What Can Be Done to Reduce Summer Melt and Improve Overall Retention in Higher Education?
In today’s world, we are all challenged to do more with less; to grow enrollments through unprecedented challenges and to increase retention and reduce summer melt.
Find out how it can be solved with a little college ingenuity.
Summer Melt is a Problem
For most schools, as much as one-third of college-bound students do not make it to campus in the Fall. And, for 2020, that number is expected to be much higher.
According to surveys, up to one-third of all students who leave high school with plans to attend college never arrive at any college campus that Fall. Check out the ideas below on how to improve your colleges’ retention numbers and reduce summer melt without a big budget or added resources.
Summer melt tends to hit low-income students hardest, as well as students who are the first in their family to go to college.
My Personal Crusade
In my own experience applying for colleges, many, many years ago, I had to fill out the FAFSA 19 times; my file kept being rejected. I was a first-time college student and a first-generation American. I was on my own, as I had no family support with my college application and filling out my enrollment documents. Looking back at it, I’m surprised I persisted after feeling so lost and frustrated. I have turned this learning experience into a crusade to help colleges better enroll students. I’ve been in Higher Ed marketing for over 20 years and over the course of my career, I uncovered plenty of opportunities to improve the student enrollment experience. See my bio for more details about my experience.
Let’s Get Started
This article is full of recommendations on how we can help students persist, feel more connected to your college or university, and how to best serve them through technology. The goal is to improve retention numbers and yield. The technology requirements are simple but used in a completely different way.
What Can Be Done to Reduce Summer Melt?
As a first step, it is important to better understand why students are not persisting. For many, the road to enrolling can be filled with obstacles and friction points. Many schools unintentionally put up roadblocks frustrating applicants and incoming students.
Generally, no one at the university or college owns the entire student enrollment journey. Different departments are responsible for different aspects of the journey from demand generation, website, Admissions, to financial aid, and the list goes on. This can cause a fragmented enrollment experience where each person you deal with may tell you to contact someone else.
The suggestions in this article will not be expensive, and your college should be able to use the creative assets it already has. The big difference will be how your school uses these assets and how it will communicate throughout the enrollment or re-enrollment process.
Sometimes we need to tweak the way we think about a problem and approach it differently. I recommend using technology and creating a communication sequencing using the creative assets you already have, so your college can impact retention. Some additional assets may need to be created, but they can be done with minimal budgets. Read on for specifics on how this can be done.
Schools Can Create Better Connections with Incoming Students Through Automation
I see new tools popping up that offer machine learning to figure out a student’s sentiment to improve retention. We don’t need that yet. First, we need to do a better job connecting with students before trying to figure out their sentiment after we have already dropped the ball in serving them.
This article is about being proactive and not reactive. We have time to be proactive for the incoming year. We have a chance to make a big impact now. Let’s put away the machine learning and big data and make real human connections.
When first enrolling, some students are not connected with the school. This connection happens over time, but what if you can foster a stronger relationship with a student before they have finished the enrollment process?
This is a huge area of opportunity. Your college can use technology and automation to help engage and connect with your incoming students by helping him or her visualize themselves being a part of campus life. You can send videos of:
Your campus activities:
- Greek activities
- Campus activism.
- Sports events.
- Fun events from last year to get them excited about this year.
- Unique things about your campus.
- Upcoming campus events and ways to get involved in the events. This is key. Include a link to a landing page with information on how they can get involved now before completely matriculating.
- Kindness campus initiatives, or humanitarian initiatives, or research impacting the greater good.
- Going green initiatives.
You can send video clips through MMS (text message) featuring:
- Student spotlights.
- Awards or recognition.
- New hiring updates.
- Noteworthy alumni updates.
- Some key Professors discussing what he or she may learn in the class, the Professor’s teaching philosophy, or a short clip about the Professor’s excitement for your student to start.
- Quirky messages from your college mascot.
- Videos of students like them sharing their gratitude for enrolling and some memorable. moments they had in the program.
- Send short lessons on the difference between a fixed and growth mindset.
- Self-care options.
- Study tips to help them prepare for the months ahead.
- A day in the life of a current student.
- Gratitude videos from students touching on epic moments from their college experience or real-person connections they made at your school. We all want to feel a connection, show them the connections other students have had, so they can see themselves building similar relationships. More students now have a sense of loneliness than ever before.
- Share program course highlights like mock trials, hospital visits, group pitch presentations, etc.
- Parent testimonials featuring why they are so happy their student attended your college.
