Digital Engagement Survey of Prospective Students

“The pandemic has really pushed us into an era where we’ve realized the need for technology,” Cassie Cunningham, associate director of admissions at the University of Akron, said of her institution’s efforts to adjust its admissions strategy. communication to engage potential students.

Today, many colleges have preferred digital channels for communicating with prospective students, including those that elevate social media (70%), text/SMS (67%), and email marketing (63% ), according to a newly published survey of 150 university leaders. by Mongoose, a company focused on college and university admissions and communications. Such outreach has proven effective, these leaders say. But many struggle to extract stories from data produced by flawed platforms and communicate the ROI that digital admissions tools provide.

For example, an improved text-messaging program helped the University of Akron cool the summer melt — students who sign up but don’t show up — according to the study. Many text messages only required a thumbs up or thumbs down emoji in response. But that immediacy and spontaneity made a difference, Cunningham said.

“With frequent texting, we could continue to build that relationship and connect with the new class more often and more directly than email, which often slips through the cracks,” Cunningham said.

While admissions professionals understand the value of digital tools to engage prospective students, more than a third of survey respondents (36%) struggle to communicate their ROI to college budget managers. The same percentage also struggle to clarify that digital admissions tools are often not universal.

“It can be difficult when the person who will ultimately use the digital tool doesn’t have a seat at the table to prioritize the budget,” said Mike Kochczynski, customer engagement manager at Mongoose. “They are the ones who can identify the most effective methods and features.”

Almost all (90%) of survey respondents who use customer relationship management systems, student information systems, or enterprise resource planning platforms are frustrated. More than half (57%) find it difficult to rely on their marketing or IT department for reporting data. Even so, this data often tells an incomplete story – a shortcoming that some attribute to the platforms.

While customer relationship management systems are “a convenient and powerful dissemination tool for managing mass outgoing messages efficiently, they can create barriers in one-to-one communication and access individual inbound responses, especially via SMS”, indicates the report.

When evaluating a digital admissions communications strategy, two-fifths (40%) of executives who responded to the survey prioritized total cost of ownership. More than a third (34%) were primarily concerned about gaining a competitive advantage. About a quarter prioritized enabling business goals (26%), saving staff time (25%) or easing the burden of implementation (24% ).

“All large scale [customer relationship management] Where [enterprise resources planning] requires a significant monetary investment, not just in short-term upfront costs, but in onboarding fees and multi-year contracts,” Kochczynski said.

Many (42%) of higher education executives who responded to the survey continue to rate email as the most effective digital communication tool for admissions. Still, half expect their institutions’ websites to be upgraded to include chatbots or chat rooms in the 2022-23 academic year. This approach is perhaps more egalitarian, according to Kochczynski.

“First-generation college students might not be as savvy about going to a niche website like College Confidential or Reddit, and they might not have an in-the-know peer group,” Kochczynski said. “This means they may miss insider information about the college admissions process, so it’s huge for schools to invest in their websites and other outreach activities to empower students and their families to seek advice and news more easily.

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