cannot be matched. 

Your alumni want to HELP! 

Alumni outcomes help you answer that DAILY question you get from each and every prospective student — “Will I get a job when I graduate?” Whether Alumni help by attending a college fair local to them or participating in a virtual roundtable, their story is the story of your institution, so it behooves you to work with them to tell it.

Higher Education, specifically admissions and marketing, cannot escape the great resignation

Institutions are finding themselves short-staffed, under-resourced, and frankly, often burnt out. Institutional leadership can help. Whether it’s flexible work schedules (such as the changes recently announced by D’Youville College), less emphasis on unnecessary travel, or better access to mental health care, supporting your admissions, enrollment, and marketing teams pays huge dividends across the institution. 

My final thought

We’re all in this together! We have a common goal — decrease barriers to education and ensure accessibility to all. Let’s work together, share best practices, and support each other as we navigate the coming year.