- Share videos of fun sports events at your campus, Ultimate Frisbee, and other such activities.
- Share videos of students have lunch out on the green area of your campus or going to the beach together.
Check out these videos from Iowa State University Admissions’ YouTube Channel.
Impact Retention and Reduce Summer Melt with a Communication Sequence
What if your college created similar videos and then put them to a communication sequence and inspired students throughout their enrollment or re-enrollment process?
I am not sure if Iowa is using these videos in a communication sequence, but if they are not, they should be. They are outstanding and I want to enroll in Iowa State University after watching them. The videos do not have a lot of views, which tells me they are not going enough to promote these videos after they are produced. That’s a missed opportunity.
This is what we can all aspire to do. BUT, if most students do not see these videos, then they were not effective. It is important to create outstanding videos AND use them in your communication strategy —effectively.
If text message has a 98% open rate, then you need to send out some of these videos through text message to ensure they are being seen.
No Extracurricular Activities at Your College, No Problem. Do This Instead.
If you’re a small private college without a lot of extracurricular activities don’t worry, you can still do this. You will just focus more on:
- Interesting lessons that have visual appeal and/or are compelling
- Faculty spotlights
- Employer video testimonials
Let’s dig into how to share more about your interesting courses. Does one of your courses have a mock trial, or does a visit a hospital or using a cadaver? Share these highlights. Video some of these experiences and edit them into a highlight reel and send this out to incoming students.
Videos are visual, so filming people sitting in class isn’t compelling enough. You need more. If you don’t have more at this point, then you need to work with your faculty to start creating more compelling moments in your programs. Have your staff read this book, the Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath.
“This book delves into some fascinating mysteries of experience: Why we tend to remember the best or worst moment of an experience, as well as the last moment, and forget the rest. Why “we feel most comfortable when things are certain, but we feel most alive when they’re not.” And why our most cherished memories are clustered into a brief period during our youth.”
You do not need to make every moment of a student’s experience at your school epic, you need to be mindful to create a few amazing moments that they will cherish.
These are the moments you want to share with incoming students and those considering your college. This way incoming students can start to picture themselves at your school.
Check out our blog post about the 12 things your school can do now to grow enrollments, as I touch on how to capture your prospective student’s information, so you can better lead nurture them with your captivating campus moments.
Work with employers to do video testimonials on how they are so happy they hired your grad. Or grad videos for a day in their life.
Use Automation to Get Students to Re-Enroll
Use these same tactics to get more students to re-enroll. Get students excited about what they will be learning in the next term, who their college professors will be, and what happens next after graduation.
For many students, college is a means to an end. They are not sitting on the quad reciting poetry. They are often working full-time and trying to manage their school and family workload. Help these students visualize the end. Keep these students motivated on why they are doing this, why they are making all of these sacrifices. And, put this to a sequence that will automatically send out these motivational tidbits.
Improving retention actual helps the student even more than the school. If a student drops, then they are saddled with debt and no degree. This is the worst outcome for students. It is on all of us to do better and improve retention rates, so we can have better outcomes for students.
Videos are a powerful tool and are being underutilized in colleges and universities. Most of these videos are hosted on YouTube, but they are not being fed to students in a sequence using emails and text messages.
Phone calls should be used more to create a human connection. And, they are just as important. People want to know you are taking the time to connect with them.
You can use email, phone calls, and text messages to create a communication sequence to help reduce summer melt, improve retention, reduce attrition, and get more referrals.
A great deal of frustration comes from students not knowing what they need to do next in the enrollment process or re-enrollment process.
Why not put these students on a communication sequence slowly feeding them the information they need to know through email, text message, and phone calls?
Sequence Out Your Enrollment Process
Letters of Intent: If a student has to write a letter of intent, why not send an inspirational video of another student who was freaking out about it and how she overcame her writer’s block. This student can then share how she ended up writing a great letter of Intent and was so proud of her outcome. Also include some words of wisdom in the video such as “don’t forget to proof it a bunch of times.”
Financial Aid: Can you send these incoming students a Financial Aid Checklist and keep updating him or her on the progress? Use this sequence to tell them about different forms that need to be filled out or transcripts ordered.
Yes, your team is probably sending out these types of lengthy emails, but those can get confusing and overwhelming.
Send Next Steps: Why not send quick videos of the next step and break it down into digestible pieces? Send these videos via email AND text and tell the student what he or she will need to do next.
Create Communications Only One-Time
With the right technology, your team only needs to create these videos one-time and the system will send out these communications based on where the student is in the process. With the right technology and disposition codes, you’ll have a well oil machine that produces real results.
Send Encouraging Communications
What if you sent your students weekly encouraging emails through text message from Advisors or their Financial Aid Officer? Check out this example.
The top portion is an SMS (text message) and the second portion is an MMS (text message).
With Ynot CRM, you can send both.
Your team can record a set of videos and your team will put these communications into a text messaging sequence. These videos can include different people involved in their enrollment journey, so students feel connected to your college and to your staff. The more connected the student feels, the more likely they are to persist.
You can help to engineer this genuine connection and still have it feel authentic. Plus, if someone on your team drops a ball, these students are more likely cut him or her a break because they feel your school is proactively communicating.
This can lead to more brand ambassadors and referrals.
Ynot enables you to automate portions of your Marketing, Admissions, and Retention process without losing the feeling of a personal touch. Your staff will love it!
You’ll be able to power up your team’s productivity and do so much more with less. Plus, your team only needs to create these creative assets once and set them in motion and Ynot will do the rest.
Because Ynot is a communication powerhouse, it allows you to send out strategic communications via text, email and phone calls to students to let them know it’s time to fill out their financial aid, or you can let them know about an upcoming event on campus, or start communicating with them the second the lead comes into the system.
Text Messages are opened at a rate of 98%.
This can be one of the best ways to communicate with students and help him or her get enrolled.
Think of your email open rates and you’ll see why text messaging is so important. Ynot allows you to create templates so your staff will spend less time crafting communications and all communications are approved by your compliance department in advance.
Ynot allows you to set-up communication triggers. These triggers tell the system to send out communications, on your behalf, based on a set of rules your team sets up.
Ynot’s marketing automation kicks in and starts your communication sequence to get the prospective student through the enrollment process, or to re-enroll in the next term.
Your communication sequence can be a mix of so many different communication types from phone calls, text messages, email blast, and drip communications.
Sequences Change Based on Disposition Codes
You can send different communication sequences based on where they are in the enrollment process. If a staff member moves them along in the process, then the communication sequence will change based on their disposition code. This is not a one-size fits all. The system will adjust based on the how each individual is moving along the process.
Create Parent Communication Tracks
Create a whole different track for parents, so parents can see where their child is in the enrollment process and help as needed.
More parents want to be involved, so create tracks for them to be involved, all based on the same disposition codes, but different communication tracks as their child.
And, if done right, you can create raving parent fans that will tell their parent friends about the stellar experience at your college. Driving up your referrals and lowering your cost-per-start!
You can create a special sign-up form just for parents, where the parent can get involved and receive lead nurturing communications, so they feel in the loop. This is a big issue I hear from parents who have kids in college.
Check out this example of a text communication to a parent.
Re-Enrollment: Use Ynot automation to tell student’s it is time to re-enroll for the next term
Use the Power Dialer to Call Students
Ynot has a powerful phone dialer. Use 2-way integrations with your Student Information Systems, pull a filter of who you want to call, and let Ynot do the rest.
Ynot will call your students and when someone answers the call, Ynot will connect them with the next available person you designate.
You can have the call go to an Admissions Advisor to help with retention, or you can have the call go to your Financial Aid Advisor or your Student Support Specialist.
You create the segments and rules to identify who gets called and where the call transfers to.
Use the power dialer to start calling your incoming students to remind them of upcoming deadlines and to personally welcome him or her to your college.
You can set-up call campaigns which will enable someone on your staff to speak with each of your students, allowing your college an opportunity to encourage him or her to re-enroll AND to uncover any possible issues that may stop them for re-enrolling.
If you can uncover these issues early enough, your team can work to help the student overcome these challenges and enroll in the upcoming term. Most students are not proactive, but your college can be with the right tools and strategy.
Added Transparency through Powerful Reporting
Ynot allows you to centralize everything in one place. This added transparency makes it easier to hold everyone accountable. The reports will identify issues so it will be easier to address issues and resolve them. All of the communications update the student record, so you have a holistic view of what is happening and what is moving the dial.
What about Affordability?
Our system is incredibly robust and can go toe to toe with our competitors, but for a fraction of the cost.
We keep our costs down so that we can pass that along to you. We do more with less, so you can do more with less.
Use Ynot on New Leads, Retention, Reduce Attrition and Summer Melt
Let’s schedule a discovery call to discuss how we can help grow enrollments, improve retention and reduce attrition.
You can use Ynot to create email, phone calls, and text messages communication sequences to help reduce summer melt, improve retention, reduce attrition, and get more referrals.